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Addicted to Travel

 Researchers believe some people retain the biological need to travel and explore from their caveman ancestors.  

| BY Kent McDill


Whether it’s for business or pleasure, a family trip or a solo adventure, some people just love to travel.

Researchers are now asking whether the desire to travel can be considered an addiction, or whether it is a more primal instinct that makes us want to leave home.

The idea that humans are meant to explore is generated by theories about the early days of the species. However, just like killing our prey in order to have sustenance, the primal instinct to travel may have been burned from humans over millennia of existence.

But the word “addiction’’ has a definite definition, and some academicians argue that the desire to travel is not the same as the psychological need to travel.

“Travel might be more along the line of obsessive, but there is no evidence that it’s a legitimate addiction because it has no neurological element of instant gratification,’’ said psychotherapist Dr. Daniel Epstein, a specialist in addictions from Florida in an interview with

But others argue that travel does indeed provide the “neurological element of instant gratification’’ necessary to be considered an addiction.

By definition, addictions include an urge to engage in a specific behavior, a denial of harmful consequences, and a failure to modify behavior when required to do so. While reasons No. 1 and No. 3 could be argued, the harmful side effects of constant travel might be difficult to pin down.

It turns out, Epstein argues against himself in the Thrillist article, in a way, explaining that the thrill of travel provides the boost of dopamine in our system that creates the sense of pleasure and excitement. Travel provides that boost frequently, when plans are made, when travel begins, when the traveler arrives.

“You get that blast when the screen pops up telling you your flight is confirmed. Or when you go out and buy a new duffle bag. Or even stay in hotels,’’ Epstein said.

Research has discovered a mutation to the dopamine gene DRD4, named DRD4-7R, which increases a person’s increased restlessness, and activating that gene can activate the pleasure centers. Studies have also been done on African tribesmen finding those with the 7R mutation were stronger when aligned with nomadic tribes rather than those in settled villages.

Indiana University evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia said the 7R mutation may have been responsible for prehistoric man’s need to explore other territories in search of sustenance or finding mates or shelter. Such biological need could be used to explain a modern-day need to travel.

Travel can serve as a stimulation to someone who prefers to be constantly stimulated, and in that sense, it can spark an addictive behavior.

Epstein concluded that an “addiction’’ to travel might be too strong a word, but that travel alone is not harmful unless it is used to avoid “real life”.

“If you are not shirking responsibilities, family or some big emotional issue then you should absolutely get out and see the world,’’ he said.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.