I’m A Travel Addict – But Is It Nature or Nurture?

The nature or nurture argument runs through all facets of life, and I often wonder how it relates to whether or not people have the travel bug. Is it something you catch from your family or are you born with this bug?

The thing is, on this planet, there are people who love traveling (probably you, and definitely me), and then, believe it or not, there are people who would rather stay home. But how do people become lovers of travel: is it something they’re born with, a part of their personality, or does it depend on their upbringing? I’m going to take a look at both sides and then let you all decide.

Child jumping in the air
Up in the Air © OliverAlex

Nurture: Parents Who Love Traveling

In my case, it’s fairly clear to say that there was some element of nurture in my love of travel. I was brought up in Perth, Western Australia, the most isolated city in the world, but my parents made sure that I knew there was more out there. Something that must have had a huge impact on me was a six-month trip we made with a mobile home around Europe when I was nine years old. (In case you’re wondering, Australian employers offer this amazing thing called “long service leave” which enabled my father to be away from work for six months but still get paid).

Anyhow, we visited about twenty countries, staying in caravan parks along the way or sometimes just parking near a beach for the night. I was a curious child and loved crossing borders to find new currencies, different languages and exciting products in the supermarket, all of which I recorded in countless journals. We met interesting people from all over the world, saw all the sights, and had our hair cut by my mother in the distant corners of Dutch caravan parks. We also played a lot of cards. It was perfect.

From that trip on — my first time on a plane — I was always interested in other countries. My parents repeated the travel bug experience by driving us around Australia for two months when I was twelve; they managed to send me on a month-long exchange to Germany when I was fourteen, and once I left home, all I wanted to do was get out of Perth. And they were always happy to see me traveling.

Young boy inspecting rock
Too Curious © makelessnoise

Nature: What Personality Makes a Travel Addict?

So you might conclude that my love of travel was instilled in me by my parents. But there’s always an exception: Enter my sister. She had the same experiences as me as a child but, although she does take a few vacations abroad now and again, she is far from being a travel addict. What are the differences between her and me? Well, we have fairly different personalities, of course. I seem to have a few key traits which make me more likely to become an avid traveler, including:

Restlessness

I’m easily bored. Just ask my mother, who had to deal with my constant requests for new kinds of entertainment when I was a child. Traveling to new places helps to satisfy this restlessness and keep me interested in life. I’m really not that good at staying still.

Curiosity

If I was a cat, I’d be dead. I have to know everything about everything, preferably immediately.

If I was a cat, I’d be dead. I have to know everything about everything, preferably immediately. I want to know the differences between Danish and Swedish and I must explore the chocolate aisle in a supermarket in every new country I visit. When I meet people, I ask questions. (Politely, I hope).

Open-mindedness

If something or someone is different, that’s never really disturbed me. Perhaps it’s because of my curiosity problem! I tend to accept new places for how they are and don’t let lifestyles or cultures that are different to mine bother me.

So What’s the Answer? Nature or Nurture?

Well, I guess from my case I’d have to say that it’s a bit of both. It’s interesting to ponder — if my parents hadn’t taken me traveling as a young child, would I still have had the urge to leave Australia and live in several other countries? Or if I had my sister’s personality which doesn’t have such a large dose of curiosity, would I have stayed home instead?

But I’m curious (surprise, surprise!) to know what the rest of you think. Does your love of travel come from nature or nurture, or like me, a bit of both? Please tell me what you think about this issue in the comments below.

42 Responses

  1. Eva

    Hmm… Interesting question, Amanda!

    I think, for me at least, it’s neither. Travel was a learned addiction for me. My parents didn’t travel much, and I never traveled much at all as a kid, apart from trips to Grandma’s. I never left Canada until I was 19, and I wasn’t pining to go abroad that whole time.

    To be honest, I think I’ve gotten more addicted to travel as I’ve gotten better at it: my first couple of trips, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I definitely didn’t make the most of them (and I knew it). But each trip since has gotten better and better, making me look forward to the next more and more…

    Does that make sense?

    Reply
  2. Silvia

    I think I’m pretty similar to you in that respect Amanda. I’ve been traveling since I was a baby (you should see my first passport photo… I was such a cutie!) with trips to Guatemala (where my family is originally from) and Mexico being a very common occurrence. As I’ve gotten older, my love of travel has only increased, and I’ve gotten to the point where I just want to see everything and yet go back to all the places I’ve been before. I think that my upbringing definitely had a lot to do with that, but my personality is also a huge part of it because I am very curious and I also love to imagine what it would be like to be other people (usually movie or book characters) and go on adventures. My siblings though, could not be any more different than me if they tried. They love the creature comforts of home and travel abroad begrudgingly, unless they happen to be able to stay in 4 or 5 star resorts, which to me isn’t what traveling is about at all. Sorry about the lengthy response, but thanks for the great question!

