Have you thought about what you want out of a travel experience? Do you believe that travel can be transformative? Have you considered the importance of a Heritage Journey (the first trip back to your child’s birth country)? Do you have goals in mind for that trip?

Let me tell you a story …

In 1988/89 I spent a year backpacking around the world. I was in Agra, India for this picture. My boyfriend and I had spent the previous two days with the loveliest rickshaw drivers exploring Agra (the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort) — all of the amazing sites that make Agra so famous. At the end of our time with them they invited us to their house for dinner. The neighborhood where they lived was extremely poor, as you can imagine. There were no street lights just rows and rows of cement structures teeming with life, kids running in the streets (most without shoes), women milling around with baskets of food on their heads, men returning from a long day at work. I was immediately drawn in to the sights, sounds and smells. It was already getting dark when we located the apartment of our rickshaw drivers. We were welcomed into their home as honored guests! We noticed right away that several families shared this small cement; two story structure with only a couple of rooms on each floor. We learned that the men slept on the roof for the most part, which is also where we ate. The women slept downstairs in two different rooms with their children. All the sleeping mats were rolled up against the walls. I’m not sure who was a guest and who lived there but there were about 20 people all together.

The women quickly took me into a back room (I had no idea what was happening and none of them spoke English) but I could tell by their demeanor that I was a cherished guest. The women wrapped me in a gorgeous golden sari and washed my feet and hands. They placed a red dot between my eyebrows (it’s called a bindi or bindu) and is commonly worn by Hindus and many Indians. The bindi is a symbol of the Hindu religion, but it also represents auspiciousness, good fortune, and even to show that you are married.

Then they showed me to the roof where the men were seated in a circle on the cement floor, legs crossed, chatting animatedly. The men opened up their circle an offered me a seat with them, in the inner circle. Again, I had the honor, as a welcomed guest, to sit with the men.

It was very dimly lit area atop the roof and without much light pollution the starts shone brightly in the night sky. They had no electricity, only lanterns. The women were cooking over wood and coal stoves and the children (who were with the women, not in our circle) were staring at us fervently, trying to understand the conversation and take in the strange guests. The smoke was penetrating the air and the smells were intoxicating. Mostly I remember the smell of the coal, chai, chilies and fresh bread! But I also remember the smell of the open sewers nearby. Although I didn’t speak the language, a lively conversation ensued. Our drivers became our translators. The men in the circle, unbridled by our societal norms, asked very probing questions. “Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “How much money do you make?” “Why don’t you have children?” After every answer the men would chatter amongst themselves trying to analyze us. I was enthralled and fascinated. We asked them questions too, at their beckoning, we were equally as probing. It was beautiful, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before!

The women soon served us an amazing feast but remained in the background with their children, vigilantly watching to see if we needed anything. Dinner was served on the cement floor. We all ate out of two large pots in the center. One contained rice and the other a stew of some sort. We used our freshly baked naan as not only our plate but also, our utensil. I watched eagerly as each man used his naan to scoop up some rice, dip it in the stew and take a bite. I’d never eaten this way and wanted to do it the right way! Whatever the stew was, it was spicy and delicious and smelled heavenly! This was truly one of the most memorable meals and experiences of my life!

I felt privileged to have been invited to share in this meal, welcomed by each of them, cared for as an honored guest, and respected for my position in life. They felt certain that my life was special and would be enriched by my travels and participating in other cultures. Even though I was a backpacker living off of $10/day, it was very clear that these lovely people, who had welcomed me into their home, would never have the resources to do what I was doing. I was humbled and grateful for their kindness. It was an magical experience.

I share this story with you because that year of backpacking around the world changed who I am as a human being. Rich cultural interactions like the one I had in Agra leave lasting impressions. It certainly transformed the way I see the world and I seek out experiences like that everywhere I go.

My primary goal at Motherland Travel is to be able to help my clients design experiences that will leave a lasting, positive impact on their family. Sharing rich, immersive experiences also builds deeper bonds and fosters cultural connections like nothing else.

I truly believe in the transformative power of travel. Do you? If transforming your family in a positive way is what you are looking for in a Heritage Journey, call me or schedule a 30-minute Discovery Session at www.calendly.com/bambi and let’s talk about how you’d like that trip to look. I’d LOVE to help you plan the journey of a lifetime with your family!

All my best,

Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >> http://motherlandtravel.com/

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