Have you ever wondered why some people are so content to stay settled in one place, while other people (yourself included, presumably) are always on the lookout for the next big adventure, experience or challenge? Well, science has cracked the secret of your itchy feet.
It begins with a research paper published by a group of scientists at UC Irvine in 1999, which investigated the connection between population migration and the variation of Dopamine D4 Receptor alleles, also known as DRD4. Turns out the link is quite strong – the research team found that people with DRD4 genes are highly likely to seek out thrills, novel experiences, ongoing challenges and new places. Dozens of more recent studies have supported that finding, and theorised that the DRD4 gene might be at the root of why human beings (or Homo Sapiens, to be specific) travel.
According to National Geographic journalist David Dobbs, that specific gene, and our urge to travel, makes Homo Sapiens unique among all animals, and even among other human species (yes, there has been more than one human species). It is thanks to the DRD4 that human beings left the cushy comfort of Africa and Mesopotamia to seek new frontiers and cover the globe in just 50,000 years – you don’t see any Neanderthals doing that. For Dobbs, this explains our need to sail into uncharted waters, travel to Mars, and even agitate for social change.
So the next time someone asks you why you can’t stay put, just tell them “BRB, pushing human civilisation forward”.
Sophia Softky is an armchair philosopher and wayward American trying to make her way in Melbourne. Sometimes she writes things, and sometimes they get published. She is a millenial and therefore lives inside of the Internet.