Wanderlust is defined as a “strong longing for or impulse toward wandering” – or as it’s more commonly known, as a “strong desire to travel.” Many of us have that need to travel and experience new places.
Researchers identified a wanderlust gene. This gene is called DRD4-7R and is a derivative of the gene DRD4, which is associated with the dopamine levels in the brain.
Chen, Burton, Greenberger, and Dmitrieva (1999) found that the gene is linked to curiosity and restlessness, while a separate study done by Dobbs (2013) also linked the gene specifically to a passion for travel.
According to Dobbs (2013), the mutant form of the DRD4 gene, 7R, results in people who are “more likely to take risks, explore new places, ideas, goods, relationships, drugs, or sexual opportunities.” In other words, people with this gene “generally embrace movement, change, and adventure” (Dobbs, 2013).
It would be silly to ignore the psychological benefits to traveling. In a study that examined how travel influenced personality development in a sample of German college students, Zimmermann and Neyer (2013) found that the students who traveled tended to show an increase in openness, agreeableness, and emotional stability compared to students who did not travel. These changes in personality were attributed to the changes in people’s social networks when traveling.
Psychologists and neuroscientists have also found that traveling can increase your creativity. Crane (2015) explains that creativity is related to neuroplasticity, meaning how the brain is wired. Because neural pathways are influenced by our environment, people who travel experience a spark of different synapses in their brain due to their exposure to new sights, smells, sounds, tastes, languages, and sensations. This causes the brain to re-energize.
So you could say that travel is a great way to reignite your mind.