The Wanderlust Gene: Why Some People Are Born To Travel

There are some people who never feel the urge to leave the house. They’re content to stay in the city they came from, the couch they sit on, and the 360 degrees that immediately surround them. Absence of the wanderlust gene!

The Wanderlust@shutterholic

Whether you call it wanderlust, a love of travel or regular old curiosity. The fact remains the same. Your hunger to explore simply cannot be quenched, no matter how many vacations or journeys you take.


For you, there’s always something new to see, something different than you’re used to. You enjoy day trips, but you also realize there’s only so much you can see in 24 hours. You’re into one-way flights and trips without a destination.

Destinations require plans, and you’re not into the whole planning thing. Plans insinuate an underlying purpose, and from your experience, traveling without one always leads to more excitement. According to recent scientific claims, it may have been embedded in your DNA, even before that.

The Gene

As told on one psychology blog, the inherent urge to travel can be traced back to one gene, which is a genetic derivative of the gene DRD4, which is associated with the dopamine levels in the brain.

The gene itself, which is identified as DRD4-7R, has been dubbed the wanderlust gene, because of its correlation with increased levels of curiosity and restlessness.

Reality Check

In reality, however, those who carry this genetic information typically share one common theme, a history of traveling.

The gene is not all too common. In fact, it’s only possessed by about 20 percent of the population. Having said that, there is a much higher prevalence of this gene in regions of the globe where travel has been encouraged in its past.


A separate study done by David Dobbs of National Geographic supported these findings – and provided reason not to just draw the link to curiosity and restlessness, but specifically a passion for travel.

According to Dobbs, the mutant form of the DRD4 gene, 7r, 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 “The Wanderlust Gene”, “generally embrace movement, change, and adventure.”

More Research

Dobbs goes on to highlight a more statistically sound study, conducted a little over a decade later, which supports the notion that 7r, in conjunction with a second genetic variant (2r), “tends to be found more frequently than you would expect by chance in populations whose ancestors migrated longer distances after they moved out of Africa.”

With regard to humans, there are a few differences within our limbs and brains that can be distinguished from our most common ancestors. The apes – “such as legs and hips that let us walk long distances. Clever hands and an even cleverer brain that grows far more slowly but much larger than other ape brains.

Summing Up

While these differences allow us, as a species, to be better suited to travel long distances and explore creatively. Our genetic makeup is still almost identical to that of apes, despite the visual differences in our anatomy.

Dobbs notes that these differences arise from a divergence in feedback cues, relayed by the developmental genes.

Following this logic, those who carry the 7r gene will also likely follow a slightly variant schedule, with regard to developmental genetics, in comparison to those who carry the regular DRD4 gene.

These differences could also, theoretically, result in a slightly different or more curiously suited limb and brain composition. Which could be the reason these people feel a greater urge to travel.

So, while you might have the urge to quit work and travel for the next few months. Stop and make sure you’re thinking rationally. Although, like I said, traveling is always more fun without a plan.