Wanderlust Syndrome: an Obsession for Travel

People with this syndrome are characterized by making any travel opportunity an almost vital necessity.
Wanderlust Syndrome: an Obsession for Travel

Last update: 07 May, 2024

Wanderlust syndrome is a term that basically means having an obsession for travel. It’s a desire that comes from a “need” certain people feel. But it’s not a common one: what they want to is to explore new corners of the world and experience other cultures.

The word “wanderlust” comes from the German words wandern (to hike) and lust (a strong desire). That’s where we get this idea of a desire for travel. A literal translation of wanderlust from German would mean something like “a passion for traveling.” It’s similar to dromomania, which is a psychological condition where you have an extreme, obsessive urge to wander from place to place.

Wanderlust syndrome: an obsession for travel

Until recently, the thought of going on wild adventures and letting your youthful, traveling spirit free was unimaginable. Wanderlust syndrome is much more than just wanting to go on vacation, though. We all have that. It’s more of an inner need that gives you a passion for traveling, discovering new places, and experiencing new cultures. 

The syndrome affects men and woman equally, usually people between 20 and 40. They have an irresistible desire to get out. They love escaping to other parts of the world and they’re always looking for new places to go.

Some surveys and studies have shown that it’s that generation’s main interest and priority. The internet has become their best  tool for all this, since the web is basically the best travel agency out there. Bookings, purchases, tickets, and information–you can do it all through modern technology.

These hardened travelers spend most of their time reading travel guides and looking for flights, hotels, hostels, etc on the internet. They love watching documentaries about exotic places and spend a lot of their money on travel.

The destination ends up taking a back seat when it comes to travel. What it really is is an excuse for them to get to feel the pleasure and the rush of traveling. That’s when wanderlust truly comes into play, and when it becomes their whole way of life.

Traveling enriches you as a person. It can open your mind and help you see things from other points of view. Encountering other cultures, surrounding yourself with traditions, and living in different places give you a broader perspective on the world. It also feeds (and at the same time satisfies) your curiosity about the unknown.

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.
-Robert Louis Stevenson-

Wanderlust syndrome and genetics

There are people out there who don’t feel the need to travel. There’s no restlessness about discovering new places inside them. For them, vacations are a time to rest and relax, or go to a hotel and not have to make food or clean up after themselves.

That whole idea is the opposite of wanderlust syndrome. When you have it, you feel an absolute need to never be in one place for too long, which is why traveling becomes the central focus of your life.

According to some experts, this adventurous spirit, or wanderlust syndrome, isn’t just some trend. They say it’s actually in our genes. They’ve even pinned down a specific one: DRD4-7r, a receptor for dopamine (the pleasure hormone) that they’re calling “the travel gene.”

David Dobbs, a researcher for National Geographic, thinks that this gene “makes people more likely to take risks; explore new places, ideas, foods, relationships, drugs, or sexual opportunities; and generally embrace movement, change, and adventure.” 

Besides a constant need to travel, people with this gene are also bold and creative. They’re the types of people who try to learn about other cultures and ways of life. They can make pretty much anything work towards their personal growth.

woman with wanderlust syndrome walking down a path with her suitcase

Do you have wanderlust syndrome?

People with wanderlust syndrome have some qualities that set them apart from everyone else:

  • Their passport is always on-hand and far from its expiration date, in case they get an unexpected chance to travel. They’re not afraid of leaving their comfort zone, because they like change.
  • Their curiosity about new places and cultures goes beyond their imagination. It’s truly a need for these kinds of people. Every single penny they save will go towards new adventures.
  • When they get back from a trip, they’ve already started planning their next one. They surf through expert’s web pages, watch documentaries, and read travel guides.

This passion for traveling and seeing the world isn’t just about having the travel gene. It also has to do with your childhood, which is when you learn things through games and imagination.

It’s the phase where you develop a curiosity about what’s beyond the limits of your house. But even after school is out and childhood is over, there are still some adults out there who feel that same (or more) passion.

The use of travelling  is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.”
-Samuel Jonhson-

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.