Why do You Love to Travel? It’s in Your DNA.

wanderlust-o300We all know the type of person – they’re content to lay on the sofa, wearing pajamas all day long, texting on their smartphones with a beer in their hand. The closest they’ll get to adventure is the National Geographic Channel. You, on the other hand, live for travel and new experiences. You get excited by the idea of a new city to explore or a new language to immerse yourself in. No vacation will ever be your last.

Perhaps your work schedule limits you to short trips – so you dream about leaving it all and buying a one-way ticket to adventure.

You probably remember dreaming about travel starting at a young age, as if you were born with the passion for journeying. Well, you may well have been. Recent studies show that the passion for travel might lie in our DNA.

The uncommon gene DRD4-7R, associated with levels of dopamine in the brain, has been named “wanderlust gene,” supposedly because of its association with human curiosity and restlessness. According to surveys, people who carry the gene share one major characteristic: a passion for travel.

It is estimated that the gene is carried by 20% of humans, with heavier distribution in areas which have a culture of travel going back to ancient times. Chaunsheng Chen, a scientist researching the subject, argued 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.” In other words, societies which traveled farther away from the cradle of civilization should show a prevalence of the travel gene.

A study carried out by David Dobbs of National Geographic supported Chen’s opinion. He adds that DRD4-7R makes carriers “more likely to take risks; explore new places, ideas, foods, relationships, drugs, or sexual opportunities.”

Dobbs agrees with Chen, that the gene’s mutation can account for the entire human history of migration, answering the question: “Why did early human societies, or even later ones, feel the need to migrate?” Indeed, research proves that populations with a history of frequent migration tend to be carriers of the 7R gene.

There is, however, reason to doubt the power of this gene. Kenneth Kidd of Yale University argues that “Genetics doesn’t work that way…You just can’t reduce something as complex as human exploration to a single gene.”