I was very surprised to learn the answer is yes. While not a physical addiction, travel “addiction” is real, and although it’s been called by some “the healthiest addiction,” an obsessive need to travel actually has a name: Dromomania, or “vagabond neurosis.” Some psychologists argue that dromomania does not meet the criteria for a true addiction because it does not cause “an urge to engage in a particular behavior, denial of the harmful consequences, and failure to modify the behavior.” However, in some cases excessive travel does meet those conditions, with sufferers having an abnormal impulse to travel, being prepared to spend beyond their means, and willing to sacrifice marriages, family, jobs and financial security in a “lust for new experiences.”
According to this article in Conde Nast Traveler, the first recorded travel addict was Jean-Aldert Dadas, who left the French army in 1881, and wandered into a Bordeaux hospital after walking around Europe for more than five years. He had visited various European countries and cities, and yet when he arrived at the hospital had no memories of those places other than he had been there.
Travel addiction (or obsession) is closely intertwined these days with competitive traveling. made up of people who dedicate their lives to going, quite literally, everywhere. Known as “country collectors,” or “tickers,” these travelers collect places like others collect stamps or coins. Spending time and money, and driven by compulsion, they not only want to see the world, but keep score while they’re doing it. Blogs such as Most Traveled People, Nomad Mania, and Shea’s ISO List indicate that there are tens of thousands of people competing to be the most widely traveled.
True travel addicts/obsessives can’t stop themselves, and are willing to risk everything to go somewhere. Some of these travelers have lost spouses (one travel addict has reportedly lost six wives because of his need to keep traveling!), their homes, their fortunes, all in the quest to experience the high of seeing and experiencing someplace new, and the emotional fulfillment travel provides.
Humans have always wanted to travel, to see what lies beyond, whether that’s the next town over or what’s over the horizon. Travel has the potential to make us all smarter, happier, and more creative, but the high it provides can also become too much of a good thing for some. While travel provides a bounty of new experiences and memories, as well as an escape from the humdrum of daily life, too much of it, whether for the thrill or in an effort to be competitive, seems to create a risks. Instead of becoming closer to knowing a place, with obsessive travel one might actually grow further away, as there’s always a next destination to get to, someone else’s score to beat. In these cases, the escape becomes the desired experience, not the destination.