Have a case of wanderlust in lockdown? Your genes could explain why.

Saturday 13th Feb 2021 |

With the UK in lockdown, it’s been revealed that there is a scientific explanation for why many of us are itching to hit the road, and why some of us are experiencing wanderlust.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put all Brit’s travel plans on hold. Whether it’s a relaxing trip or adrenaline-fuelled break, many are missing going on holiday and traveling.

This prompted relocation site My Baggage to research and reveal why our desire to travel is hard-wired within us. 

It turns out that some people are born to be travelers because they possess one very particular gene – aptly dubbed the ‘wanderlust gene’. 

If Brits are chasing new experiences and traveling, then they could have a certain mutation of a dopamine receptor called DRD4; known as the ‘wanderlust gene’. 

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter, a transporting chemical in our brain that plays a huge role in how we feel pleasure. It is widely known as one of the brain’s natural “feel good” chemicals. 


The specific gene DRD4 is associated with dopamine levels in the brain. A derivative of DRD4, called DRD4-7R, is what’s come to be known as the “wanderlust gene”, and is associated with risk-taking and the desire for new experiences.

Many studies have found that people with the DRD4 mutation are more likely to explore new places, have increased curiosity, and embrace adventure. Interestingly, this mutation has also been linked to human migration.

Dr Richard Paul Ebstein, Professor of Psychology at the National University of Singapore, has made studying DRD4-7R his life work. He has researched this gene for more than two decades and believes there is definitely a relationship between the gene and “novelty seeking or extraverted behaviour”.


This could be part of the reason why some Brits have more of a compulsion to travel than others.

A spokesperson for My Baggage said: “There are so many psychological benefits to travel, and travel is important for our mental health. It helps with personal growth, boosts our mood and creativity, and more. All of these release dopamine in our brain which gives us an increased sensation of reward.

“With Britain in lockdown, the desire to travel and escape is heightened and many are experiencing wanderlust. Some people may be missing travel and experiencing new cultures more than others. Some may even be thinking about relocating to Italy or Spain to start a new life. 

“Preferences for travel will change as we age, but if you have a burning desire to escape and explore the world post-pandemic then this might be down to genetics. This feeling of wanderlust and the desire to travel in its most basic sense is hard-wired within us. 

“Embrace this feeling of wanderlust. Now might be the time to plan and research destinations so that when it is safe to do so, we can all enjoy traveling again and search for those all-important dopamine hits.

“Whether you are a homebody or wild at heart, it all comes down to genetics.”

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