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Why do we crave escape?

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Why do we crave escape?

story by: Anna Sarjeant

Why Do We Crave Escape?
Take a look at these beautiful images. Are you thinking ​they would look charming as your desktop background? Or do they evoke an overwhelming desire to be part of it? If it's the latter, you may have the DRD4 gene.


DR what now?

DRD4 is a gene that helps regulate our dopamine, the brain-based chemical responsible for human pleasure and reward. The reason why you're a serial traveller may be because a variant of this gene, known as DRD4-7R, has been linked to higher levels of curiosity and restlessness. Bearers of the chromosome, nicknamed the ‘wanderlust gene’ tend to crave change and adventure, a hunger to explore and a compulsion to travel.

Of course you can’t contribute the complexity of human curiosity to one single gene. Factors such as personality, upbringing and behaviour also enrich (or extinguish) a raw thirst for exploration, but the fundamental factor in the entire wanderlust argument is that some people are just born to travel, and it's an impulse that correlates directly to your biology.

The wanderlust gene, which is also connected to gambling and addiction due to its powerful ‘urge’ and 'need' charac­teristics, could also explain why the gene carriers have a tendency to travel. Why? Because ultimately, gratifying this 'need' for travel is fulfilling. And fulfilment is a key ingredient for long lasting happiness. Which brings us nicely to…

The pursuit of happiness
Doctor Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University New York, has done extensive research on the correla­tion between experiential purchases and happiness. He argues that lasting content­ment is linked to travel, outdoor activities, new skills and visiting exhibitions, rather than material possessions. It’s not so much that you can’t love your car as much as you love a good holiday, but the car will always remain separate to your exis­tence, whereas a holiday leaves a mark. To understand where Gilovich is coming from, consider these two statements:

“Hey darling, remember when we cruised Alaska and stayed up until 4am watching the Northern Lights?”
or
"Hey darling, remem­ber when we took the Mazda to Countdown and bought a kumquat?"

We could be wrong, but we doubt the latter is uttered all that often. According to Gilovich, we 'adapt' to material posses­sions, whereas experiences become part of our identity. In other words, mate­rial things mould into our daily, dare we say, mundane routines, but exceptional memories are ingrained into our being. In Gilovich’s words, “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed, but only for a little while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” They become the norm. To the contrary, holidays feel unique, and that's why we reminisce about them.

Travel is the best medicine
Funny then, that even with scientific proof finding a link between travel and happi­ness, we still don’t take our holidays. Seven million leave days in New Zealand are not taken every single year. That means the majority of us are consciously turn­ing down our days off. Yet many of us are guilty of saying such things as “I wish the weekend was longer” and “Why is it Monday again so soon?”

We should all value the worth of travel because holidays keep us healthy. But don’t take our word for it, take the US Travel Association’s. They’ve spent a good few years (and a casual few million dollars) proving it. In 2013, they released results from a travel campaign called The Travel Effect, which stated that travel decreased depression, lessened stress, promoted greater productivity and heightened morale within the work force. President and CEO Roger Dow summarised the findings by explaining “travel has a positive effect on health, relationships, business performance and the well-be­ing of communities."

A year later, Expedia's 2014 Vacation Deprivation® study, which monitors holi­daying habits among 7,855 employed adults across 24 countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and South America, found that when presented with a list of ‘happi­ness drivers’, including "Being on Vacation" and "Finding Money You Thought You Lost" to "Birthdays," taking a holiday was listed first or second by 66% of participants.

The truth is inescapable: Holidays are beneficial. And if all the above got a little bit mumbo-jumbo for you, we’ve broken it down into five easy-to-digest pointers:

5 ways holidays are good for you:

Mood enhancing: Due to increased relax­ation, excitement and optimism.

Increased opportunities: Especially for learning new skills through travel-related experiences.

Relationship strengthening: From forming friendships to strengthening partnerships and extending time spent with the family.

Lifelong memories: Made through purposeful travel experiences.

Dream fulfilling: Ticking off bucket list goals results in a feel-good sense of accomplishment.

In conclusion, if you're crazy about maps, curious about cultures and always compelled to find the road less travelled, you’re not alone. You, like many, were probably born with the wanderlust gene. Lucky you. By giving into the urge to travel, you’re already on a one-way path to contentment. Embrace your lust for wandering, live long, healthy and pros­perous. Happy travels!

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