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"Rediscovering Roots" Trip

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"Reason #1 to Go to Vietnam: To Reconnect With Your Ancestral Roots!"

"No, dude, I'm not gonna eat any of the street food. I'm only gonna eat, like, authentic shit. Home‐cooked meals, I'm gonna go visit the mosques. I wanna be somewhere where I'm surrounded by Muslims. You know? It's like, none of this confusion that we have here. Like, it's gonna's gonna be amazing, man."
Ramy Hassan, Ramy

The children or descendants of Immigrant Parents often find themselves in a Child of Two Worlds situation — they were raised in one country while their family has roots from another. Alternatively, one might discover family history they didn't know they had or were initially reluctant to acknowledge. As a result of this cultural mishmash, these characters may grapple with questions of self-identity and want to reconnect with their heritage.

Cue the "Rediscovering Roots" Trip, a plot trope where someone returns to the motherland in an effort to reconcile their origins.

What spurs this trip varies. It could be a Family Disunion, a time of personal upheaval, a well-intentioned effort by the parents, Heritage Disconnect, or a more general feeling of unhappiness or dissatisfaction are common causes, but the trip will always be treated as an incredibly important and formative one. They'll see all the sights, meet friendly locals or relatives, unearth old family secrets, and immerse themselves in the traditions and cultures of the old country. By the end, they will almost always have a greater love and understanding of their bicultural identity and an appreciation for their family's journey, although sadder takes on this trope may focus more on how they continue to feel alienated from this culture due to their mixed background. Stranger in a Familiar Land may result. Sometimes, a particularly ill-fortuned trip may lead to a Disappointing Heritage Reveal.

Compare and contrast Immigrant Patriotism, where immigrants wholeheartedly embrace the culture of their new country. See also Cultural Personality Makeover and Journey to Find Oneself.

Not to be confused with Revisiting the Roots, which is when a work returns to its old elements.


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  • A Citibank commercial has a father and son take a trip to Norway, the land of their ancestors according to the former. After taking in a bit of Norwegian culture, they head to the hall of records to look up their family history...and discover they're actually Swedish. Though they're initially disappointed that their trip to Norway was unneeded, they just decide to book tickets to Stockholm.

