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Roots Guide: The Dutch Stories

This project brings together over 60 co-creators throughout the Netherlands with diverse internal and international migration backgrounds. They are supported by our production team: social entrepreneurs Ingi Mehus and Daniel Wurpel (Pocket Stories); documentary photographer Rehab Eldalil; cultural geographer Meghann Ormond (Wageningen University & Research); and designer Hamzah Kashash.

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‘Who am I? And where do I belong?’ In this rapidly-changing, fast-paced world, these questions increasingly have come to confound us. Ironically, we are both more connected to and more disconnected from one another than ever before. Overwhelmed by it all, many of us crave ways in which to genuinely connect, and re-connect, with the people and places around us. We get that we not only need to see the world differently but also to be in the world differently.
Roots Guide: The Dutch Stories is a novel tool developed to help us do this. Taking the form of an interactive, reflective travel guidebook, Roots Guide invites us to undertake both outer and inner journeys by revisiting what we think we know about life in the Netherlands, starting on our very own doorsteps.

Through visual and personal stories, it welcomes us into the lives of our Roots Guide hosts, more than 60 people from diverse backgrounds. Learn about what brought our hosts to the places in which they live and their experiences of these places. And, along the way, get fantastic travel tips and recommendations that shed new light on the wonder, weirdness, struggles, and joy that make up contemporary life in the country we call home.
Roots Guide is for everyone who lives in the Netherlands and is curious to explore themselves and their place in this country in a new way. Experience and connect with people and places just next door or all the way across the country, ones you thought you already knew like the back of your hand, ones you’ve never heard of, and perhaps even ones you may have feared.
Through in-depth stories, trip suggestions and guided multisensory reflective activities specially designed for its readers, Roots Guide opens us up to different ways of seeing and being in our Netherlands, not the Netherlands as some mythical fixed place and culture to which we either do or don’t belong. Are you ready to begin your journey?

Project background

While tourism is widely used to reinforce dominant collective identity narratives, it also has significant potential to challenge, complicate and shift them. Indeed, education experts have increasingly embraced travel-related experiential learning for its potent capacity to foster deeper holistic understanding, multi-perspectivity and empathic connection.

Because nearly everyone is a tourist these days (over 80% of people in the Netherlands travel for leisure at least once per year), our team has crafted a novel educational tool for social inclusion that takes the form of a travel guidebook to help make ‘the strange familiar and the familiar strange’. It aims to enable users to acknowledge (1) the transnational lineages of what may on the surface appear ‘purely’ Dutch and (2) distinctions between dominant national heritage/identity discourses and more personal, lived and local experiences and meanings of places, relations and events.

Roots Guide uses counter-mapping techniques to advance the simple yet powerful notion that people with migration backgrounds can speak with authority about the places in which they live. Our local hosts are intra- and inter-nationally-mobile people whose voices and experiences have been traditionally un(der)represented and/or exoticised in conventional guidebook representations. It is through their stories that we are invited to actively reflect on and re-evaluate dominant, essentialised and worn-out narratives about what and who is ‘Dutch' and to de-centre and enrich them with more contemporary and realistic framings of life in the Netherlands today.