“Wanderlust” isn’t just the name of a movie. Its a borrowed word from German that literally means “love for hiking”. Wanderlust has become this popular term for people who like to travel. I am, however, beginning to think it is a real thing; almost an ailment. I have been having some real problems being present. My mind is constantly wandering, longing to be elsewhere. I thought it was Reno’s fault but I’m beginning to think that it’s just me. All day long I think about being on top of a mountain, in the middle of the ocean, in a jungle somewhere or wandering around a city where I can’t recognize any of the writing on the street signs and buildings. It’s beginning to affect my everyday life and I need to do something about it. Some of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about. So I decided to look into it a little.
Dromomania is an uncontrollable, psychological impulse to wander. The term comes from the Greek: dromos (running) and mania (insanity). Dromomania implies more of an actual psychological compulsion, often unbeknownst to the affected, to constantly be on the move, than that of someone who just has a desire to travel. Dromomania is sometimes used to describe people who have a strong emotional or even physical need to be constantly traveling and experiencing new places, often at the expense of their normal family, work, and social lives. However, more often that not, the term Wanderlust is used in leu of Dromomania as it isn’t nearly as severe.
All day long I think about being on top of a mountain, in the middle of the ocean, in a jungle somewhere or wandering around a city where I can’t recognize any of the writing on the street signs and buildings.
But what about those of us who aren’t actually “mentally ill’? Why do we feel the constant need to be outside, to be in airports, bus stations, places that don’t speak your native language or have the same customs as you? Why can’t we just stay home? Why can’t we remain still? As a species, humans are the most apt to explore than any other. The first humans have been traced to Africa and started moving out and exploring their world around 50,000 years ago. Humans are probably the only species to occupy every continent. Studies have been done on a “wanderlust Gene” that is a derivative of the gene DRD4; which has something to do with dopamine levels in the brain. Psychology Blog Amy writes about a particular gene called DRD4-7r which is only carried by 20% of the population that is linked to restlessness and curiosity and oddly enough, associated with ADHD to some extent. She also suggests, “Another theory behind the motivation to travel is rooted in our childhood: as children, we learn through play and imagination. Compared to most animals, and to some of our closest ancient ancestors (Neanderthals etc) we spend more time as children protected by our mothers in which we can develop our imagination.”
Assuming that all forms of human life originated in Africa, Chaunsheng Chen, who conducted a study in 1999, supported the premise that “the DRD4-7r form of the gene [is] more likely to occur in modern day societies where people migrated longer differences from where we first originated in Africa many thousands of years ago”. These findings support the propensity for people in the US, UK, Europe and Australia for travel and exploration since their ancestors had to have carried the gene to get to their current country/continent.
Another study completed by David Dobbs of National Geographic also supports Chen. According to Dobbs, the mutant form of the DRD4 gene, 7r, (or the “the restless Gene”), results in people who are “more likely to take risks; explore new places, ideas, foods, relationships, drugs, or sexual opportunities,” he went on to say that bearers of this gene, “generally embrace movement, change, and adventure.” That would definitely explain my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.
Its like a drug. The first time you try it and you like it, you’ll want it again and again and will forever be chasing that high; that wanderlust.
So if my need to travel is genetic then why do I have it but no one else in my family does? Is it a recessive gene? I mean, My Great Grandfather stowed away on a ship to come the United States for a better life. Maybe he had that gene and now it has been passed to me. I’m not sure exactly what it is that drives us. I do know it’s real and it’s something that can only be understood by those who have been blessed with it. Its that itch that you can never get to, like a carrot on a string. Its like a drug; the first time you try it and you like it, you’ll want it again and again and will forever be chasing that high, that wanderlust.
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments about your thoughts on the matter, your experiences or if you wanna just say hello. I’ll see you out there and Let’s Get Weird!