HERITAGE TRAVEL OVERVIEW
by Pat Hoopes
A homeland tour is a gift of love and understanding to your child. Different types of group tours are available, so think about what you want your child and your family to take away from this experience—a general "feel" for the country's culture and people, or a more personal experience that may answer some of your child's questions about his adoption? The right trip will celebrate who she is, serve as a foundation as she pieces together her identity, and provide memories to last a lifetime.
"Who are they?"Many people choose to create positive memories of their child's homeland on a first trip, and opt for a tour that focuses on culture. Such trips let your child experience the cultural richness of his country of birth, surrounded by people who look similar to him. Activities usually include:
- Visiting historical sites, such as temples, churches, and seats of government.
- Dining in restaurants that offer authentic, regional cuisine.
- Visiting art, crafts, and history museums.
- Traveling to towns and cities of historical significance and beauty.
"Who am I?"An adoption-focused homeland tour can deepen a child's understanding about adoption in general, and let you learn more about your child's adoption story. If you're considering this type of trip, think about whether your child is mature enough to cope with negative or disappointing information. Will your child one benefit from "knowing," no matter how difficult the information may be? You may have the chance to:
- Review your child's adoption file at his orphanage or child welfare institution. File reviews may reveal new information, or provide details that differ from what you were given at the time of referral.
- Meet your child's foster family and/or birth family. If you want to meet, contact your adoption agency and talk to the travel company as far in advance as possible.
- Visit your child's orphanage. Families are often able to meet with caregivers and hold or play with the children.
- Visit significant places, such as the town or hospital where your child was born, or the location where she was found.
Choosing a tour organizationTo decide which company you'll travel with, ask tour leaders the following questions:
- How long have you been in operation? How many trips have you led to this country?
- Who escorts the group? What is their experience/background?
- How many people travel in each group? Are all the children about the same age?
- How much time is spent touring? Does the schedule include "down time"?
- If the tour is adoption-focused, will an adoption professional accompany the group? Will there be group discussions?
- What kind of orientation and preparation do you offer?
- What will the total costs be?
- Can you get references from families who have traveled with them?
Pat Hoopes is the director of Clinical Services at Wide Horizons For Children in Waltham, Massachusetts.
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