    Comic Books 
  • The opening arc of A-Force sees Runaways member Nico Minoru travelling to Japan to reconnect with her surviving family. Unfortunately for her, a monster attacks her cousin's wedding reception and she is forced to go back into the superhero business.
  • The Best We Could Do: Thi describes the family's first trip back to Vietnam after the war. Her mother and oldest sister, who remembered their life there, were excited, while she and her younger brother, who had been in America nearly their entire lives, were "documenting instead of remembering".
  • In The Krypton Chronicles, Superman and Supergirl travel to Rokyn, a planet settled by the last Kryptonian survivors, to learn the history of their family and their deceased home world.
  • Marvel's Voices: Identity: Pakistani-American Kamala is on another brief trip to Pakistan. She tells Kareem that she doesn't like visiting long-term, because she doesn't exactly fit in; Kareem calls her a self-hating Pakistani.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld as expanded in the works of A.A. Pessimal, Rebecka Smith-Rhodes was brought up in Ankh-Morpork. Her parents are, respectively, Morporkian and from Rimwards Howondaland. Having trained as a Witch and considered ready to go to a Steading, Bekki opts to try out life in her mother's country. Even though she was raised in an expatriot community in Ankh-Morpork and is fluent in the local languages and aware of social and cultural quirks, actually arriving in White Howondaland and living there full-time is still a very big learning curve. For one thing, there is the unique local social structure. there is also the Bureau of State Security who don't like witches very much and have big fat files on her politically awkward family. And there are the multiple races and ethnicities living in uneasy harmony even a century after the War of Independence. This all makes for a lively time.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Coneheads, the 3 Conehead family members return to their home planet of Remulak; Beldar and Prymaat readjust to being back there to a certain extent, but Connie (who was born on Earth and grew up in suburban New Jersey) doesn't feel at home there at all.
  • Daughter From Da Nang is a documentary about Heidi Bub, a half-American and half-Vietnamese woman who left Vietnam in Operation Babylift. Heidi was mistreated and eventually rejected by her white adoptive mother and travels back to Da Nang to meet her biological family and help heal this pain. However, this happy reunion eventually morphs into culture shock. Her biological family first demands that she care for her mother, then to take her mother back to America with her, then finally money when she refuses. Heidi returns to America hurt and has not kept in touch with them since.
  • In The Farewell, while the family is all together in Changchun, the first-generation Chinese-American Billi expresses a desire to stay in China and reconnect more with her roots and heritage during her grandmother's final days.
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action: Parodied in the Africa sequence, when Tweety encounters a flock of multicolored Tweety Birds.
    Tweety: I've discovered by woots!
    Sylvester: I've discovered my lunch.
    (the birds whistle "I tawt I taw a putty tat!" and start attacking Sylvester)
    Tweety: (dressed in a tribal outfit) Cwy fweedom!
  • Parodied in National Lampoon's European Vacation, where the Griswolds make a stop to visit their German relatives. They have a wonderful time and feel more connected to their roots than ever... except that the couple they visited weren't actually relatives; Clark found the wrong house.
  • Sarvann is about a Canadian-Indian man returning to India in an effort to find himself.
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings laces this plot in with superhero fare. Shang-Chi has spent ten years building up a normal life in San Francisco to escape his Archnemesis Dad — Xu Wenwu, aka "The Mandarin" — but is soon abducted and brought back to China for his plans. However, Wenwu genuinely doesn't want to fight his son, and simply needs his help for a quest to reclaim his lost wife, treating the experience more like this so that Shang-Chi can better understand what's at stake before rescuing and reuniting with his Missing Mom. Considering Wenwu's history as a criminal overlord and raising of Shang-Chi to be an assassin, this reunion is naturally very fraught. It takes a journey into the Hidden Elf Village his mother originated from, understanding her roots and why she chose to leave to be with Wenwu does the whole picture of his family — in its loving past and fleeting present — come together.

  • Amy Tan's novels about the Chinese-American experience often feature a journey to China:
    • The Hundred Secret Senses: In the second part, the Chinese-born Kwan plans a trip for her Chinese-American sister Olivia and her estranged husband back to China. On the trip, Olivia finds a deeper appreciation of her heritage and sense of identity.
    • In The Joy Luck Club, Jing-Mei/June goes to China after her mother's death. In experiencing life in China and telling her two half-sisters about their mother, she is finally able to make peace with her Chinese heritage and her tumultuous relationship with her mom.
    • The Kitchen God's Wife ends with the second-generation Pearl and her female relatives planning a trip to China, which Pearl thinks is timely as she has just learned about her family's backstory.
  • One of the subplots in Debt of Honor is about side character Chester "Chet" Nomuri, a fourth-generation Japanese American and CIA operative on assignment in Japan. He finds himself grappling with the stark cultural differences between birthplace and ancestral homeland.
  • Mrs. Whitcomb from Experimental Film once went on a trip to the Wendish territories, where her father's family came from. It turned out to be a mistake - she drew the attention of Lady Midday, and because, unbeknownst to her, she was four months pregnant at the time, Lady Midday claimed the unborn Hyatt as her own.
  • Kinfolk by Pearl S. Buck is about the Liang family, whose patriarch emigrates to New York City from China. However, his two children Mary and James decide to move back to their ancestral village, and in doing so find self-completion and fulfillment.
  • The Namesake is about a second-generation Indian-American named Gogol. In Chapter 4, his father takes a sabbatical and moves the family back to Calcutta for eight months, which was partially intended to help Gogol and his sister Sonia connect with their heritage. While his parents are thrilled to be back in India, the children are uncomfortable due to their American upbringing. By the end of the trip, Gogol does gain an appreciation for the country, but it is soured by the two of them falling ill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alluded to in the "China" episode of Awkwafina is Nora from Queens: the Chinese-American Nora has never even been on the plane, and her family mentions that this job opportunity in China would be a good chance to get to know her roots and eat some authentic Chinese food. (She gets KFC.)
  • Modern Family: Colombian-American Gloria becomes worried that her son Manny is losing touch with his heritage and considers sending him on a solo trip to Colombia.
  • Ramy: Late in the first season, aimless millennial Ramy visits his parents' home country of Egypt to become more in touch with his heritage.
  • The final arc of Roots (2016) focuses on Alex, a descendant of Kunta Kinte, tracking down his heritage and ultimately visiting Africa.
  • The Suite Life on Deck: In "Family Thais", London visits Thailand to meet her grandmother, and she's horrified to find that she's a common rice farmer.
  • In Ugly Betty, the Suarez family goes to Guadalajara so Ignacio can get a visa and become a legal immigrant to the US. The American-born Hilda, Betty, and Justin (especially Betty) take the trip as an opportunity to learn about the Mexican parts of their heritage.
  • On The White Lotus, the Italian-American Di Grassos are in Sicily because they're of Sicilian descent, and want to bring the grandfather, Bert, to the town of his ancestors.
  • Who Do You Think You Are? has this as its core premise. Each episode features a celebrity going on a journey to investigate parts of their family tree, generally including travel to sites of major significance in the life of one or more ancestors.

