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Wanderlust: Why People Travel

Victoria, British Colombia, Canada

Victoria, British Colombia, Canada

Restless Soul or Itchy Feet ... The Urge to Wander

Are you an armchair traveler, wistfully paging through travel guides and the travel channels on TV? Perhaps you paper your office with travel posters and postcards from distant places. Or do you follow your dreams of travel, save your pennies and then spend them all to take off for distant shores? Perhaps you have the wanderlust gene!

Is It Wanderlust?

Do you ever wonder what causes some people to be irresistibly drawn to travel and to exploring strange new places? What made Columbus want to sail across vast unknown seas or our grandparents leave their homelands to make a life in a new country? On the surface, people have many good reasons for their travel, but deep down, there is something that compels some people to take to the roads and sea and air while others make the best of life in their old familiar surroundings. Is there a wanderlust gene that activates in some people while others are content to stay at home and feather their nests?

Which Happy Wanderer First Saw the Grand Canyon?

Grand Canyon, South Rim.  Arizona, USA

Grand Canyon, South Rim. Arizona, USA

Travelers Throughout History

Our bodies are built to move, and early man traveled in search of food or to escape predators. Perhaps curiosity got the better of him eventually, and he just traveled to see what was on the other side of the mountain or forest. While some nomads may have followed the seasons to find game and edible plants, others traveled to trade goods.

People made pilgrimages for religious reasons, and, yes, even in 500 BC, the Greeks traveled to sporting events! While the Greeks and Romans traveled for pleasure, the Vikings traveled for excitement and adventure, setting off to explore uncharted waters.

Wealthy Europeans in the 16th and 17th century traveled for exposure to the arts and literature, and travel became part of a well-rounded education. Gradually, as travel for pleasure or health became popular in the 19th century, travel became a status symbol. Resorts, especially seaside and waterside resorts, became popular getaways for the well-to-do.

Today cheaper and easier means of travel puts it within reach of the masses. In our society people travel for many reasons: for business or pleasure, for health and entertainment, in pursuit of nature or adventure, seeking culture and knowledge.

Then why is it that some people are irresistibly drawn to traveling while others are content with their stationary pursuits at home? While some are happy reading home decorating magazines, others can’t help reading maps and travel magazines or surfing the web looking for the latest travel bargains .

Wanderlust: A strong desire to travel.

— Webster's Dictionary

The Wanderlust Gene

Wanderlust is a German word meaning desire to stroll or hike. It has become part of the English language, and Webster’s Dictionary defines the English meaning of wanderlust as "a strong desire to travel".

I have often wondered if there is a wanderlust gene that’s turned on early in life by some mysterious trigger.

My father had a wanderlust gene. Although in his younger years, he couldn’t afford to travel very far, the wanderlust gene created a restlessness in him that made him pack up and move his family every year or two. For as long as I lived with my parents, moving was a way of life.

Maybe the wanderlust gene was passed down to him from my grandfather, who, as a young man, traveled alone from Russia to the United States. Maybe he inherited it from my grandmother who emigrated at the age of 16 from Eastern Europe. Neither one had any money or spoke English, but they had some inner sense of adventure and drive that brought them halfway across the world to start a new life.

Bing Crosby Sings, "Far Away Places"

Do You Have the Wanderlust Gene?

Wanderlust Today

In the early 1900’s when my grandparents were young, they never heard Bing Crosby sing Faraway Places, but something was calling them to places with strange sounding names—America, New York, Ellis Island…

I believe that the wanderlust gene can cause actual physical symptoms. Where do you think that restless leg syndrome came from? As Nancy Sinatra sang, "These boots are made for walking..."

For anyone who has that latent wanderlust gene, there comes a time when it can no longer be ignored. Why else would thousands of people find any flimsy excuse to travel?

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  • Young people all over the world take a "Gap Year" of travel between high school and college or after graduating college.
  • There are nomads who travel the world working just enough to support their next adventure.
  • Vagabonds of the sea live on their boats and travel the world's seas.
  • One and a half million people live full time in their RVs so that they can drive their homes to a new location whenever they please.

Those with a wanderlust gene are compelled to get out the maps and the backpacks and guidebooks, always planning their next route. Or they sell their homes, buy an RV and wander the continent to their heart's content!

The wanderlust gene must be hereditary— our family's wanderlust gene shows up in every generation, from my grandfather who made his way to America to our son who has visited a dozen countries this year. We have yet to see where it takes our grandchildren. As for me, I'm undecided— should I pack the RV or check airfares for our next trip?

Not all those who wander are lost ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

Maps for Wanderers

RVing and Traveling the U.S.


Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 20, 2013:

Travelholidys - Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!

travelholidays from India on May 20, 2013:

Informative hub :) Grand Canyon photo is really superb :) Thank you very much for sharing this

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on October 28, 2012:

Danielmcbane - Absolutely! Travel feeds our desire to see more of the world and experience more new things! In fact, I wish I were on the road right this minute! :)

Daniel McBane from Berlin on October 28, 2012:

I think wanderlust gets worse with time too--as in, the more you travel, the more you want to travel.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 20, 2012:

rcrumple - It sounds like you've led quite an exciting life of traveling the world! You do have a wonderful attitude, and I agree that mutual respect is a key to getting along anywhere! Happy travels, and thanks for stopping in to visit my hub!

Rich from Kentucky on August 20, 2012:

My father would (and is) happy to never leave is house. I'm exactly the opposite. Have not been to either poles, or Greenland or South America, but the rest of the continents have been visited. Whether it be within the borders of the US, or outside, the one thing I've always found is that if you're respectful and others, as you'd expect them to be of you, you won't have any problems. Of course, that's pretty much true in life as general. Great Hub!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 04, 2012:

Thanks for your wonderful, insightful comment, Aiden! I do think that the wanderers of the world share a common bond. :)

Aiden Hill from San Diego, CA on April 04, 2012:

We are a special breed indeed Stephanie :)

I don't think humans were meant to stay in one place. This world, nay, this universe is such a large place it boggles my mind how anyone can live a sedentary life. Stay in one place out of fear and comfort. You only have one life to live, and I believe wanderlust naturally runs through our veins.

Glad to see I'm not alone out there Stephanie. Shall we meet someday in a place the tourists have long forgotten. :)

Cheers -


Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 30, 2011:

Hi Lindsey, It does seem that some people share a more adventurous spirit when it comes to travel, doesn't it? I'm lucky that my husband and I are both ready to go at the drop of a hat and can change plans in an instant to accommodate a new idea or place. Thanks for stopping by to comment on my hub! Enjoy your travels!

Lindsey McColl on June 27, 2011:

I've often wondered about a "travel gene" myself; my father and I definitely share the desire to see as many places as possible, while my mother (and her sisters) refuse to leave the state unless absolutely necessary!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 27, 2011:

Jennie - You can learn a lot by "armchair" traveling -- and make your bucket list along the way! Thanks for commenting!

MYi4Yu - Haha...I often "let" my hubby do the planning as he seems to enjoy planning routes and reading maps. You are right, the internet is wonderful for finding out all you need to know about your destination as routes along the way. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my hub!

SummerSurf - You certainly must have a true Wanderlust! Dreaming of the next trip or vacation is a sure sign! You can never have too many vacations. Thanks for your comments!

CarolP - Great to meet a fellow RVer! We love to travel any way we can, but RV travel can certainly give you a closer look at nature and the route along the way. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

myi4u from United Kingdom on June 27, 2011:

Nice hub! I've learnt a new word after reading your hub! Well, I don't actually have the Wanderlust Gene though. My wife likes to travel, hence I just follow the suit. For her, it's quite easy because she just needs to say which country she wants to go. I will be doing all the planning which is why I kind of dislike travel! But on the other hand, why I arrive at the destination, I know that I will be enjoying myself as I like to see things and learn about the history.

I always like to tease my wife by saying that you can almost learn about anything on the internet with all the descriptions, street view, photos and maps!

SummerSurf on June 27, 2011:

I LOVE travelling! Interesting article. I'm always looking for the next adventure or place I can visit. I'm so restless when I haven't got a holiday planned. People always comment on how many vacations I take but I never feel like I'm travelling enough. I must have the Wanderlust Gene.

Carolina from Switzerland on June 27, 2011:

I love to travel...visiting interesting places, learn other culture, gastronomie etc. We love to travel with RV, had made tours with RV to different places. My family loves nature, beache and mountain adventures. It is a yearly tradition of our family taking a vacation 2 or 3 times a year visiting other countries and regions. Be together for quite a time with the whole family members increases our ties of belonging, giving and having time for each other.

Venture Boyz from Floating in the clouds on June 26, 2011:

Great photos Stephanie.. I am still an "armchair traveler" but you have inspired me to checkout some travel sites.. lol keep on hubbin

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 25, 2011:

Tebo - Well, there goes my theory of inherited wanderlust! :) Thanks for stopping by to read my hub and comment!

tebo from New Zealand on June 24, 2011:

Loved your hub. I've always enjoyed travelling and did the big OE in my youth and would really like to do some more.. My son on the other hand has no desire whatsoever to travel overseas. Strange!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 24, 2011:

Phyllis — I guess you either have Wanderlust or you don't. I too know people who are very happy staying put. I suppose they get whatever adventure they need through their other interests. Thanks for wandering over to my hub! :)

Phyllis Eddings from Conroe, Texas on June 24, 2011:

