The most shocking trip ever

I just found that I am not Bulgarian. It’s not a joke. After almost a month of an epic journey, meant to be the most shocking trip in my entire travel career, the truth was revealed, and it was quite surprising. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic when the world is on fire, I got much spare time and started completing my need-to-do bucket list. The paragliding was done, kayaking – done, caves exploring – checked, pottery craft lessons- completed, mountain trekking, and waterfall bathing – done. But there was one thing left – to track my roots in the remote past for finding who I am. 

I have shared many times in my blog that I am suspicious about my origin. Being too different compared with my close relatives and having weird preferences made my instinct sharp and poked me wondering where I am coming from. They were so many symptoms that I was unable to ignore them. Of course, the first one was darker than the other members of the family skin. Then comes my total obsession with the desert and the hot weather countries. I can’t stand the frost and the snow and feel non-stop cold when the summer is gone. And last but not least my blood type (B+) specific for only 9% of the planet population, mostly Southern nomadic tribes. 

The first signs started popping up when I kicked off traveling the world and the native locals in the visited countries guessed where I am from. I got a variety of assumptions. When I was in Qatar, everyone believed I am a Lebanese, in South Africa, I was Italian, in Barbados – Portuguese, in London – Turkish, in Bali, Indonesia – Greek. Can you see the pattern? All the nations I resemble are Mediterranean.

Bulgaria is not a Mediterranean country, neither its residents look like. Most of the Bulgarians have dark hair, dark eyes, and pretty light skin. With hazel eyes and quite dark skin, I look like everyone else, but not like Bulgarian. Let’s call it a hunch but seems like I have always known that there is something distinctive in my roots, coming from remote generations and somehow appearing like a rare mutation right now.

Receiving my DNA genetic kit

And then a few years ago, I put in my need-to-do bucket list a DNA genetic test for revealing the origin of my great great great grandparents. Meanwhile, I asked my parents, but they did not have any information about mixed genes recently. I have never found time so far to explore, order, and complete a DNA test. And here I am, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, where everything slows down. Suddenly, I stepped in the right moment to proceed with my DNA heritage survey. 

I ordered online a MyHeritage kit and upon its arrival simply followed the instructions. All you need to do is to take a sample from your saliva and to carefully stock it in the provided small plastic containers. My DNA has traveled almost 10 days to finally reach the lab of MyHeritage in Huston, Texas, the USA where the magic happens and the secrets come to life.

The instructions on how to get a saliva sample

In two weeks more, the big day has come, and in October 2020 I received the most awaited email with the results. That moment I was postponing since 2017. The first feeling was fear. Not sure why. I guess I didn’t feel ready to face the truth. To be honest, my strongest prediction was that in my veins flows Turkish blood (that means from the area where is the state of Turkey nowadays). It’s logical because Bulgaria has been part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years. That’s what I was expecting and would have explained some differences and preferences mentioned above. Compiling all my courage I opened the email and it’s all in the YouTube video below which is a must-see!!!

OMG!!! About 60%. That’s absolutely impressive! I am Greek – Italian. The other 24 % suggest I am ¼ Eastern European, which includes the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and partly Ukraine. This part probably comes from my blond blue-eyed dad. And finally, only 18% from the Balkans – Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, and partially Bulgaria. I was totally shaken. It seems my genes show the last I could be is Bulgarian. 

I was searching deeply but there is nothing out of Europe – no Middle Eastern, no Turkish, no African, no Jewish, neither any other exotic genes mixed. Being utterly confused, I was certain only that I am a true European. My first thought was what my Italian friends would say about a distant cousin who doesn’t speak much Italian 🙂 And another picture came to my mind – just a few days ago I was joking with a close friend of mine it’s time to go together to South Italy, a trip postponed for a long time. 

Distant cousins all over the world

I received a bonus from the MyHeritage test – 742 distant relatives with whom I share similar DNA. I can see their profiles, the age, the country they live in, some of them have even photos. There is a button I just need to click on if I want to contact them, but this option really scares me. And these are just people who had their DNA test with the same company. I can’t even imagine how many ancient DNA relatives all over the world I have, and I do not know about them. 

What surprises me is that the vast majority of those 742 people with similar DNA live in the USA. Quite a lot in Germany as well. The rest is spread between France, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Netherlands. Only 18 in Bulgaria. 

My all relatives live out of Bulgaria

Should I start learning Italian or Greek language? 🙂 At least the very Southern Mediterranean roots explain my unusual and not very Bulgarian looks. I discussed with my family the results and they admit it’s hard to believe it as we do not have information left about any recent migration during the last two centuries

I checked what is the % of possible mistakes of the genetic test but it seems like it’s based on the analysis of haplotype-resolved genomes that define the area of origin and are pretty well characterized.

Now the big question is Greece, or South Italy I am coming from??? Obviously, I need to plan another journey soon to continue and finally complete the most shocking trip ever.  

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