  • Heimskringla: Upon his succession Sveigdir, the fourth ruler of ancient Sweden after Odin, "swears an oath" to find Godheim (the "land of the Gods") from whence his ancestors formerly came to Sweden under Odin's leadership. Sveigdir and his companions succeed and reach Asgard in Asia (the land of the Aesir), where Sveigdir "[meets] many of his relatives". Sveigdir also visits Vanaheim, the birthplace of his grandfather Freyr (which is situated in the delta of the Don), marries a Vanir woman, and returns with her to Sweden after five years abroad.

  • Water by the Spoonful: Madeline Mays, once Yoshio Sakai, was adopted to white Americans as an infant. As the play begins she is already in Japan, teaching English, exploring her "homeland delusions." She has gotten hold of the address of her birth parents—but she is also a recovering crack addict, and her Tropaholics Anonymous friend Clayton is worried that going there may disturb her sobriety.

    Video Games 
  • Tribes: Vengeance: After the Imperial Princess Julia discovers that she is a half-Tribal on her father's side, she seeks out his old tribe and asks to undergo their initiation rites. By enduring their trials, she is then admitted into the Children of Phoenix tribe.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse Heart of the Forest: Maia is a Polish-American college student who travels to her ancestral village of Bialoweiza to investigate her family roots from her grandfather's stories, face the forest that haunts her dreams, and find her destiny.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in the BoJack Horseman episode "The Dog Days are Over". The second-generation Vietnamese-American Diane travels to Vietnam ostensibly to find herself and reconnect with her roots (as framed by the listicle she's supposed to be writing), but as the episode progresses, it becomes clear that her Americanized upbringing and life only makes her feel more alone and alienated from the people in Hanoi, and that she's really only there because she's trying to deal with the emotional fallout of her divorce.
  • The Cleveland Show: In "How Cleveland Got His Groove Back", a depressed Cleveland is inspired by a Roots sequel to take the family on a trip Africa to get in touch with his peoples' culture. However, when their plane lands for a layover in Hawaii, Cleveland decides to stay and vacation there and convinces Rallo that they're in Africa to avoid disappointing him.
  • The Miraculous Ladybug special Shanghai, the Legend of Ladydragon reveals that Marinette's parents have been saving up money since she was born to take a family trip back to China (where her mother was born) whenever Marinette was ready to connect with her heritage, and they're moved almost to tears when Marinette tells them she wants to do so. Subverted: Marinette only wants to go to China to continue stalking Adrien, because he's in Shanghai for business.
  • South Park: In "Going Native", Butters starts acting unusually hostile, and his parents take this as a sign that he must return to his birthland: Hawaii. He goes there, bringing Kenny along, and joins the white "natives" (tourists who decided to stay on the islands) for his coming-of-age ceremony.
  • Static Shock: The appropriately named "Static in Africa" sees the Hawkins family travel to Ghana to get in touch with their roots. Virgil himself teams with an African superhero called Anansi as they work to stop a villain named Osebo from looting an archaeological site.

    Real Life