I don't need an article to explain wanderlust. What I need explained to me is the lack of it. I cannot comprehend people who have no desire to travel and explore the world. I just don't get people who, by choice, not because they don't have the means, are content to stay put.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 23, 2011:

Tilinaoita, People do love to escape the stresses of their everyday lives sometimes. In fact, one of the RVing clubs I belong to is called the Escapees! We love to explore new places and see new things. Thanks for stopping by to read my hub and to comment!

tilinaoita on June 23, 2011:

I thinking that people want to travel, besides the usual reasons, also because they need to get away from their daily issues. I get sick of having to do the same things everyday and see the same faces. You just need new things to do and to see ...sometimes. It`s just my opinion.

hotelmaastricht from India on June 16, 2011:

Good hub for travel lovers. I liked it

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 08, 2011:

Peterhark— Thank you, I'm glad you liked my hub and the photographs. Yes, we have traveled extensively in the U.S. in our motorhome, but have not done as much world travel as I would like. There are so many places to see, so much to do, that it's sometimes hard to make choices. :) Thanks for stopping by to comment!

peterhark69 from Canada on June 07, 2011:

Great hub and great pictures you have here Stephanie. I bet you have been traveling a lot as well. I love to travel as well to see different places and learn the differences of different cultures but it has been a while since my last vacation. This really enlighten me to travel again and enjoy!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 07, 2011:

Hello Julian, Yes, I know that feeling of wanting to travel on... Thanks for visiting my hub and commenting!

TheJulian from Georgia on June 07, 2011:

I've been held up in my town for far too long after traveling around for the first 10 years of my life. This hub is very relevent to me. There is so much outside your front door beyond the city limits. Long live the nomad.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 07, 2011:

Ken - I smiled when you mentioned going for rides with your wife as that's something that my husband and I always did. Back when gas was cheap, it was a way of exploring our neighboring countryside and getting out of the house. Definitely cheap entertainment that usually ended up at our favorite soft ice cream stand! Thanks for pointing out that there's much to be discovered that is quite close to home!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 07, 2011:

CJcarter — You are correct about the quote, and I've changed it. Thanks! And thanks for stopping by to read my hub!

Chelsea Carter-Kern from Florida on June 07, 2011:

I think the Tolkien quote is "Not all who wonder are lost." Great hub though!

ajaodegaard on June 07, 2011:

I have wanderlust myself! However a lot of my wanderlust is done through daydreams and television shows about where I would like to go.

Ken Barton on June 05, 2011:

Wanderlust - that's a nice word for my desire to go for rides when ever I can. My wife and I love to go for rides just to see what we can see and find to do. If I could get paid for taking folks for rides in the country I'd be a rich man for sure. Now that school is just about over I look forward to taking some longer drives just to discover what there is to discover. Have a great day

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 05, 2011:

Hi Carmen— Travelers do have different levels of interests in the places they visit, and I think that's o.k. Some like to examine the local flora and fauna in minute detail, others like to immerse themselves in the culture, still others are interested in history and folklore associated with a place. Our personal interests, time available and style of travel determines how thoroughly we can or want to do all of these things. Ideally, travel broadens our thinking and gives us a new perspective on other cultures of the world. I appreciate your comments!

Carmen Beth on June 05, 2011:

Wonderful topic! Many people these days are addicted to travel. Well, in my opinion, true wanderlust isn't just about the want to visit and explore a place generally, but the urge to delve deep into its history, culture and tradition, and other trivial details to appreciate its authenticity.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 03, 2011:

Hi Peggy, I think you've got the wanderlust gene, too! You've certainly been to and written about many interesting places! Thanks for stopping by.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 03, 2011:

I love traveling both near and far to experience different things. One continually learns things and broadens one's perspective by traveling. And yes...armchair traveling via televison, books, magazines, movies, and hubs is also entertaining and fun. Never thought about a wanderlust gene. Think I've got it!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 03, 2011:

Susan— Armchair travel can be very entertaining until the time comes for you to spread your wings. Thanks for visiting my hub!

SUSANJK from Florida on June 03, 2011:

I wish I was in a position to travel the earth.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 03, 2011:

CreateSquidoo — Glad to meet a fellow wanderer! I think you're right, traveling is a way to satisfy our need for adventure and excitement. Thanks for visiting my hub and for your comments.

CreateSquidoo on June 03, 2011:

Wanderlust for me, is adventure and excitement. It's really nice to be at a foreign place and discover its wonders which most people with this kind of "sickness" also experienced. And I'm one of them. :)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 02, 2011:

Hi Tasksgirl, Oh, I think you should plan your next vacation right now! Thanks for stopping by to read my hub!

tasksgirl from Los Angeles, CA on June 02, 2011:

You're making me want to plan my next vacation right now!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 01, 2011:

MsQuestion, How wonderful that you and your mother traveled so far cross country just to see what it was like! It sounds like a great adventure, and I'm sure running into the motorcycle rally (was it at Sturgis?) made it all the more interesting. Armchair travel can be fun too - I love the Travel Channel and the travel hubs here on HubPages. Thanks for your comments!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 01, 2011:

Denise, what would I do without you! Thanks!

