DNA Test Sends Family of 5 on Journey Around the World

June Casagrande
By June Casagrande 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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Natalee and Ike Anderson with their children Jasmine, left, Kaylee and Layton at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Some of Natalee’s ancestors were from India, and she and Ike were inspired to visit and expose their children to the cultures, tastes and smells of history there.

It was Ike and Natalee Anderson’s dream home — a West Palm Beach, Florida, house filled with enough material possessions to keep most families comfortable for life. Yet after five years of living with almost everything they could want, the Andersons realized something didn’t feel quite right.

Eventually, a DNA ancestry test helped them understand why.

In between London and Cyprus, the Andersons visited Paris: "Can't travel the world and not see the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe," Ike says.

Their true home wasn’t in West Palm Beach; it was in Ghana, Britain, India and a dozen other countries they had never visited but where their genetic roots run deep.

The plan

So they sold their dream house, shed most of their possessions, said goodbye to a city where they no longer had a place to lay their heads, and on Jan. 30, 2018, boarded a plane to take up residence for the next 13 months in their new home: the whole world.

» Learn more: 4 family vacations that cost less than $5,000

Ike and Natalee and their three children, Jasmine, 12, Kaylee, 11, and Layton, 7, now live out of a rotating roster of 16 countries, connecting with their roots in some of the places where Ike and Natalee have traced their lineage and visiting other intriguing destinations along the way.

“I think life is short; as far as I know we have this one life,” Ike says. “Dads create shelter, security for their kids. But I also wanted to give them experiences.”

The budget

Traveling and living from country to country for a year will cost the Andersons $90,000 to $105,000, Ike estimates. Selling their house and possessions helped a bit. But mostly Ike, a marketing entrepreneur, pays their way by working remotely. Natalee, also a digital marketing professional, dedicates much of her time to home-schooling the kids.

The Andersons stay in vacation rentals and hotels and keep a keen eye out for travel deals.

“We use an app called Hopper that sends a notification when deals for a particular leg is active and when to buy based on historical buying patterns,” Ike says. “We also use Skyscanner for flights, as well as Expedia, Airbnb and HomeAway.”

The personal rewards

The Andersons in traditional Ghanian attire for a welcoming ceremony by the chief of Elmina. Both Ike and Natalee have ancestors from West Africa, some of whom were taken through the slave ports in Ghana, based on oral history. They explained that their visit to Ghana was to acknowledge the atrocities that took place and pay their respects to the ones whose freedom was forcibly taken.

It’s a lot of work, a lot of expense and a lot of time on the move, but the rewards make it worthwhile, they say. The family has ridden camels in Egypt, donned traditional clothing in Ghana, visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris and explored the African roots of the Olmec people in Villahermosa, Mexico — a site that was particularly intriguing to Ike.

“I have always been fascinated by the history of people and civilizations, and was always curious about the people who lived in South and Central America many centuries before Europeans even knew that side of the planet existed,” says Ike, who, like Natalee, was born in Jamaica.

He found his answers on a 10-hour car ride from Cancun at Parque Museo La Venta, an open-air museum displaying artifacts from the Olmec civilization, including altars and stone heads. “All the sites we experienced today made the arduous drive so worth it!” he wrote on the family’s Facebook page.

The next step

The Andersons share their story, complete with plenty of photos, on their blog and vlog site, Exploring Legacy and on their Facebook page. When their journey is over in February 2019, there’s a good chance they’ll go back to living in one place. But whether that place will be West Palm Beach remains to be seen.

Bali was a transitional stop after leaving India. The Anderson family connected with the spiritual culture and slower pace of life.

“Right now we are pretty open to new opportunities and possibilities,” Ike says. “As you can imagine, going on such a life-changing process can erode and restructure what can be classified as normal. Right now we have an open mind and we will see when we get there.”

Photos courtesy of Ike Anderson.

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