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Travel based on your DNA: My experience with 23andMe’s DNA genetic testing kit & finding my roots in Senegal, West Africa

Travel based on your DNA: My experience with 23andMe's DNA genetic testing kit & finding my roots in Senegal, West Africa

I lately did a DNA check with 23andMe after which travelled to Senegal, West Africa based on the outcomes.  For those who’re considering of doing a DNA check, that is my experience.

“Your reports are ready”.

My coronary heart skipped on the sight of the 4 bolded phrases in the topic line of my e-mail inbox. I hurriedly moved my fingers throughout the trackpad of my laptop computer, then double-clicked the message to open it.

What stared me in the face was an icon of an open envelope. A sheet of paper emblazoned with the 23andMe emblem caught out of its prime flap.

“ONEIKA,” the letter learn, “welcome to you.”

I smiled on the display. My outcomes have been in, and, because the message continued, a world of DNA discovery– my DNA discovery– awaited me. I took a deep breath, clicked the hyperlink urging me to view my knowledge, and braced myself for what was subsequent…

As a traveller, educator, and journalist, I’ve all the time been naturally interested in historical past, tradition, and the best way individuals stay in their numerous corners of the world. However recently, exploring my personal distinctive story and id had been on the forefront of my thoughts.

So when 23andMe first approached me to take one among their house DNA checks and share the outcomes with you all, I used to be elated. The timing couldn’t have been higher– analyzing my DNA had been on my psychological to-do record for at the least 6 months prior.

As a result of, who was I, actually? Born in Canada to Jamaican mother and father, I had proudly adopted the cultural and linguistic markers of my mom and father’s homeland in my youth. To today I really feel strongly related to Jamaica, “the land of wood and water”.

However travelling around the globe– and regularly seeing myself in the faces of others– had made me query my id past my ties to the Caribbean.

“Where else am I from?” I questioned. “What other blood courses through my veins?”

Each journey introduced on further questions.

“What other countries, regions, and people had played a role in my ancestry? Into the woman I am today?”

Fortunately, some insights lay in the DNA check I used to be about to finish, and I couldn’t wait to seek out them out.

Based in 2006, and named for the truth that human DNA is organized into 23 pairs of chromosomes, 23andMe was created to assist individuals such as you and I entry and perceive our genetic make-up.

Nevertheless, that’s not all. As I found, analyzing your DNA doesn’t solely provide help to achieve insights into your ancestry and the areas of the world your ancestors got here from.

Analyzing your DNA also can assist you achieve insights into your well being, facial options, hair, style preferences, and even sleep high quality.

One other one of many issues you are able to do with this info— and that is key for me— is journey. You need to use your DNA ancestry outcomes to create a journey itinerary and root your explorations of a specific place in, properly, attending to find out about your roots, which is what I did. However extra about this a bit later.

As a totally beginner to the world of genetic testing, I need to admit that I had no concept what of taking a DNA check would entail. With that stated, I used to be each stunned and impressed with the convenience of submitting my genetic materials for 23andMe’s residence DNA kit. The method is extraordinarily straightforward, and includes three steps:

Ordering a check on The check sometimes arrives in three to five enterprise days and might be expedited if you want— I put a rush order on mine and had it delivered inside 2 days.

Offering a saliva pattern. An enormous plus about this check is that it doesn’t require blood or needles. I merely adopted the directions offered with the house DNA kit by spitting into the saliva assortment tube and registering it on-line.

Mailing it again to the lab. Sending the pattern again can also be straightforward. Once I was accomplished, I put the tube again into the packaging in which it got here and dropped it into the mail (the package deal is pre-paid). You possibly can anticipate an e mail notifying you that your outcomes are prepared in about 6-Eight weeks.

Now, all there was left to do was wait. The anticipation was palpable.

After which, I obtained the e-mail: “Your reports are ready”.

After years of questioning about my id, I excitedly logged into my 23andMe account and clicked on the “Ancestry” tab situated on the left hand of the display.

My pc’s exhausting drive hummed in the seconds it took to load the web page and I tapped my ft in nervous accompaniment. I giggled once I web page got here up and I noticed the outcomes:

Instantly I used to be reminded of this well-known quote by Ghanaian chief Kwame Nkrumah that goes, “I am an African, not because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me”.

The check confirmed what I’ve all the time recognized: that I’m overwhelmingly African. However upon additional inspection, I noticed one thing that stunned me. Of that roughly 86%, 84.2% of my DNA make-up got here from West Africa, and just one.2% from East Africa! I had assumed that far more of my genetic make-up got here from different elements of the continent, in order that was an enormous revelation.

I used to be additionally 12.four% European (of which 7.three% was British & Irish). This was completely sudden.

