Switching on the travel bug

Have you ever heard of the term “travel bug?” It’s not virally transmitted infection but, as the Collins dictionary describes, it is the strong feeling of wanting to travel the world.

It is likely that you’d know at least one person who proclaims their desire to travel and explore the world. And I’ll admit it too- I’m one of those wanderlust adventure seeking individuals. Although I’ve only been to two countries and one state outside of Victoria in my two decades of life so far, the thought of exploring the world and seeing what it has to offer in terms of differences in culture is a thrilling feeling.

As it turns out, this feeling of adventure and wanting to explore the world is not an idea that we have  created but there is actually a gene, like a switch in our bodies, that switch on the “travel bug” in us.

Photo by STIL via Unsplash


Turning on the switch

Dopamine is a chemical in our bodies that a responsible for a number of daily activities such as learning and working memory. It is also described as  one of the hormones responsible for the “good” emotion and allows us to repeat activities that make us feel good.  It has also been linked to addiction and Parkinson’s disease.

DRD4 is a dopamine receptor which helps control dopamine levels. However, DRD4-2/7R a variation of the DRD4 has been termed the “wanderlust gene” due to its links with curiosity, sensation seeking, risk taking and ultimately seeking new adventures. Approximately 20% of the population have this gene.

Photo by Ethan Hoover via Unsplash 

Even airlines are getting in on the act

A Singaporean airline, Scoot have released a campaign “Wandermust”, describing “Travel is in our blood, Literally”. As part of the campaign, they have collaborated with an expert in Genetics, Human Biology and Neuroscience at the National University of Singapore to conduct a study on DRD4-2/7R which was conducted in June of this year.

What did the study involve? Testing the blood of “travel addicts” across the world for the DRD4-2/7R

The results: The study found 34.62%  of participants had the DRD4-2/7R gene

As a science student, I tried to conduct further research into their study such as: number of participants were involved in the study, how participants were recruited and methods behind how they “tested their blood”! Unfortunately, there was no further information about the study other than the above results and the promotional videos, such as the one below.

Despite the lack of scientific documentation, I must give props to the Scoot marketing team for an intriguing marketing campaign incorporating and communicating science. Despite incorporating science, they were still able to increasing sales by providing readers who have self-diagnosed themselves with “wandermust” with the “perfect solution”  by linking through to their booking page. 


Whether you call it wanderlust or wandermust, I’m hoping that one day I can tick travelling to at least 20 countries off my bucket list.