04/02/2013 11:46 am ET Updated Jun 02, 2013

Legacy and Travel: Linking Past and Future

Travel is one way we can connect with our ancestral families. Given that we are a nation of immigrants, the opportunity to journey back to our pasts, to our and our ancestors' homelands, may be a powerful experience of belonging, of both joy and sadness, that changes our perspective about who we and our family are, and what old values we want to preserve for future generations.

We are also free to travel for fun and to learn about our wider world: to experience how different life is for citizens all over our planet; to appreciate the beauty and rich variety of other cultures' art, food and nature; to view wonders of the world, natural and human-made.

For some travel today and in the past has been difficult and painful: refugee memories, escaping religious or political persecution when survival is paramount, assimilation with little money and few possessions, needing to adapt to a new language and culture. These stories about the wounds of travel and the inner resources required to cope need to be shared with future generations as well.

Whether your travel has been a necessity or a privilege, it affects who you are, how you live, and what matters most to you.

I returned just this past month from a journey to Israel, the Jewish homeland, my emotional and spiritual homeland, although my American and European roots are also home. (Perhaps that's the meaning of "the wandering Jew.") It's too soon for me to know the trip's ultimate effect on me; today I have only awe and appreciation, disjointed thoughts and confusing new perspectives.

I witnessed the miracle of a country under siege from its hostile neighbors build a modern state in just 65 years that is both sophisticated and deeply reverent about its ancient history. Excavations of King Herod's magnificent cities from before the birth of Jesus, technological miracles in their time, stand next door to Tel Aviv, a modern city with stunning high rises, and a "Silicon Valley" of its own: a remarkable contrast.

Making the desert bloom is not a cliche in Israel. It's apparent everywhere, accompanied by sophisticated drip irrigation technology. In Jerusalem, the ancient is viewed from the sleek cars of its new light rail system. Peoples of traditional beliefs and secular pioneers live together, not always in harmony. The over one million Arab-Israeli citizens add to the cacophony, as do the Christians maintaining their lives and holy sites throughout the country.

Perhaps the most amazing miracle of all is free speech, something we take for granted. Everyone expresses opinions: openly, directly, hotly, and loudly -- 180 degrees from the "Minnesota nice" that I grew up with. Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab-Israeli journalist, speaking to our traveling group, explained he'd rather be a second-class citizen in Israel than a first-class citizen in the Arab world, though he loves his people, because free speech is a requirement for him as a journalist. (Look him up on the web to read his writings.) What he said about today's complex realities in Israel and the Palestinian Authority were transformative. I moved from my "old hippie stance" of Peace Now to a more realistic hope for future peace.

If you've travelled or are planning to, please plan and reflect about wearing your legacy lens. What you've learned, what amazed you, how travel has changed you, is the stuff legacy writing is made of. Share your travel stories to make a difference.

Suggestions for Action:

  1. List three important journeys you've been on, and places that are on your "bucket list" to visit in the future.
  2. Choose either the most inspiring or the most difficult journey you have already been on, and reflect in your journal about that time. Include such thoughts as why you took that journey, what you'd hoped would be the result, and what you actually experienced, learned, and appreciated. What stories and learnings do you want to share with loved ones and future generations?
  3. Shift gears and focus your reflection on the next trip on your bucket list. Why do you want to visit that particular place? Keeping that desire in mind, what can you do to plan and anticipate the trip to achieve your goal? Can you leave your plan open to the unexpected and allow the experience itself to teach or inspire you?
  4. Before you write a legacy letter to someone about your travels, consider the significance of travel itself as an opportunity available in the 21st century. What might living temporarily in another culture mean to future generations? How might travel to ancestral homelands deepen roots, solidify values, connect the young to their own time and to their history?
  5. Using your thoughts about travel (#4 above) as a paragraph of context, write a legacy letter to someone(s) you love. Tell a story of something in your travels that was important to you: Because of beauty, because you were exposed to something new, because you were changed in some significant way by the experience. Conclude with a blessing to your reader that is related to your ideas and feelings about the value of travel.
  6. If you choose, write more travel legacy letters to those you know -- to tell other stories and learnings about your journeys.

"May your reflections about your travel
clarify your experiences and values,
and inspire those you love."
-- Rachael Freed

NEW 2012 editions now available of Rachael Freed's Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman [also available as pdf downloads at and Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient, and The Heartmates Journal. She is currently working on Your Legacy Matters: An Intergenerational Legacy Guide, to be published early 2013. Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and works with financial, health, and religious organizations on legacy principles and practices. She has seven grandchildren. Her home is Minneapolis, Minn.

For more information, visit and

Follow her on Twitter:

For more by Rachael Freed, click here.

For more on wisdom, click here.