Science Suggests Wanderlust Could Be In Our DNA

June 7, 2016

Photo by HeyNadine 


Traveling is what we were born to do. Recent studies have found that it might even be in our DNA. Even though it is not yet recognized by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Wanderlust is a condition that shouldn't be confused with natural inclinations of curiosity, there are scientific studies exploring if some of us were born to travel.


Humans might be the most curious species to ever live. Our ancestors started to migrate from Africa over 70,000 years ago and have spread to every corner, country, and continent on earth. Compared to most animals, humans (children in particular) spend more time using their imaginations. By creating hypothetical scenarios and worlds, our brains develop differently--making us more adventurous.


Our drive to travel can be traced back to a specific gene. DRD4 is a gene that can be linked with dopamine levels in our brain. A variation of this gene, DRD4-7R, is carried by about 20% of our population. It was renamed the ‘Wanderlust gene’ because of the personality traits, restlessness, and curiosity that are associated with it. People with this gene are more likely to take risks and explore new ideas, places, food, relationships, drugs, and sexual opportunities. DRD4-7R is more likely to occur in modern societies where our ancestors traveled further, faster before settling. These findings suggest that those of us who daydream of quitting our job and traveling to far away lands have had this yearning in our blood before we were even born.


Wanderlust is a spectrum, some people are strongly affected by it and others are vaguely aware of its pull. Some of us may enjoy the rush of a spontaneous weekend getaway while others choose to put work, education, and family on hold while taking a gap-year. There are even travel connoisseurs and adrenaline junkies who chose to live a bohemian lifestyle to fulfill their wanderlust dreams.


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