Journeys abroad bring us closer to “home”

I love traveling because I believe it helps connect us to other people, and remind us that we are all part of one world family in some way. But I was truly inspired to read Joan Pugh’s Traveler Story about Ireland in Depth, during which she climbed the same staircase leading to Saint Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, the last place her grandfather prayed in his native land before emigrating to the U.S. in 1892. This “spiritual” journey, she says, was certainly timed well, as her trip coincided with the Irish government’s “Gathering,” an initiative encouraging families to return to their ancestors’ homeland. What a wonderful idea—as someone who’s seen a lot of the world, certainly I was similarly inspired and moved during my family trip to Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine, where Alan and I (and our children, Charlotte and Edward) have roots. Making a four-hour trip from the capital Kiev to the Ukrainian countryside to visit where Alan’s ancestors once lived gave us such insight into how the villagers there survived the troubles of World War II, using—like the Irish during the potato famine—a strong will to survive to carry through. Today these stories are part of our consciousness as students of history—but there is nothing like experiencing these moments first-hand, and feeling ancestral ties decades later and thousands of miles away.

But there are other ways to be transported, and as I enjoy a hot cup of tea on a winter’s day in Boston, it’s amazing that a simple scone can evoke not only one of Ireland’s great exports, but the rest of the UK, too. For one of my favorite recipes, shared by England, Scotland & Wales Program Director Deborah Farnham, check out this month’s Global Kitchen.

Our trips in Europe are always among our top-rated, which is why I’m so excited to kick off 2014 in Harriet’s Corner with some of our most popular vacations, including The Great Rivers of Europe. If you’ve been considering this trip, now’s the perfect time to check out ways to maximize your time in Amsterdam, Germany, and Austria, when you read more about our optional tours in Travel Talk.

And if you count photography among your passions, this month is particularly exciting—we’ve named the winners of our annual photography contest, and the lovely snapshots from travelers like you span the globe, from France to Antarctica, China to Budapest. To see the award-winning images, please read Community News & Views.

Where are you looking forward to traveling in 2014? What have been your most memorable travel events captured on film? Share your stories—and photos—with me at harriet@gct.com.

Harriet Lewis