Why some people have wanderlust and others don’t

For those of us who have wanderlust—that gripping desire to see the world and run out of pages in our passports—it’s pretty hard to understand how someone could not like to travel. But those people do exist. They’re perfectly content to stay at home because home is the most comfortable place on Earth, and many even find travel to be a “sensory overload” they’d prefer not to experience (I really just heard a girl say this on the train last week).

To be honest, I think those who don’t suffer from wanderlust are missing a gene that the rest of us travel lovers were either born or developed along the way.

But I’m no scientist, so I did some digging to see if I’m onto something with this theory.

Turns out actual scientists do think there’s a gene that contributes to wanderlust. They even call it the Wanderlust Gene. Whaaaaaat? Yes.

That means travel really can be in your DNA. And that DNA’s name is DRD4-7R.

Wanderlust consumed her; foreign hearts and exotic minds compelled her. She had a gypsy soul and a vibrant hope for the unknown.” —D. Marie

One out of every five people has the gene, according to a researcher named David Dobbs, who did a study on why some people have an itch to travel all the time and why others don’t at all. The DRD4-7R gene gives you a stronger urge to explore new places, ideas, foods and relationships, and a tendency to embrace adventure, movement and change.

Yep, sounds about right.

And people who come from a long line of migrators or from cultures or families where moving around has been the norm, are more likely to have the Wanderlust Gene, which makes sense. Another study done in 1999 looking at people from the African Ariaal tribe, found that those who had the Wanderlust Gene thrived when they were allowed to be nomads and didn’t when they were stuck in one spot.

Pretty sure those must be my ancestors.

Some scientists say having wanderlust can’t all be attributed to that one gene and that things like having the means to travel and having those adventurous experiences as a kid have something to do with it too. But the fact that a Wanderlust Gene actually exists and has at least some impact on us, is pretty cool.

I’ve found, in my experience, that people who don’t like to travel are the first ones to scorn your behavior, to say things like: you’re gone too much, don’t you get tired of traveling?, you’ll never meet anyone if you’re always gone (and here’s how I feel about that one), why don’t you just stay home for a while? 

When I hear things like that it makes me want to respond and say things like: you’re home too much, doesn’t that get boring? don’t you get tired of staying home and seeing and doing the same things all the time? Oh, you don’t what it feels like to ride a camel through the Sahara Desert at sunset before sipping mint tea in Morocco? No? Oh, that’s too bad.

But, you know, that’s not nice, so I don’t bother non-wanderlusters for not liking to travel, even though they never seem to leave us alone about loving it.

The moral of the story is, the next time anyone asks why you always want to travel so much (which, I actually can’t even believe is a real question) you can say: “It’s a gene I have that you probably don’t. Don’t worry about it.”