Addicted To Travel

I love to travel. As the saying goes, “If traveling were free, you’d never see me.” But, could there be such a thing as too much travel? Could someone actually “overdose” on travel?

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.

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10 thoughts on “Addicted To Travel

  1. Vivian Gibson says:

    I wonder how many of the pioneers of this country fit that description. I had never heard of this condition and I didn’t realize that there was an actual competition for most countries visited. What fun is that?

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    • Laura says:

      I think the biggest difference between the pioneers and today’s travelers is that the pioneers goal was to eventually find a place to settle down, and make a new life. Today’s travel obsessives just want to go someplace to say they’ve been there – they either already have a place where they’ve settled, or they have no interest in settling down and building a life there. I agree that competing to travel to the most places doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, but instead more of a chore.

      BTW, I would have made a lousy pioneer.

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  2. Isabella says:

    I did more traveling in my younger years and now am quite content to do just the occasional (state side) trip. The kind of travel I like the best is getting to a place and staying for a while. My husband and I lived in Germany for 16 months early in our marriage. We rented a cute basement walk-out apartment that was $58/month! Of course, he was only making about $250/month in the army. We had an absolute blast, living there in our building with all the Germans.

    Then, in my 40’s, I traveled to Poland on 4 occasions to teach English to teenagers at a UNESCO summer language camp. These camps were for 4 weeks, and we became very close to these teens, living with and teaching them (about 100 of them) as well as the staff of Polish adults. The camp was located in a wonderful medieval city. I love a travel situation where one interacts daily on a personal level with the natives of the country. After these camps, I traveled by train to Germany again to stay with and visit family members who were living there, extending my overseas visits for another 2 weeks.

    Frankly, I find travel to be more burdensome these days, or maybe it is because I am quite content as a homebody now, I do, however, love to travel to visit our young granddaughters. Different prioritities now, I guess.

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    • Laura says:

      We traveled quite a bit when Brett was in the navy (especially Brett 😉 ), although they provided our housing for us each time except for the 18 months we lived out in town in Japan while waiting for on-base housing. That house, all 900 square feet of it, cost us nearly $900/month back in the early 1990s, and we had to come up with first and last month’s rent, cleaning deposit and “key money” (one month’s rent given to the landlord, with no refund when you moved out) in order to move in. We took out 2 months of advance pay in order to cover the costs, and then spent two years paying that back. These days if you want to bring your family to Japan you have to wait until you’ve been assigned housing on base – living off-base is way too expensive.

      But I digress . . .

      I still have the travel bug, whether it’s to visit family or see other places. I’m really looking forward to next year’s big travel adventure with Brett, after we take our youngest to college and get her settled. I know there’ll come a time when I don’t feel like going anywhere, but I’m not there yet. My mom was still traveling internationally into her mid-80s!

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  3. Roberta says:

    I am not a traveler at all. My joy is getting up every day, and going into my studio to make a painting. My paintings take me where I need to go.

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    • Laura says:

      Travel is a “want” in my book, not something anyone needs to do. Some people enjoy it (maybe too much in the case of obsessive), but it’s not for everyone, nor does it need to be. I think it’s wonderful that painting brings you such happiness and contentment!

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  4. Laurel says:

    What an interesting concept. I had no idea either.

    I enjoy traveling, but I do feel as I get older it is more burdensome. The long flights and/or long drives just seem to tire us both more. We just spent 10 days on the road in Ontario, NY and PA. I was so happy to get home and sleep in my own bed, although we definitely enjoyed the trip.

    We are scheduled to visit Italy this fall, and I’m wondering how I’ll feel after two weeks of fairly intense sightseeing, etc. Italy has been at the top of my bucket list for a long time, but I can see that as I get older, I may have less energy for overseas travel. But for now, I still have a lot of places I want to visit!

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    • Laura says:

      When Brett and I talk about travel these days it’s more about doing it slow, and being able to be in one place long enough that we can have “days off” to rest and recharge. Our trip to Japan last month was fun, but exhausting. We’re also working at getting ourselves in better shape, so that we (hopefully) don’t get worn out so quickly. I’m still losing, but still having issues with my right hip (bursitis). My goal is to get that taken care of before we set out next year.

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