Why a DNA test may reveal your next holiday spot

Discover the holiday companies creating new ways to help you get the most out of your two-week vacation.

Change the direction of your journey. Image credit: miniloc/iStock
Change the direction of your journey. Image credit: miniloc/iStock

In times gone by, all the average holidaymaker wanted to do was fly to a hot destination and flop on a lounger with a book – preferably with a cocktail in hand. This plan no longer cuts it, with many travelers wanting to get more out of their two-week vacation, and companies are taking this on board, helping the holidaymaker come home with more than just a tan. 

These travel companies are encouraging people to trace their DNA, push themselves to the limits with extreme life-coaching lessons, and, if they are really willing to step into the unknown, creating vacations where the destination is only revealed once you reach the airport.

DNA vacations

A far less challenging way of finding out what you’re made of is with a DNA vacation. After seeing a 500 percent rise in guests tracing their roots, Airbnb decided to partner with Californian tech company 23andMe to create trips based on a guest’s heritage. 

Holidaymakers keen to know more can have their saliva tested by the 23andMe team, which uses this to give you a breakdown of your genetic profile. Airbnb then steps in to create experiences that will help you learn more about your ancestry and who you are. 

For example, if you have Southern Italian ancestry, you may wish to stay in a traditional Trullo home in Puglia. If you find out that your roots are in China, you might want to take a Chinese calligraphy class, or if you have Mexican heritage, you have the chance to learn ancient natural dye techniques.

Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Airbnb Joe Gebbia said the company was proud to team up with 23andMe to make it easier for travelers to plan more tailored trips.

“At Airbnb, we believe that authentic travel experiences help you connect with local cultures and create a sense of belonging anywhere in the world — and what better way to do that than traveling to your roots,” he said.

Airbnb isn’t the only company to pay attention to this new trend. Andy Fraser, the Tartan Butler for The Balmoral in Edinburgh will help guests find out more about their Scottish heritage. Once armed with information about their Scottish roots, Fraser can arrange for guests to have a kilt made from their clan’s tartan at one of the city’s most prestigious kilt shops.

Discover your heritage. Image credit: encrier/iStock
Discover your heritage. Image credit: encrier/iStock

Extreme life-coaching

Pencari Black takes plucky adults into the wilderness to find out what they are really made of. Founded by Ex-Royal Marine Dean Williams, the team takes guests to a bespoke training center in the Colorado Desert where they learn how to freefall from a plane or are given the chance to practice their new-found tracking skills in the African bush.

This hardship is lessened somewhat by the fact the guests arrive by private jet and can then spend the night in a luxury lodge. 

Destination unknown

But one vacation that may really test your mettle is the holiday where you don’t know your final destination. Numerous companies have been established to help you plan a holiday that will whisk you off to places you only find out about while you’re on your way to the location. These can be short city hops to places close by that you may never thought of visiting or off-the-grid locations where you might feel as if you are at the end of the world. 

Anywhr in Singapore is one such company that organizes trips for guests who don’t know the destination until they reach the airport. You fill out a brief personality questionnaire on the company website then an Anywhr travel expert will create a bespoke trip to match your budget. Three days later, a teaser email will be sent to your inbox to help you prepare for your trip, so you know which airport you need to go to and what you need to pack. Then one week before your trip you will receive an envelope containing your passport to adventure, with the request to break the seal of the envelope at the airport.  

Anywhr co-founder Zelia Leong said that as a brand, they focus on the bespoke element of their trip. The fact that their client doesn’t know where they are going is just a bonus. 

“Our travelers are assured that they will get a good trip suited to their tastes, thus only knowing their destination up to a week before their trip simply makes it more interesting,” she said.

Leong added that people relish the chance to let someone take care of the holiday planning. 

“[Even] those that are self-proclaimed control freaks shared that they enjoyed leaving the planning up to us, and just going on their trip to have fun and make new discoveries instead of always over planning and following checklists,” she said.

UK travel company Black Tomato is also ready to take you out of your comfort zone with the recent launch of the Get Lost. In a time when people are constantly connected and hooked on instant gratification, Black Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant said the aim of Get Lost was to take away the guest’s safety net put them in scenarios that encouraged exploration, including trekking across the Atacama Desert in Chile, or navigating your way across the Mongolian Steppes.

“Get Lost encourages clients to uncover skills that they never knew they had,” he said. 

“It is designed to provide both a mental as well as a physical challenge.

“We’re hoping to find your inner survival steel, beliefs, and passion which will enable you to lead yourself to the journey’s end.”

Challenge yourself on your next holiday. Image credit: Black Tomato
Challenge yourself on your next holiday. Image credit: Black Tomato

Marchant said these trips can also be strangely relaxing. 

“When you are being mentally challenged you forget about the stresses of home, as your mind is so focused on the moment you are in. This in itself, offers a form of relaxation for our clients.”

These holidays all have one thing in common – they offer a form of self-discovery. While a spot of naval-gazing or people-watching on a lounger may have initially seemed quite fulfilling, there’s no doubt that when you come home from one of these extraordinary vacations you really will be a whole new you.


Claire Turrell

Freelance journalist Claire Turrell has lived and worked in London, Dubai, and Singapore. When she’s not busy writing, she is riding motorbikes off-road in Cambodia, diving in Oman or learning Muay Thai in Thailand.