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The Telltale Signs You're A Travel Addict (or have severe wanderlust)

Women on the Road

Call it being a travel addict, call it wanderlust or the travel bug. It doesn't matter.

You know you have it when much of your time is spent dreaming about or planning your next trip

PLEASE NOTE: Every effort is made to keep articles up to date but the changing coronavirus situation has made it impossible to provide information about the pandemic or travel restrictions. You'll find updated information from the CDC about travel conditions by country but please check all appropriate sources before you travel as situations can change in minutes. 

My personal word of choice is wanderlust; it even sounds magical, rolling off my tongue like a whisper from far away. I lust after it, I want to wander the world on a magic carpet, guided by stardust... but I'll settle for boarding a plane.

Wanderlust - rowboat in a tropical riverSometimes it's just about waking up somewhere different, where the sky is larger, the raindrops fatter, the wind sharper, and the tastes different. Somewhere not home.

The meaning of wanderlust

Wanderlust comes from the German 'desire to wander', and the Urban Dictionary defines it as:

  1. A very strong or irresistible impulse to travel. 
  2. A strong longing for or impulse toward wandering.

Does this sound familiar?

Some of us are born with the travel bug, others will suddenly become travel addicts later in life, and yet others will nurture their wanderlust and watch it grow.

When I read James Michener's The Drifters so many years ago, all I could think of was  Mozambique (it took 30 years but I got there)

If and when it strikes, wanderlust, like an addiction, can be difficult to dislodge. It will insinuate itself into your dreams and take the shape of faraway places. It will sear visions into your mind, visions of places you have yet to see. It will, often, make you wish you were anywhere but where you are, now.

In fact, it is, in many ways, similar to a real addiction.

Buenos Aires - away from home wanderlustA street scene in Buenos Aires, which I have yet to visit (but desperately want to). Photo Annabel Haslop

the science behind travel addiction

It turns out that there is actually a condition, a neurosis, that involves being addicted to travel. There is even a travel addict word: dromomania (although this sounds to me more like a desire to ride camels, but...)

Seriously, according to at least one psychologist, Dr Michael Brein, those who suffer from this addiction are ready to sacrifice a great deal (spouse, money, sometimes even home) to fuel their addiction. Like other addictions, it has consequences, and the cures aren't foolproof.

The good news, however, is that among all those inveterate travelers and digital nomads, there are very few clinical travel addicts.

Most of us who call ourselves travel addicts simply love to travel, and we can continue doing so without having to seek medical help.

telltale signs you are a travel addict or have permanent wanderlust

How can you tell? What are the signs?

The travel bug, strange syndrome that it is, can manifest itself in many ways. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • You stand forlornly at airports, reading departure boards and watching planes take off
  • You window shop for strange items like mosquito netting or super-absorbent towels or sink plugs
  • You fold and unfold maps at the bookstore, mumbling to yourself... been there... and there... going there soon...
  • You catch a movie – but only if it has subtitles
  • You have actually thought of downloading the entire Travel Channel
  • You have three Lonely Planet editions for the same country but you can't bring yourself to throw the older ones away 
  • You're always the first to try any new foreign restaurant in town, in case it's authentic
  • You change your computer screensaver to a new exotic location – every day
  • You read as many travel blogs as others do books (here's my list of solo female travel bloggers)
  • You log on to lastminute.com before bedtime... just in case
  • Every other app on your phone is about navigation
  • Your adult coloring book isn't mandalas – it's Incredible Ireland 
  • You always have to renew your passport before its expiry date because you run out of pages
  • As soon as you've made a travel decision, you begin counting down the days
  • You always win the Airport Code game
  • Your bucket list seems to only get longer, never shorter, no matter how much you travel
  • You always ask about weight before price when you buy something
  • Half the books on your shelf have a country or city name in the title
  • Travel is your #1 expense – whenever you have money, you always ask 'where should I go' rather than 'what should I buy'
  • There's always foreign currency floating in the bottom of your bag
  • You have more backpacks and suitcases than purses
  • You're always learning a new language
  • The word 'visa' gives you a thrill (and it's not about the card)
Cointrin airport, Geneva; people with wanderlust, heading outThe airport, one of my favorite haunts in-between trips

There's not much you can do once wanderlust hits.

It can be so gripping it overturns life as you know it, transforming you into an obsessive researcher and reservations agent.

You can ride the feeling, or try to push it away.

You can ignore it, badmouth it, think or write about it, actively try to eliminate it, even philosophize it to death.

In my experience, resistance only strengthens the obsession.

Once it's lodged, trying not to think about travel away only brings it back with a vengeance. 

To some people your dreams of travel may seem self-indulgent, financially unwise, irresponsible even. They have every right to feel that way, and they may be right.

But you also have every right to succumb.

The mere act of writing this has given me itchy feet.

I was born with wanderlust.

  • I'm always happy on the move, planning a journey, choosing a destination, doing research... (Covid is a strange time where all the action takes place in my mind but this, too, will pass)
  • I am thrilled to meet people whose lives face different victories and challenges, from whom I can learn and with whom I can share. 
  • I thrive on tasting new foods and learning new languages and coping with new cultures. 
  • I like things that are different, experiences that stretch my boundaries. Inside my loud, boisterous self is a basically shy person, and travel encourages both personas.

Eventually, after weeks or even months of travel, my wanderlust is fulfilled, at least temporarily. I love returning home. It grounds me. When I was traveling around the world, a home base was one of the things I missed the most.

But as soon as I'm home, I'm thinking of the next place.

And so the cycle begins again.

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travel resources

When I travel, I use certain resources and services that have served me well over the years. These are services I can recommend, because I actually use them myself.

Finding a place to stay

I don't always reserve ahead of time, but I at least book my first night or two when I travel. This way I won't be too disoriented when I land. I've used lots of reservation systems and the one that works best for me is Booking.com. It is consistently the easiest to use, has the best prices, and doesn't make promises it can't keep.

Booking a flight

I use most booking engines, and often reserve directly with the airline. BUT – when faced with an expensive purchase, I have two go-to partners. For long-distance flights, I always check Scott's Cheap Flights for error fares, and if I'm going super long distance, I check with Airtreks for their RTW rates.

Insurance

I would NEVER leave home without insurance. Below the age of 65, I recommend World Nomads, which I used for years. After that age, coverage often depends on where you live so check out this page for my reviews.

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