Is Traveling in Your Genes? Science Says YES

Is Traveling in Your Genes? Science Says YES
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Sometimes I wonder, if there is something wrong with me. Why can’t I be satisfied with a nice, 2 week vacation in some resort on a beach somewhere? Instead, I dream of exploring the jungles of Borneo for 6 weeks, or eating my way through the soup bowls of Southeast Asia for a few months and write about my past travel adventures on my blog. Traveling is such an essential part of me and who I am. Is traveling in your genes too?

My Dad (from Germany) is visiting me in Texas for the next couple of weeks and he’s been telling me about the travel adventures of his life. As we sat there, reminiscent of his honeymoon in Tunisia, his solo trip to England at age 15 in 1954, our many crazy RV trips through the United States and some other pretty cool stuff, I was wondering if I got my wanderlust from him.

Itchy Feet? Maybe you inherited them!

And I am not talking about the skin condition here. Actually, it seems science is on my side here and current research answers the question: Is traveling in your genes? with YES. Apparently the Dopamine Receptor Gene DRD4 brings out the adventure seeker in a person, who loves to explore and discover new things. I’m not a scientist, but if you want to read the full study behind it in Nature, you can do that here. I have to admit that I only understand the broad gist of it, but it was still a fascinating read and I hope they do more research on this.

But is it only that? Is traveling ONLY in your genes? While I don’t want to start up the whole Nature vs Nurture debate again, I also strongly believe that what you are exposed to as a child will have an impact on how you live your life as an adult, but how this influence plays out, is still a mystery to me. I know some people who grew up with the same old same old resort vacation in the same beach resort every year and now they are traveling off the beaten path and to the most exotic locations, while others book the same kind of vacations that their parents booked year in year out.

Is Traveling in MY Genes?

I grew up with a pretty adventurous family, but nothing totally off the hook crazy. When I was three years old, my parents took me and my two siblings (13 & 15) and my cousin (9) on an epic 6 week RV trip from San Francisco to New York. It was quite an adventure, especially when you consider that neither of my parents spoke much English and they didn’t know anybody in the US. While not everything went according to plan during this trip, they kept up their positive attitude and fell in love with the country and its people. So we decided to return, year after year, picking a different route and exploring a new pocket of the United States. One year we drove from San Diego to Seattle. Another year from Los Angeles to Miami. While many of these memories blended together in my mind, I do remember how much fun we had as a family during our adventures.

But how did these childhood experiences of travel influence me and my siblings? When I compare us three, I would say that I am probably the most adventurous of our bunch when it comes to living abroad and traveling. Is it because I was exposed to in from such an early age or is it my DRD4 receptor gene’s fault that I constantly want to explore and discover new things? I don’t know. But I do know that there are different types of people out there. People who need the rush of being outside their comfort zone and thrive when they are thrown into an unfamiliar situation, while others get overwhelmed with this sort of thing and need the security of being in familiar surroundings.

There is also no black and white answer. Most people are somewhere in between and pursue a mix of comfort and challenge. Yes, I love to explore new cities, hand-gesture my way through Asia and try weird local foods from the most obscure looking street vendors. But I also enjoy binge-watching weekend with Netflix and visiting places I have been before, walking down the same streets and feel like an expert traveler in this region. Just like with everything in life, we mix and match to make it work for us. All I know is that traveling makes me happy and sometimes it feels like I need it just as much as air to live.

Where is Your Travel Inspiration Coming from?

What about you? Is traveling in your genes? Did you grow up with traveling parents and followed them in their footsteps or are you known as the oddball crazy traveler in your family? Where did you get your travel inspiration from?


Maria K. Haase is a travel, food & lifestyle writer sharing her love for the world and its different cultures on As a serial expat for the past 10 years, she has called three continents her home, traveled to almost 30 countries and eaten way too many sticks of mystery meats on the way. She wants to encourage others to discover the world through traveling, trying exotic recipes, books and learning about other cultures. Helping students to gain experience abroad through Study Abroad and Internships Abroad, is another one of Maria’s passions and she is currently writing a book on How to Find an Internship in China. Besides her love for exploring and traveling the world, Maria earns a living as an Online Marketing Consultant, working with Universities and Travel companies to improve their online presence.

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