    Reply
  3. Ahi

    Strangely enough, I was just pondering this question an hour ago. My quasi-conclusion:

    It’s not too hard to suppose that our genes could be hard-wired into travel addiction. Our hypothetical ancestors who traveled to new places and learned from new cultures seem much better suited to survival than those ancestors who couldn’t give up the comforts of the cave.

    This exposure to new ideas, to new germs, and new inventions could feasibly have been passed down to us poor unsuspecting souls, who now travel without really understanding why.

    Reply
  4. Lola

    Definitely a mix of both. First trip abroad was probably at 6-8 months old.

    Couple a family that loves to travel (residing all over the globe) with a super curious personality and insatiable fascination with geography, voila!

    Reply
  5. Sylvia

    For me, my parents instilled th elove of travel in me. My first vacation was at 2 years old to Poland, and I haven’t stopped traveling since. I’ve got the bug, where I cannot go a few months without traveling somewhere…I really do not know where I would be if my parents had not traveled with my sister and me.

    Reply
  6. Amanda Kendle

    Thanks for the interesting comments so far, it looks like there are a few nature and nurture mixes like me, but to brian and Eva who said it was more learned, that’s really interesting! I guess this is a perspective I don’t have myself, but it’s good to see that even people who don’t travel early in life can suddenly get the bug. That gives me hope for all those people who’ve never traveled – it still could happen one day.

    Please keep your comments coming – are you nature or nurture? – because remember, I’m insanely curious!

    Reply
  7. Nomadic Matt

    Amanda, did you buy this site from mike! I feel like you’re the only author! not that i mind since I love ur writing. lol

    I think it was my nature, though i didn’t discover it until later in life. My folks and I didn’t travel much. Now I can’t get enough! I’m on the nature side of the argument here.

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  8. Steve in DC

    Your personality traits sound a lot like mine…except that I am easily amused instead of being easily bored. I totally agree that being open minded and curious are keys to the travel addict.

    I am also fascinated by discovering how other people in other cultures live. I guess I am a travel voyeur….I love learning how different people go about their daily lives..what makes them happy, what they like to eat, and how they interact with others.

    I have to force my one sibling and my parents to travel…so I definitely believe that genes have only partly to do with it. Put me on the fence on this one.

    Reply
  9. Golden Prague

    Of both a bit, my parents loved to travel and so do I, but what I love even more is living in foreign countries, perhaps I am by nationality “Expat”? SY

    Reply
  10. Mark

    I think that the urge to travel primarily reflects an individual’s personality. Of the Big Five traits talked about in psychology, Openness to Experience is probably the most relevant: people ranking high in this trait are curious, unconventional, imaginative, adventurous and novelty-seeking.

    I think that people who don’t feel the urge to travel probably don’t rank as high on this trait.

    If the urge to travel is dictated by personality, it’s really tough to say either nature or nurture, because they are far too intertwined to separate convincingly.

    So I’ll go with a mix of both.

    Reply
  11. J. Smith

    I run through this with friends from myhome town all the time. I ask- why don’t you guys get up, get out and get something? What are you still doing here? Don’t you realize that you can go anywhere you want at any time you want? It’s incredible, but many of them just don’t have that urge. Me, I like walking down the street just because I know it’s going to expose me to something new, something that I otherwise would not have run into. Experience is what it’s all about. you just don’t get that staying in the same spot, doing a lot of the same things. Good piece- thanks for that!

    Reply
  12. Hal

    I agree with Ahi’s comment that genetic makeup, or instinct, could play a role. After all, our distant ancestors spread from Africa to cover the globe (albeit rather gradually).

    Reply
  13. Paul Murray

    Wow Amanda, it’s like you’re me but in an alternate universe!

    I grew up in Brisbane, Australia, but spent 6 months in Fiji when I was 9, and all those traits you mentioned (curiosity, boredom etc.) sound like me…

    I’ve been to so many different places since then and am currently halfway through a 12 month world trip with my wife.

    I don’t think you can really say for sure – everyone’s different. For those like you and me, it’s both, for some it’s one or the other, and for someone like Eva (first commenter) it’s neither! Just one more thing to add to the list that proves the world is an amazing place :-)

    Reply
  14. Caz

    Total, 100%…nature.

