The science of wanderlust

A new study shows that people might be genetically predisposed to travel

The term "wanderlust" is derived from German, translating quite literally to "desire for wandering." It encompasses a yearning that's not easily explained, but commonly felt amongst those who thrive off exploring somewhere new. This lust for travel might not be a case of nurture versus nature, according to a new study by CNN, and instead the byproduct of a genetic component: call it PPP, or Permanent Passport in Pocket syndrome.

In their study, CNN explains: "In 2016, a number of articles touting a "wanderlust gene"—DRD4-7R, to be precise—made the rounds. Several traced their source back to a psychology blog that suggested that 7R, a variation of the gene DRD4—which acts on dopamine levels in the brain, and so motivation and behavior as a result—existed in 20 percent of the human population. The key fact with the 7R variant, per researchers, was a link "with restlessness and curiosity." This restlessness, according to writers, can propel people to take bigger risks, which includes—you guessed it!—exploring new or different places."

Intriguingly, it suggests that overall 20 percent of humans live with this type of variant, but its distribution worldwide can vary. Other studies suggest that those who carry this particular variant are more disposed to thrilling new experiences, such as sky-diving. It urges you to seek a new level of existing, a need for adrenaline that lives in our DNA. "The wanderlust gene is so powerful. It appears that the DRD4 gene is more predominant in the traveling type of person," Maslar told Condé Nast Traveler. "Dopamine is the liking hormone, and when you want to get more, it doesn't sate you—you get hooked."

CNN also argues that catching the "wanderlust" bug might just be an expression of an already existing character trait in you that's elevated when you're with similiar-minded people, such as a life partner. If the person you're in a relationship with has already made traveling a big focus point in their life, it will probably be easy for you to start viewing life the same way - therefore more prone to finding excitement through exploring and adventure. In CNN's study, Professor Galinsky, McCoy explained why the term differed for her: "I think wanderlust comes from having relationships that expose you to it," she says. "I definitely caught the travel bug from my husband when I met him 29 years ago—he's a real traveler."

For those of us who are constantly amidst dreams of airplanes flying far, far away, it's looking like something we were just born with. To this I say: embrace your wanderlust - explore the friendly skies, earth and sea. We only have one home, and it's the entirety of this small blue dot. With so much to see, so many beautiful places to explore, we were born one step ahead because we know there's no time to waste.


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