Is Your Wanderlust Genetic?


Do you come from a family of travelers, or were you raised on a series of staycations? Did that lead to a lifetime of wanderlust, or a preference for the comforts of home? When it comes to the jet-setting lifestyle, are you a chip off the old blocks, or your family’s black sheep?

Travel + Leisure completely baited my click with the headline: The Scientific Reason You Love to Travel. I must admit that my wanderlust feels built-in, ingrained in my deepest DNA, but it’s not always readily obvious how it was passed down…assuming, of course, that it even was.

Most of my childhood traveling was done with my maternal grandparents. Though, for many many years, my grandfather was quite content with the annual trips I took with them – to Florida. Same route, same rest stops, same hotel, same two weeks…year after year after year. Touring Europe and cruising the Caribbean didn’t come for them until their retirement years. My mother didn’t take her first trip outside of North America until her 65th birthday.

That said, my great-grandmother was a Red Cross nurse who traveled to France during WWI. Was it the practicalities of work that spurred her journey, or was her career choice driven by worldly curiosity. How I would love to know!

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t itching to see the world. My dad always said that I would’ve been on the wagon train headed west. I joined every group or club that might involve a trip. Chorus – Toronto. French Club – Quebec. In middle school, I was devastated when a European trip was cancelled. Would I ever manage to cross the pond?! I have, of course, several times since. With each trip, my wanderlust further fueled. My daydreams continue to be at least 98% travel-related.

Having attended private schools, many of my classmates were constantly on the go. Quite a few complained about impending treks, wishing they didn’t have to endure the long flights and strange locales. But…but…that’s part of the great adventure!! Every tedious moment of getting there worth it to ski the Alps across two countries, cuddle koalas, or sport a ushanka when you arrive. Alas, not everyone’s cut out for adventure.

That click-baity Travel + Leisure article links to a much better one on Nomadic Matt, where his scientist friend explains in more detail that a specific variant of the DRD4 gene, a gene that codes for a single type of dopamine receptor called the 7R+ allele, might account for feelings of wanderlust. This genetic expression has been studied widely in terms of seeking out risky behaviors, but there has been a shift towards considering the compulsion for seeking novelty rather than risk. This speaks to me.

I’m generally not a risk-taker in the slightest. I’m certain that homebodies would disagree. Who rents their house to a stranger, packs up their cats, and shuttles off to Spain for two months?! But…but…I don’t jump out of airplanes! Or gamble. Or take drugs. Of course, speed demons likely feel about racing cars much the same as I do about travel. It’s thrilling. Essential. A given. It’s the novelty, though, that really appeals. New sights, new sounds, new tastes, new traditions. Novelty activates my brain, my creativity, in a way that nothing else can. Is it a genetic quest for risk, for novelty, or just plain old FOMO – who knows? Who cares?! It’s amazing.

To those who say, “I would love to, but…time, family, money, whatever excuse.” I call your bluff. Just admit that you’d prefer to stay home. That’s ok! Those who have the urge to travel living inside their bones can’t ignore it. There’s very little that can keep us from hitting the road. There’s no choice other than it being a priority. So yes, I’m pretty darn sure that wanderlust is in my genes.


One thought on “Is Your Wanderlust Genetic?

  1. I’d say that the love of the concept of travel was passed down, but much like your parents, my family was much less adventurous about the actual destinations than I am…and some of that type of adventurousness, I’ve learned from you! So it’s both genetic and learned.

    Liked by 1 person

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