I’ve arrived in a new place with an open mind, eager for new experiences only to discover it felt ‘wrong’, and despite my best efforts never felt connected or completely happy there. I’ve landed in other places with the same open attitude, breathed in the air and knew instantly I was ‘home’.
Why does that happen if we have the same expectations each time we set out on a new adventure? It’s something that’s played around the edges of my head for a long time.
Home has always been important to me, not only geographically but physically too, the four walls inside which we create a safe haven from the outside world. Sometimes those four walls have been a ‘home’, other times merely a place to live. Interestingly the geographical locations I’ve felt connected to are the places where we’ve also created a ‘home’.
My spouse and I recently got to discussing the connection of family across generations and tracing genealogical roots. A current, popular trend which has resulted in a slew of television programmes recently, where celebrities and ordinary people trace their families trees – to discover who they are, where they’ve come from and traced similarities in lives lived in different times and places. Do I watch these programmes? Absolutely.
I’m fascinated by repeated patterns of familial behaviour and, as the journey continues back in time, how emotionally connected celebrities and ordinary people become to their previously unknown ancestors.
For me this is entirely understandable. It’s been a fleeting thought in my head for years that perhaps the very point of our human existence is to ensure the survival of DNA, not us – an argument I won’t get into here as it involves, religion, philosophy, science and all that good stuff. As I said, it was merely a fleeting, fanciful thought.
Until I got to thinking about the ‘travel’ gene. I’ve also seen it referred to as the ‘Expat gene’ – the gene that makes some people leave their tribe to see what’s over the next mountain. It seems people with this need to head for the nearest horizon have a similar/ shared genetic make up with a higher instance of the novelty/ thrill seeking gene (the D4-7 allele).
In 2005 National Geographic, IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation charity got together to privately fund the five-year Genographic project, with the aim of taking over 100,000 DNA samples worldwide with the resulting informationa availble to scientists studying human migration. The project continues with over 500,000 participants in over 140 countries. Check it out if you haven’t already, it’s fascinating.
Being an armchair philosopher it makes complete sense (to me) that in the same way our physical information is carried in our genes and passed from one generation to the next, why not carry environmental information too? A recognition of places.
I’m not necessarily talking about ancestors and places from thousands of years ago, but perhaps only a few generations back.
Arriving for the first time in Vancouver a few years ago, I was hit by an immediate sense of recognition, an intense feeling for a place I’d never previously visited. In our subsequent trips the feeling has remained the same, a feeling of coming home. The fact an ancestral great-great-aunt ran off to Canada and ultimately retired to Vancouver is a perfect explanation of why that happened – for me at least. Unscientific maybe but it has a wonderful symmetry.
I’ve experienced that same jolt of recognition in other places and remained connected to them throughout my life. Places where I’ve lived and had no connection? It’s as if I was never there. Not because I was unhappy but because the place didn’t feel ‘right’, wasn’t important, didn’t touch me in any way. Perhaps because there was no genetic history?
Fanciful perhaps, but it’s been a long, drawn-out winter and the mind can wander off in strange directions in the endless wait for longer days and bluer skies.
Except in our imaginations there is a greater freedom where the mind can soar without inhibition or restriction. A great place to be on a cold winter’s day. I wonder if there’s an imagination gene…