“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” — Marcus Garvey

According to the United Nations Population Fund, in 2015, 244 million people, or 3.3 per cent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of origin.

A far, far greater number, though, are the descendants of earlier migrants. For example, the immigrant population of the U.S. in 2015 was about 42 million people; however, the vast majority of all Americans and their ancestors immigrated to the U.S. within the past 500 years. Present-day generations may now feel native to the country, but most are definitely not indigenous to it.

Not surprisingly, many people increasingly wonder about the blood flowing through their veins. This has led to a growing number of travelers – largely retired baby boomers – setting off on voyages of discovery to places where their family trees are rooted. In the process, they’ve created a whole new travel niche, called heritage tourism, which the National Trust for Historic Preservation defines as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.”

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Annie finds family with a Trinidad home exchange


We put the question of heritage travel to the HomeExchange community and heard some fantastically heartwarming stories. But perhaps none was as gripping as that of Canada-based Annie and her search for her birth father in Trinidad.

In her own words:

“In January 2012, I seriously meditated on the idea of searching for my biological father. I figured I’d just go to Trinidad, visit the Government Statistics department and search what I knew. My mom had told me his name was Nolé, he came to Canada to work in construction in 1974 and he had a young daughter.

Everything that followed really began when I visited HomeExchange.com (our family had done yearly swaps, mainly in Canada, for the past five or so years). While thousands of homes were open to swapping in Canada, only two in Trinidad were signed up.

Of course, I emailed both homes and hoped for the best. One quickly replied that he wasn’t interested, but the other, Lorraine, was more curious about my request. In fact, in an email exchange, sensing that I would come to Trinidad whether or not we exchanged, she asked why I wished to visit.

I decided to share my story, something that I rarely did at the time. I told her that my biological father had been to Canada and met my mom in a small, remote town between Ottawa and Montreal. They had spent a few days together and then he had left.

Who would have thought that out of the thousands of HomeExchange listings on site, the one person who listened to my story just happened to own her own publicity agency? She quickly suggested I put an ad in the newspaper. Lorraine got another story in a local newspaper as well.


After that, Lorraine spoke of my search with a friend: Trinidadian television personality Judy Alcantara. Judy was inspired and suggested that she create a documentary about my quest.



Long story short, 10 days later, on our last night in Trinidad and with a lot of filming done, we received a call from a woman claiming she was certain that her cousin was my biological dad. Twenty minutes later, I was talking to Knolly, who months later, after a DNA test, I found out was my biological father.

I still remember the day – July 6, 2012. I was up early and checked my emails. I saw the DNA test results were in, but I was not in a rush to open it. I imagined… if it is him, I can’t undo it, I have to live with this new man in my life; but if it is not him, I have to start the research over.

Funnily enough, just then I received a text message from Knolly’s son. He had arranged a DNA test on his side at the same time as I did mine. We got the same results on the same day for both of us. He simply said: ‘Welcome to the family.’


The weirdest thing was telling my mom. While I was in Trinidad, she was diagnosed with advanced cancer. She left us a few months later, but I was happy I found the courage to search for my biological father before that. I feel like it brought her a bit of peace.

Judy completed A Child of Two Worlds, the 50-minute documentary of my journey. It made its debut in Trinidad on September 17, 2013, shortly after an article about it appeared in the local press.

My mom missed it by just a few months. She would have loved it. I went back to Trinidad for the event. Knolly was there as well. I could still easily recall the months prior to this adventure when I felt a calling to make this happen, to search, to take that chance when all the odds seemed against me.”

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