    By the time I was born, I was the last of several kids and essentially raised as an only child. I guess after being in so many wars, my parents had absolutely no interest in travel. I spent most of my childhood spinning a National Geographic globe, dreaming of going to faraway places. I watched Charles Kuralt wandering in search of random stories in his RV and was horribly jealous!

    I grew up on the East Coast, and it wasn’t until I was 20 when I finally got west of the Mississippi River. Got my first passport at 22. Ten years later, I’ve hit 4 continents and 22 countries…but trying to make up for lost time completely burned me out.

    Interestingly enough, about half the time I want to stay “home” (wherever that may be at the moment) and be bored. It’s good to give the body and mind some rest and time to process all that I’ve experienced. So I’d say I’m 25% restless, 50% curious, and 25% open-minded :)

    Reply
  15. Turner

    Eh, they’re theorizing more and more about our psychology is related to genetic memory. Who knows? If it turns out few of us have the travel gene, we could design a gene therapy.

    Reply
  16. Denae

    I’m just not sure where the need to travel comes from. My parents took my brother and I all around the Western United States in road trips when we were kids. They did a few trips abroad but when I was an adult I made my own decision to see the world. For me, it might have to do with my family because they are always striving for new experiences and a better life so my translation of it is to see the world I guess.

    Reply
  17. Enduring Wanderlust

    Interesting article, Amanda.

    I land in the camp of nature and nurture. No doubt some are born with a greater need to explore, but without an environment that lends itself to the ability to take advantage of travel opportunities the need may not be realized.

    Reply
  18. Fafah

    HI guys,
    I think that it dependds on you whether nature or nurture;
    but I like the fact that Amanda was risen up with travelling !me too I want to travel abroad
    That’s cool !I can learn other’s culture and so on I like that

    Reply
  19. David AM

    This is an interesting article. These days it’s hard to tell what is nature and nurture because everything is so intertwined and ingrained because of society.

    For me, I’d probably say it’s nature, if it isn’t both. Since I was little, I was always fascinated by airplanes and being in a car driving somewhere. Looking out car windows and up into the sky seeing planes, I always wondered what the next stop was and what was going on there. The farthest back I can remember looking at a plane and thinking all this was sometime around 3rd grade.

    At some point during 6th grade, there was a lot of talk of travel in my house. That was when we first traveled as a family and drove down to Orlando, Florida for a week long vacation at Disney. It was my first experience with a roadtrip as well. We did that three more times in the following years. Vacations practically became a tradition for a while.

    During my Junior year of High School, I was selected by my music teacher to travel to London and Edinburgh to participate in the Fringe Festival. That was the trip that truly changed me. The trip was jam packed with activities, but there were times when I could walk around for a few minutes and I’d look up at the sky. It felt odd to be so far from home, but somehow it was comforting at the same time. Maybe I was a nomad in a past life. Now I’m 20, and that urge to travel is greater than ever. I met my girlfriend senior year and she had the same dreams and goals as me. We’re both currently working and saving up money to backpack the US and volunteer on organic farms and we couldn’t be more excited.

    No one in my family sees traveling the same way that I do. An opportunity to learn, experience, and witness something truly great about different cultures and the world in general. They go on vacations to relax, which we all need from time to time, anyway. And I can’t say I have those same traits of restlessness and curiosity, but I’m very open to trying new things. I don’t get restless and my curiosity is actually very tame. I’m not even a thrill seeker. I’m just an uber chill guy who wants to find a nice open field to lay in and look up at the sky from a different part of the world. These last two gap years have given me a lot of time to think. My perspective and views on life have changed A LOT. But my love for travel hasn’t and I don’t think it ever will.

    Wow… didn’t mean for such a long comment. HAHA!

    Reply
  20. Cornelius Aesop

    I would have originally thought Nature because I didn’t discover travel (especially outside the US) until college. Yet recently my mother has made a few trips outside of the US herself, and while she is more on the hotel rather than hostel side of travel I think she is becoming addicted. So maybe there was an innate travel aspect that wasn’t necessarily nurtured directly but present.

