“To travel is to live.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography
I am consumed by wanderlust, nourished by voyages and treks regarded as less than desirable in popular tourist guides, and gorged with peregrination. Traveling is my life. I am lucky in love to have found a partner who shares my enthusiasm and passion for the roads less traveled.
Yet, I often wonder, “Why us?” Neither sets of our parents or grandparents, had the urge to jump into an exotic new life, even temporarily. They were content to stay on their farms, or the small towns in which they lived. They reacted to our gypsytoes with nervous, worried, and dismayed comments. My mother insisted on telling her church companions that we were missionaries in Nicaragua. Ron’s father scratched his head with puzzlement, “Why would anyone ever want to leave home?”
Even with the guilt trips strapped to our packs, we left…laden with a teeny bit of guilt, but mostly relieved to begin yet another journey into the unknown. And we have never looked back with remorse, and were never guided by fear. For travel to us is and always will be...life.
Research into why humans are motivated to travel has recently focused on genetics. The gene DRD4 is involved in transmitting dopamine levels, which help control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Although it interests me to know that a deficiency in dopamine results in Parkinson’s Disease and people with low dopamine levels are more prone to addictions, I am most excited to read about the variation of this gene, DRD4-7R.
Carried by approximately 20% of the human population, DRD4-7R studies have shown that people with this variant gene are prone to taking bigger risks, which includes exploring new or different places. “A recent study reported: those who lived in cultures whose ancestors migrated out of Africa the furthest and the fastest/earliest were more likely to have the DRD4-7r gene (Dobbs, 2012).”
“These findings suggest that this gene could be the motivation behind the yearning to travel, to move and to see the world: as it possibly did with our ancient ancestors (Psychologyblogaimee, December 4, 2013).” Voila! A mind altering discovery.
I knew that we weren’t really weird or irresponsible. It’s in our genes! Now it makes perfect sense as to why Ron cried in geography class when his teacher told him, “Sorry kiddo. Every place has been discovered.” Or when I kept a journal starting at a young age of all the places I wanted to travel. It makes sense that Anthony Bourdain is our hero, we’re addicted to the Travel and Smithsonian channels, and why I have a collection of dolls from around the world. My nickname “Gypsytoes” fits me like a genetic glove.
Do you think you have the Gypsytoes gene?