Looking on the Ancestry Timeline yielded another shocking information. For instance, based on my stories, I probably had a great-grandparent who was 100% West African.

Provided that I don’t know a lot about my household’s background past my paternal and maternal grandparents (who have been all born and raised in Jamaica), this info was extraordinarily fascinating.

One other very cool function on the 23andMe website is the power to opt-in to connecting with family members who share comparable DNA with you. In response to the location, I’ve 1000 DNA kinfolk who stay in 32 US states and three nations.

My thoughts buzzed as I dug via the web site, checking my knowledge in all of the studies out there to me. I couldn’t wait to take this info and embark on a journey of discovering extra about my ancestors.

Why do you journey? Many individuals journey to sure locations as a result of they’re budget-friendly, handy, or in any other case on their bucket record (due to a specific vacationer attraction, archaeological website, and so forth.)

However what about travelling to a spot the place you’ve a genetic connection? As I discussed above, accessing your DNA check outcomes lets you discover areas you might have an ancestral tie to.

I completely love the thought of doing this— after travelling to over 100 nations, visiting a spot to which I’ve a deeper, extra private connection provides a brand new function and which means to my travels.

I used to be thus extraordinarily excited to journey to the West African nation of Senegal to attach extra deeply with the area actually ingrained in my DNA.


Travelling based on your DNA is one other method that will help you study extra about your self and provides you a compelling cause to dive into the native tradition you end up in.

From the second I touched down in Senegal, I felt like I belonged, and like I might keep for some time. Whereas this was due in half to Senegalese hospitality– often known as teranga– it was additionally as a result of most individuals thought I used to be an area– till I opened my mouth, that’s.

With solely four days to glean necessary insights, I based myself in Dakar, Senegal’s busy, capital metropolis. My first day in city, I hit Ngor Seashore, and, whereas gazing on the vibrant fishing boats often known as pirogues, instantly stumbled upon a bunch of younger fisherman.

“Salaamaalekum!” considered one of them greeted me, then fired off a bunch of phrases in Wolof I didn’t perceive.

I switched to French, certainly one of Senegal’s official languages. “Excusez-moi, mais je ne parle pas le wolof…” Him and his associates laughed, satisfied that I used to be mendacity about not talking the native language.

“Mais vraiment, vous n’êtes pas Sénégalaise?” He requested incredulously once I shook my head and informed him about my Jamaican-Canadian roots.

Being mistaken for an area would occur at the least 4 extra occasions over the course of my journey.

However maybe I shouldn’t have been so stunned. Once I visited Gorée Island the next day, I discovered about its position in the Transatlantic Slave Commerce.

The beautiful colonial buildings on Gorée belie the human atrocities that occured therein: enslaved Africans have been jailed and tortured right here earlier than being transported to the Americas. It’s completely attainable that one in every of my ancestors was stored right here earlier than being despatched to Jamaica.

Visiting Dakar felt acquainted, not least as a result of lots of the meals intently resembled the Jamaican delicacies I used to be raised on. I noticed that bissap, a well-liked nationwide drink product of hibiscus, was principally the Senegalese model of the sorrel that Jamaicans mainly drink throughout holidays.

My final morning in Senegal, I discovered myself meandering by means of the world often known as Ouakam. House to the Lebu ethnic group and situated on the seashore, it boasts a big fishing group and a fantastic mosque generally known as the Mosquee de la Divinite.

As quickly as I arrived, I used to be greeted by Moussa, the top of the group. Like many others, he addressed me first in Wolof; stunned I wasn’t Senegalese, he switched to French.

“Vous êtes la bienvenue,” he replied with a smile once I advised him what had introduced me to me Senegal. “Welcome!”

After I took a half hour to seize some pictures of the mosque solo, he took me round and launched me to members of his tribe.

Throughout our impromptu tour, Moussa took nice care to elucidate the commune’s lifestyle. Fishing is their main livelihood; household and a respect for elders are on the core of their perception system.

90 minutes later, it was time for me to depart. Once I thanked Moussa profusely for being so open and welcoming, he laughed and shook his head.

“No, the pleasure was all mine,” he advised me in French. “You are home… and we can’t wait for you to come back”.

Neither might I.

In my private opinion, the reply is a powerful sure. Whether or not you’ve had a long-standing curiosity or only a informal curiosity in finding out this info, one factor’s for positive: studying extra about your genetic make-up can furnish an necessary piece of the puzzle to who you’re.

Go to to study extra about your personal DNA!

Have you ever ever completed a DNA evaluation or genetic check? What have been your outcomes? And should you haven’t, would you have an interest in doing one? Why or why not?

This submit was produced in partnership with 23andMe, however all opinions (and jealousy-inducing pictures) are mine.

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