You’ve probably heard about The Wanderlust Gene. It’s been all over the internet by now, and while I’m not a psychologist and haven’t done a ton of research about the validity of this claim I’d like to talk about the idea because people really seemed to jump on it. A few friends sent me something about it asking for my thoughts so here they are.
The idea of a Wanderlust Gene explores the possibility that people who travel have an innate desire to stray from their home environments. The articles I’ve read about it use the terms traveler and risk taker almost synonymously. It describes thrill seekers. People who have this gene have an insatiable desire to launch into the unknown, push limits, and take chances. As I began reading about it I was expecting to be let in on some insight into myself why I like to travel and others don’t. But instead I found that it didn’t really resonate with me.
I didn’t have that kind of experience. I didn’t go with the intention of stealing a camel and riding it off into the Sahara, or hiking through the Yukon Territory to the North Pole. I flew to Europe so I could visit the places I’d read about and seen photographs of. The nice people at Trip Advisor had already written guides to the places I went. There are countless guides and blogs out there telling us what to expect. We have access to the internet almost anywhere so we can book a hostel before we arrive, google the most efficient way to get from point A to point B via public transport, and skype with our people back home whenever we feel the least bit homesick. It doesn’t exactly relate to the experience of a prehistoric nomad migrating across the Bering Strait into the unknown, or whatever.
On the other hand, in this hyper-regulated world in which we live, getting on a plane with the intent to get away from some of that regulation might be the modern day equivalent of ancient nomadic behavior, I don’t know. But as someone who sees herself as an introverted homebody, I’d feel like a fraud if I started calling myself some kind of risk-taking pioneer adrenaline junkie person.
How many GoPro videos have we seen on Youtube of people doing back flips off cliffs from like a hundred remote locations all over the world? That’s cool and all, and kudos to those guys, I can’t even do a back flip. But nah, not for me.
So what does motivate me to travel? Why am I often choosing to throw myself into unfamiliar territory? The answer is simply, freedom. Even now as I write this I’m tempted to stare wistfully off into the distance with a silly grin on my face. Having the freedom to jump on a plane whenever I get bored without having to worry about utility bills and deadlines and bullshit is just… Okay Lauren focus. But really though, it’s intoxicating. And you know, now that I think about it, that kind of thing probably isn’t genetic. Because the cave people who experienced that feeling wouldn’t have settled down to be responsible and had all kinds of cave babies to pass along that gene. Oh and don’t worry guys we did a unit on Evolutionary Psychology in my freshman pysch class so this is totally legit (not really though, see my disclaimer).
Anyway… What I’m trying to say is there is more than one type of traveler. There are lots of different types. In fact, however many people in the world who call themselves a traveler, that’s how many different types there are. So if you read somewhere what kind of traits a traveler has and you don’t see yourself in that… just ignore that shit. You don’t have to have “The Wanderlust Gene” to have Wanderlust. Go travel if you want to. If you have any desire to shirk responsibilities for a while and go put yourself in foreign places to do some exploring, do it! Be free. Everyone has their own reasons and their own methods. Go find yours.