    Reply
  21. Shirley edwards

    Well I think I was born with a travel gene! my mother dreamed that i was running awyy from her just afew hours after i was born She awoke in tears knowing that she would never keep me at home. She was right. I spent my childhood wandering the fields nad lanes of Cornwall, UK, gettting lost and having to be brought home by farmers nad even on one occasion, the police.
    We were a poor family and never travelled, though I pestered constantly to migrate to Australia when i first saw the signs in the post office for assisted passages. At te age of 13, there was an opportunity to host a French student for the summer– of course, I pestered until my parents agreed to us oarticipating, We had not realised that the French family would want to reciprocate so there we all were trying to raise money so that I could go. That was what turned on the travel switch which seemsunable to be turned off.
    having little money for travel. I took to walking in earnest nad started hiking all over Britain and Europe as a teenager, youg twenties. As soon as able I migrated to Australia where I have travelled on foot and by 4Wd throughout all the deserts, sometimes for months at a time. My husband and I spent every break, most weekends going places. Now that we are retired, almost 5 years we have been travelling continuously- backpacking, staying in hostels, camping, hiking. – A year in south America, another exploring Africa . Alaska and indo China. Now we are off to the Silk route, China and mongolia.
    I will add that none of our children have the travel bug. Did they just miss the gene or am I a freak of nature/ It certainly was not nurture.

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  22. Stephanie

    Nature! My parents hadn’t traveled outside of the US and our farthest family vacation was to Disney World in Florida (from New York State). My fascination with traveling began with books as a child, then with my internship in England in college, and I’ve been on the move ever since!

    Reply
  23. Leigh

    If you were a cat, you’d probably be dead? Love it! As much as I enjoyed the entire article.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. For two reasons. One. I’m in the middle of writing an article about the nature of being an expat for ExpatHarem.

    The second reason. I’ve just made a commitment to living in Argentina. We just bought a house that we’re turning into an international art and education center. We host artists, writers, photographers and teachers from all over the world.

    It’s exciting, but it also means we’re going to be here in Salta for a while, and that is hard to imagine.

    Reply
  24. Kristina

    It say you are right! My parents love traveling. My mom more so than my dad. I grew up dropping and picking up my mom from airports. I love reading and books inspired me to go out and see the world. Plus, am always restless. I always have to be on the go!

    There is so much of the world to see , to experience and to explore!

    Reply
  25. Tareh

    I think its nature, genetically its in our blood. It makes perfect sense as human expanded from africa hundred of years ago. There are those who decided to stay and colonised and there are those who venture forth and explore further. :)

    Reply
  26. Linda Dourte

    In my case, it has to be nature. Neither of my parents like to travel. I myself did not start traveling until I was in the ‘second half’ of my life. Now try to stop me! :)

    Reply
  27. Ali

    Nature for me definitely. We never went anywhere as children. My parents have no desire to leave Ireland. Our childhood holidays consisted of daytrips to the beach an hours drive away.

    Interestingly, when I researched my family tree I discovered my great great grandfather oddly left his local town in England and then migrated to Ireland and traveled about the country for 50years with his travelling carnival / picture show. His family had stayed in the one town there since the 1600′s! So I’m not the only one with a desire for adventure!

    Reply
  28. C.A. Marie

    I’d say it’s a bit of both too. My parents encouraged me to learn about other countries but I do have a really great dose of curiosity and restlessness too. So it’s a bit of both! :)

    Reply
  29. Liz Raj

    I’ve pondered the same question myself. My mom took my brothers and I on family road-trips every summer for over a decade.

    Back then, I spent most of the time reading in the back of our truckbed and refusing to look up even if the rest of our clan had sighted a bear or some other marvelous thing.

    Now I find myself longing for another adventure as I’ve spent my twenties traveling abroad in and around university holidays. Somehow my brothers didn’t pick up this same bug.

    All I know is that I have a much more serious restlessness than most as you’ve noted within yourself. I much like the term wanderlust. I’d highly recommend an astrological reading if you’re truly curious as to where this stems within yourself – that sure did it for me.

    Happy travels.

    Reply
  30. GuyfromCO

    All nature here, I grew up in the same small town in the western Colorado mountains of 2000 people. We were dirt poor and therefor never went more than 50 miles my whole childhood. I always felt pinned down and as soon as I got my drivers license I took a trip across the state to Denver and knew then I’d never settle. The same day I graduated high school I did the only thing a poor kid can to get out of town and joined the Marines in search of travel and new experiences.

    It’s been almost 10 years now and I’ve managed to live on every continent except Australia, spending at least a year in 7 different countries and have seen over 40 of them. And I’m still as hooked as ever, it’s just something that is in my blood. I can’t watch the sun set at night without wanting to follow it over that horizon to see what I can uncover.

