Discovering your ancestral DNA: A Diversity Game Changer

By Sally Coldrick and Rachel Hentsch

Rebecca Fielding, CEO, Travel Unwrapped and DNA Unwrapped™

Embracing diversity, recognising and celebrating the rich dimensions of each of our individual differences wholeheartedly, is a no-brainer for us. Exploring who we are offers insight into how we think and behave. And just as importantly, it shapes how we behave towards others.

In our eyes, Rebecca Fielding epitomises the magnificence of being a ‘curious entrepreneur’. In a nutshell, she is a former Human Rights Advocate, sat as one of the youngest female magistrates in the UK and is now Founder and CEO of Travel Unwrapped and DNA Unwrapped™.

DNA Unwrapped™ is giving us all a way to discover our ancestral roots through DNA testing. Rebecca was recently featured in Forbes’ “How to Plan The Trip Of A Lifetime.” The article describes how the team of cultural travel experts at Travel Unwrapped have created a travel itinerary that will take you to discover all the places you are from, as identified from your DNA test results.

We invited her to share her story with us so you can learn why she believes that “Travel is the biggest threat to prejudice.” Rebecca has nurtured a lifelong passion for exploring different cultures. Her story is incredible and we are sure that it will empower you.

How did DNA Unwrappedcome to be? Where did your inspiration come from?

For 8 years I was a Human Rights Advocate representing children who had been discriminated against — my work eventually took me all around the world and it became clear to me that travel is our biggest threat to prejudice. Travel makes us open minded, curious and exposes us to new people and new places. So I started a travel company and with the influence of a medical family behind me sought to explore what kind of travel experience could both create the most personal journey in the world together with finding a way to open people up to the idea that there is more to unite us than divide us in this world.

What is the most extraordinary location one of your clients has discovered from the DNA ancestral roots they have from and then travelled to? What did stories did they report back with?

Last year we had a client discover they were Eastern European with ancestral roots in the Ukraine. They identified as Greek both ethnically and culturally . They took this journey as what seemed to be a bit of a challenge — they described it as ‘a step away from what they know and love’ and so this journey took them by surprise.

St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine

They travelled from a now cosmopolitan Warsaw in Poland to the Ukraine capital Kiev, — and found themselves in quite a different place from what they imagined it would be. There was some social unrest in the capital at that time, and my clients described it as ‘frantic and yet with nothing much happening’ — when I spoke with them after only a day they seemed a little deflated. It was clear they needed and wanted to get a sense of what it meant to share some of the authentic culture of the the place. My team put together a series of places to eat and small local galleries to visit — as well as a meeting with an American historian living in the city.

The Swallow’s Nest in Crimea

The next time I spoke to them they had been dancing, discovered a market and bought Ukrainian lace and fabrics, discovered a cake which they ate morning, noon and night as it was so delicious, visited a wine expert who talked them through a tasting menu of authentic Ukrainian cuisine and wine and with every glass they toasted their ancestors and the beginning of their DNA journeys. They told me the most common Ukrainian toast was “Nazhtrovia” (to your health) but they found locals also using an ancient Polish toast, “Sto lat” which means “a hundred years”. They returned to Greece — having discovered and unexpectedly fallen in love with an entirely new part of the world — and all made even more special by their own 16% DNA guiding them through it.

How have you grown your network?

I was recently asked what my ‘business superpower’ was. In my consideration of this, it occurred to me that we have many different ‘super skills’ which often overlap in our lives. My ‘social superpower’ is being confident and approachable to ask questions which people don’t expect. This is one of the most measurable ways I have seen my network grow — whether it’s been face to face or digitally. I recently met a woman at an event I spoke at — she introduced herself and told me she worked in licensing pharmaceuticals. My first questions was ‘good or evil pharmaceuticals?’ — she looked horrified and offended. The people with me, clearly embarrassed, laughed uncomfortably. I’m happy in a silent pause, so I let her answer. It was clear she was one of the good guys — but in 15 years she said no one had ever asked her that — she said her job title seemed to close, rather than open, conversations. She made three introductions between myself and other people — one of whom is an extraordinary thought leader in bio-engineering and connected with labs which we will tap into when we scale our DNA projects.

Growing networks is about getting rid of all the small talk and polite politics — and getting people to talk at the heart of things as quickly and as genuinely as possible. It sets the bar for the level you want the conversation to be at — and it establishes a culture of curiosity between people.

How do you see the future of cultures and diversity in the context of ever-increasing globality?

If we do not start to explore the things in life that unite us rather than divide us, we will always live in a culture of ‘them and us’. One of the beliefs we hold as a company is that we are as diverse as individuals as the world around us — and by being open-minded and curious we have the ability to become more tolerant and peaceful as a global community. We live in very fragile times — politically and socially we have learnt to expect the unexpected. We need to arm ourselves with a sense of universality and as people who share this One World. For the next generation of leaders and innovators it is vital that diversity and inclusion be high on the agenda. Protecting people, cultures and climates will foster peace and empower understanding. In my opinion this is as vital for us to adopt as individuals, entrepreneurs, organisations and at governmental level also.

You run a global company. Tell us about your time-juggling tips and strategies — how do you make the 24 hours in each day work best for you?

My ideal day starts at 4:30am with yoga and an hour or two to myself before family life begins. I do my best writing while the worlds around me sleeps. I steal a pocket of the night and make it my own time to breath and be still and get my ideas down without rushing. It’s however not always possible in which case I transfer those hours to the other end of the day — and work late. For me it’s about having time to work alone when my ‘blue sky thinking’ has space to evolve. Then when I’m at my office with my team I’m able to juggle, fire fight, spin plates and lead. All things which take high energy and organisation. The single most valuable tip I have is to run two lists relentlessly — a global (or headline) list which gives an overview of the all the headline elements of my job. Then daily and weekly lists which are what I have to deliver to meet my global mission. The Chair of my Board talks about accountability as a key strength in a person and I am very lucky to have a Chair who values both his CEO being accountable and yet free enough to be creative. To me it doesn’t matter whether I work 4 hours a day or 20 hours — it’s always about ensuring I am the one organising my own chaos and being the gatekeeper of every element of my company.

What’s your personal take on the theme of curiosity, and what is your attitude to learning?

Curiosity for me is more than about a simple interest in learning or discovery — it’s about that desire to grow, learn and challenge ourselves by being open minded to new ideas and humble in how we share the things we know with others. Sharing is a key counterpart to curiosity — when we verbalise the questions we ask of ourselves, we empower others to do the same — this is when learning and teaching come together. The best teachers are always those who adopt life learning for themselves — something which is clear in the extraordinary vision of InfinityFoundry.

What annual celebration with your family and friends would you travel from the other side of the world not to miss?

From around the age of 17 I travelled regularly, sometimes for months on end, but wherever I was in the world I would make it home for my dad’s birthday — it was unspoken — I would always show up. Now — I would return from space to have a slice of my Italian Grandmother’s Cheesecake!

On reflection, what was your greatest learning from the past 12 months?

The lesson I’ve learnt has been the toughest one to accept — and that is the vision we have in our hearts and minds-eye is so often extremely difficult to translate into a global brand. It got to a point last year that people didn’t understand the true heart of my company unless I was the one talking about it — and that’s not sustainable. Creating a brand that speaks for itself is something I am both struggling with and succeeding at every day.

How well do you know yourself?

InfinityFoundry has partnered with DNA Unwrapped™ to offer you 10% off an ancestral DNA testing kit, giving you the opportunity to #KnowThyself and connect differently to the world around you.

Discover how you are as diverse as the world around you with the DNA Unwrapped™ ancestral DNA test.