Why Everyone Should Visit Their Motherland

There are some destinations that simply resonate with us more than others. Maybe it's the hospitality, the food and drinks, the history, or the scenery. There's often something intangible about those places that we can't quite put our finger on when asked why it is we like it so much. However, what's often missing is this prior personal connection to a place that runs much deeper than just the people, food and drinks, history, and scenery. It's a personal connection that's different for every single person: the connection rooted in one's family heritage, which for many people, isn't their hometown, or even their home county, state, or country. It's often a place abroad, where they may never even consider the opportunity, let alone have the opportunity, to visit the place in which their family originates - their motherland.

"Aye, that's a good, strong Scottish name you have on you son," replied the Edinburgh map shop (yes, they have map shops in the U.K.) owner after I introduced myself, not as whom most people know me as, "Spencer Spellman," but rather as "Spencer Murray." The name "Murray" being the middle name I was given at birth, because it was my mom's maiden name. To be honest, I was never a fan of any of my names. Classmates in school would often call me "Spencer Dispenser" or "Spencer Can't Spell Man." I often asked my parents if I could change my middle name, although they never seemed to take my requests seriously after I would tell them that I was willing to keep my first and last name, as long as I could change it from "Spencer Spellman" to "Spencer Michael Jordan Spellman."

But it hasn't been until recently that I've found myself feeling a new sense of pride in my heritage, both in my name, and my heritage in the south. And so it was, that a few weeks ago, while planning a work trip to Ireland, that I decided to spend the first concentrated time in my motherland of Scotland, trying to discover my roots and the land that my ancestors came from. It wasn't until I arrived in Scotland that I slowly started to realize the significance of this trip. I remember one pub especially, that I walked into shortly after arriving in Edinburgh, Scotland. It didn't take long after opening my mouth that the bartender realized that I wasn't Scottish. However, there was a glimmer in his eyes when he read the name on my credit card, patted me on the shoulder, and said to me, "Welcome home, lad." I started introducing myself as "Spencer Murray," and a couple times, would even have people sit down with me and tell me stories about friends and family with the Murray surname.

I've only just begun to scratch the surface of the history of my ancestry from the little bit of time I've researched, the few days I spent in Scotland, and the conversations with family members who have gathered information. I can tell you what I know about my ancestry based on this recent trip and research since. The name is unique and historical to Scotland for a few reasons, one of which being that it's a locative surname, meaning that it derives from a place. In this case, that place is Moray, which is a county in the Scottish Highlands. The Murray heritage is traced back as far as the 12th Century, most notably to Andrew Moray, a Scottish general who victoriously co-led Scotland's first uprising against the English conquerors at the Battle of Stirling Bridge alongside William Wallace. Yep, that William Wallace and that Battle of Stirling Bridge from the film Braveheart. Totes cray cray, right?! The current Murray crest depicts a shirtless demi-savage with a key in one hand and a dagger in the other. The motto reads "Furth, Fortune, and Fill the Fetters", roughly meaning to "go forth against your enemies, have good fortune, and return with captives." So yeah, have fun with that. I'm still unsure how to apply that motto to my dating life.

So what does all this mean? Are Andy Murray and I cousins? Could Bill Murray be my uncle? That's probably a little far-fetched. I don't know what this means. Most of this knowledge I have is just about the Murray name, rather than information about my direct lineage. I just know that there's a deeply-rooted heritage in Scotland that I want to know more about, and that I can't just discover with a one-week trip to Scotland. I know that I have a strong sense of pride in my heritage, both in the south, and in my motherland, like never before. And I've always said that our identity and who we are at the core, is deeply rooted in where we come from. Our past helps tell the story of our future. I want to know, embrace, and celebrate the legacy of my family heritage so that one day, maybe I'll leave a legacy that is known, embraced, and celebrated long past my expiration date.

On my final hours in Scotland, I rode through the countryside on the way to the Edinburgh Airport, as my eyes welled up reflecting on the previous days. I cruised past meadows, farmland, and volcanic hills as I spotted churches and castles in the distance that were centuries old, many of which are three or four times as old as America itself. I reflected back on my hikes of Arthur's Seat (the main peak of a series of volcanic hills overlooking Edinburgh), my tour of Edinburgh Castle, and my visit to St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, which dates back to the 12th Century. I wondered who of my family had marched into battle across that meadow, sang in that church, manned the cannon atop that castle, and stood on the peak of that mountain. I felt this deep personal connection to a place that no Caribbean beach, plate lunch in Hawaii, or South African safari could provide. Only in Europe in this corner of the U.K. could I have the connection to a place that I had right there at that moment. And while I'm not one to revisit a country, I knew then that this wouldn't be my last trip to Scotland.