    I think it’s safe to say it’s a good thing no one on this is a cat lol.

    Reply
  31. TravellingHidley

    Hmm hard to say in my case…. My first flight was emigrating to Australia, aged two, which i don’t even vaguely remember. My family travelled to Europe when I was ten, and then I went on student exchange aged 16. By then I was hooked and I’ve been abroad many times since, so much that my father says I’m a gypsy!
    My sister was born in Australia and never went on student exchange. She is open minded and curious, but in different ways I think. I think in her case she doesn’t need the adventure like I do – she’d rather build a good and stable life instead.

    Whether the need to travel is nature or nurture I just wish society understood a bit better- I don’t want to be seen as irresponsible, running away from my problems, or “having a long holiday” when I’ve been living abroad…

    Reply
  32. Tropiclink

    Amanda I really loved the subject, and in my opinion it is all in the nature. My father was in a transferable job on one hand my siblings use to sulk due to shifting on the other hand I was always excited as I ‘ll get to meet new people and explore new places. I enjoyed all that transitions in life in every place.

    Reply
  33. Jessica Hill

    You described three perfect traits for a travel addict. I have all of those, but I still have a hard time answering your question one way or another. I grew up in a tiny farm town of 700 people (quite literally the middle of nowhere). My parents often traveled to the city and we took a few family vacations, but even to this day my folks prefer to travel by cruise ship and I can’t stand them. I prefer slow traveling, which allows me to really get to know a place, the people and the culture. So, I’d say that my parents instilled the curiosity bug (or maybe that was the product of my hometown?) and through each trip I’ve become more and more addicted to travel.

    Great post – I can’t wait to check out your blog!

    Reply
  34. Dariece - Goats On The Road

    Thanks for another great post Amanda!

    I’m definitely on the “nature” side of this debate. My parents (and many, many people I know from North America) only go away on the all-inclusive vacation to somewhere in Mexico. Part of the reason for this is that in North America most people only have 2 weeks of holidays…A YEAR! Which to me is insane.

    Because of this ridiculous lack in holiday time, we quit our jobs and decided that travel was much more important than work…and here we are, still travelling 3 years later :)
    (http://goatsontheroad.com/)

    I definitely wasn’t given the bug by my family, but I’ve acquired it along the way…and can’t get rid of it!

    Cheers!
    Dariece – Goats On The Road

    Reply
  35. Janice Coyle

    For me, it’s both nurture AND nature! I grew up traveling… whether my family was relocating to a new state or country (my dad was in the Navy), taking a family camping trip, or vacationing in Mexico or Europe, I have always been on the move. My parents instilled the love of travel in me from the time I was an infant. However, I have also always been very inquisitive (my husband calls it nosy, but I know it is curiosity). The more culturally diverse, exotic or remote, the more I love it! New people, foods, smells, sights, sounds… they all intrigue me. I could live my life on the road (or bus or train, as the case may be), and I travel every chance I get!

    My husband, on the other hand, disdains most travel – domestic, international or otherwise. The only trips he ever took as a child were the annual family summer vacations to New York to visit the relatives. He could spend his life at home puttering around the garage or (horrors!) watching television. A few years ago, his employer sent him to Ghana for 6 months, and the only part of the country he saw was the drive between his hotel and the US Embassy. I visited him and experienced more of the country in two weeks than he did in half a year.

    Our three children at first had no desire to travel, even though they enjoyed our family vacations to Disney World, Florida, New Orleans and Canada. But, go beyond North America? Their answer was a collective, “No thanks!”However, one-by-one they had occasion to travel to far-away places and their eyes were opened. What happened? Was it the non-stop stories of my own travel experiences or was some deep-hidden curiosity awakened when they each finally stepped on foreign soil. I’m not sure, but I’m thrilled that they have each now been “bitten.”

    In the past year, I have traveled twice to Europe (my husband accompanied me on one of the trips). I won’t be traveling in 2013 because I am planning – and paying for – my daughter’s wedding. But I have a 3-week jaunt to South America coming up in 2014, and in 2015 for my 60th birthday I am planning a 6-month+ round-the-world trip. I cannot wait!!

    Reply
  36. corina

    As a child and teen ager, I traveled a lot with my parents, who were real addicts. But…I hated it. Most of the time. For the rest, I was at least bored and uninterested. But 6 years ago I started to be obliged by the job to travel And felt instantly in a so much love, that sometimes i cannot recognize my new…me! So maybe genetics playied a part but it took a veeery long time to see the effects ;-)

    Reply

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