Who is your family?

My mother-in-law always used to say that family comes first. But in the end, does it really matter if someone is related to you?

Some people don’t really have any relatives they are close to. For them their friends are family.

When you are travelling the world and your immediate family is far away, other travellers become your family.

Anyone who is touched by adoption knows for sure that the concept of family is so much more. Family can be those who adopted you, your biological family, a foster mother, a children’s home caretaker, your social worker and/or even the other children you grew up with in the children’s home.

Sadly sometimes those related to you by blood can be the last people you want to be involved with.

Three years ago my daughter, Em, got an uncontrollable urge to travel the world – hmm.. some of you may say and wonder where she got that from?!

At that time she was only 16 years old and I was not very keen on her going alone on a trip with her friends anywhere. Fortunately there is such a thing as summer youth exchange! We researched the different options there were and because of her young age, it looked like the Lions Youth Exchange program would be the best way to go.

So from there the ball got rolling. Our area’s Lions representative came for a home-visit, documents were filled in and we spent the next few months went nervously awaiting the news – would Em be going to South Africa, Malaysia or maybe Australia?

After almost half a year, an email came announcing that Em would be going to Malaysia! I was so excited – Em could get a chance to live like a local in my childhood city.

Of course like every mother I was nervous to send my daughter to the other side of the world to stay with total strangers. Thankfully these days travelling and being apart is so much easier with Facebook and WhatsApp. In the end there was nothing to worry about and the whole exchange went wonderfully.

After returning home, Em showed us photos of her trip but the photo of her and her Kuala Lumpur family posing in front of the park behind the Petronas Twin Towers for a family portrait had everyone going for a second look. Yes, Em is caucasian and blond and her KL family are Chinese with dark hair. But somehow, she looks just like one of the daughters!! This family welcomed her into their home and hearts with open arms and Em fit in immediately. Their bond is so special that you can really say that Em has another family in Malaysia.

This year, Em had the chance to go to Kuala Lumpur again on her travels. And of course she returned to her Malaysian family and they picked up where they left off two years ago. I hope one day we will have the honour of welcoming Em’s Malaysian sisters and brother to our home or even having a meet-up in Kuala Lumpur.

If you want to explore the concept of family some more, do watch Twinsters. In Finland it’s available on Netflix but I’ve seen it on iTunes as well. Twinsters is a documentary about twin sisters – one adopted to France and another to the US as babies from South Korea. By what I would call a miracle, the girls were reunited 25 years later. Imagine finding out you have a sister –  let alone a twin who you knew nothing about! Have your tissues handy and be ready to marvel at what social media can accomplish these days.

See the trailer here or watch it on YouTube:


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