MsQuestion from New Jersey on June 01, 2011:

These is a great hub! So enjoyable to read! I think I DO have a wanderlust gene. It's probably what made my mother and I travel to South Dakota from New Jersey when I was a teenager - just to "see what it was like"! (Ha...we didn't realize that huge motorcycle rally was going on there at the time...that was interesting). Unfortunately, I don't have MONEY to indulge any wanderlust at the moment, so I armchair travel with the Travel Channel!

Denise Handlon from Michigan on June 01, 2011:

Congratulations, again, Stephanie. This hub also made it to this week's featured hubs. Check it out :)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on June 01, 2011:

Prasetio — Thank you for your vote and for coming to visit my hub! It's so nice to share the love of traveling with you!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on June 01, 2011:

I love traveling topic. Thanks for share this wonderful hub. You got my vote. Take care!

LTStajul on May 31, 2011:

Its really great jobs. I read the full story. and i enjoyed it. Nice sharing.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 24, 2011:

Hello BetterYourself, There are so many nomadic cultures, too. I've often wondered if some of their wanderlust is passed on to unsuspecting future generations. LOL. Thanks for stopping by to read my hub and leave a comment!

Better Yourself from North Carolina on May 24, 2011:

Great Hub, Stephanie. This really makes you think! I've always felt inclined to travel myself, but never actually made it very far. This Hub has inspired me to take a look into my ancestry and see if you're on to something here!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 24, 2011:

Hi Kathleen, Yes, you are right, just visiting some exotic place can create an everlasting urge to travel again and again! I love wearing jewelry, scarves or even t-shirts from places I've visited and loved. Yes, the picture is of the beautiful Victoria, BC which we visited a few years ago while spending time on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Thanks for visiting my hub!

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on May 24, 2011:

I am definitely a victim of Wanderlust - the virus. It's very contagious. One way you get it into your DNA is to stand in an open market in Turkey, pick out one, very cheap pagmina from hundreds, then go back to work and have someone compliment it in the break room. You get to say, "Thanks. I got it in Turkey." You're doomed to suffer from Wanderlust the rest of your days.

Is your picture Victoria, British Columbia?

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 22, 2011:

How wonderful to have traveled to distant lands and to have experienced their diverse sights and cultures! It truly gives us new perspectives on life, doesn't it? Thanks for stopping by my hub and for commenting!

edmob1 from United Kingdom on May 22, 2011:

Hi think you might have a point about the gene.For me though as an independent traveller,I think it was the stories of my childhood that raised a desire to see the seven wonders of the anceint world.Of course the lighthouse at Alexandria was long gone along with the gardens of Babylon.

To follow in the footsteps of Homer and Virgils hero's and learn as they did about other cultures.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 20, 2011:

Hi Denise- Your interview was great!

In the RVing community there are many musicians (not me, unfortunately) who have frequent jam sessions. I love all the songs about traveling and often think of situations in terms of song lyrics -- Gotta travel on!

Thanks for your comments!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 20, 2011:

Hello Thelma, Thanks for stopping by in your wanderings. With me it is partly restlessness, but also the anticipation of seeing new places and having new experiences. My philosophy is to enjoy it while you can!

Denise Handlon from Michigan on May 20, 2011:

Hi Stephanie-very cool hub. Rated up and awesome. You know I love to travel and have been to a few states living for a period of time. I think I was born under a wandering star--which brings me to the clever way you used music / songs to engage your point. Great idea!

On another note-the interview turned out quite nicely, didn't it? Thanks again for interviewing me. Where are you and hubby headed next?

Thelma Alberts from Germany on May 20, 2011:

Hi Stephanie! I have a wanderlust in me. I have travelled more than I thought and still I´m restless and wait for the time I arrive to my destination and when I can say " stop, I´ll stay. I have no more power to wander". Great Hub!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 19, 2011:

Thanks so much, Gail. I know you love to travel too, and I see you relate to my early years of moving often. Maybe that's why I've never become too attached to a house.

There is something exciting about seeing new places, isn't there, especially when your spouse shares your enthusiasm. As always, I appreciate your comments!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on May 18, 2011:

Cool hub and as always, I loved your pictures. As you already know, I love to travel and hubby and I do so whenever possible. There's something very invigorating about exploring new places and meeting new people along the way.

By the time my husband met me he had traveled to almost every state and had been to other countries during his time in the service and he regaled me with many exciting stories of his road trips.

My family moved often due to financial reasons, but never far and I remember looking through geography books and feeling a wanderlust for travel.

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