Why Is Travel An Addiction?

Over the years psychologists, anthropologists and other very fancy people have weighed in to answer the question: why do people travel? They’ve sited studies and research from their very fancy places of work and even fancier scientifically sound universities who spout out data about serotonin levels and charts about which countries give the best vacation time to their employees. There are tons of articles and papers that analyze the reason why some people have a travel addiction and others could care less. It’s all very fascinating! But, I think that sometimes the simplest answers are the best. I travel because it makes me happy.

Travel comes in all shapes and sizes these days. From digital nomads (we’ll get into that later) to resort junkies, we travel addicts have found our wanderlust being quenched in many different ways. So, what made people start to travel anyway? Where did the idea of modern travel even come from?

person holding clear drinking glass with orange liquid

Addicted To Modern Travel

Well, the most popular school of thought was that the Victorians got bored and set off to see the great art and antiquities of the Continent through a term called The Grand Tour. In fact, it is The Grand Tour, created way back in the early 1600’s by a priest named Richard Lassels, that gives us the name “tourist”.

A lot of controversy has come up when referring to someone who is a travel addict as a tourist. Some take great offense as they see a tourist as someone who merely skims the surface while travelers tend to have more of a deep dive approach to travel. Me? I’m on the fence. I see the point being made but I wonder if it’s necessary. Maybe the more important question is whether you are a vacationer or a traveler. For the record, vacationers go somewhere to relax and veg while travelers (or tourists) go to seek new experience.

As travel has evolved over time, there have been large groups that have found their own travel mojo by approaching their travel experiences from different angles. Maybe you fit into one of these categories.

brown bridge

The Bucket Listers

We simply can’t talk about travel addiction without talking about the bucket list junkies. Typically uber organized, bucket listers work their way through a series of experiences that they prioritize. Often getting a bad rap as look and go travelers, bucket listers tend to know what they want. Bucket listing your way through the world can be a great experience as long as the list doesn’t become the biggest priority rather than the tool it should be.

gray and red train running on rail in between trees at daytime

Addicted To The List

Many people don’t consider themselves bucket listers, but they are. It’s true, basically every travel addiction has a list, even if it’s to not make the next reservation, every kind of traveler listed above has a strategy that can essentially be called a bucket list.

It is only human nature to check things off a list. To plan. To be a logistics manger. In fact, many leading fancy people who study others say that travelers get just as much out of planning their trips as they do executing those plans.

I’m not sure how I feel about that exactly. I mean, I like when I get my confirmation e-mail saying everything is all set, but I don’t think I necessarily enjoy jockeying between different travel apps to find the best price. However, I am very good at it. On the other hand, I do like tracking down new opportunities for my next trip. Then again, I get bored easily. I really meant what I said I wasn’t sure how I feel.

woman in black sunglasses and white shirt

The Package Traveler

By simply booking a tour through a well known company, package travelers are happy to scratch the surface of a couple of big named cities and take the tour while leaving the logistics to someone else. Quite honestly, this is a very good place to start if you are new to the travel game. It’s also a great place to stay if you are not a planner or details make you nervous in any way.

The Road Tripper

Pack up the car or the RV and hit the road for sites unseen and enjoy all that the open road has to offer. Road Trippers spend a ton of time exploring nooks and crannies and meeting up with fellow road junkies through a huge network. To be clear, road tripping encompasses not only the traditional concepts of hitting the road with the fam but also exploring far off destinations with a rental. Popular road trips include national parks, Australia, and the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. Don’t forget great RV trips like Alaska and wide open spaces like Colorado and Texas.

woman riding on vehicle putting her head and right arm outside the window while travelling the road

The Gap Year Backpacker

Free of worries with a minimal budget, backpackers have trekked from hostel to hostel to get the most out of their bare bones trips for decades. While they shape their definition of global literacy, young travelers have enjoyed backpacking to form their world views. Backpacking across Europe used to be a right of passage in some circles and while there is still a steady stream of people making there way into those youth hostels, many opt for the experience on other continents these days. Backpackers are sometimes just realizing they have a travel addiction themselves!

two person walking towards mountain covered with snow


While the majority of travelers fall into one of the categories above, there are some amazing travelers who look through a very different lens.

The Slow Traveler

Time in one place to take a deep dive into a culture or community is the top priority here. Slow travelers look for the connections and want to unpack the benefits and challenges that locals deal with. The benefits of slow travel come from immersing oneself into new circumstances and seeing where that leads you. Unfortunately, for most, time constraints tend to create huge barriers for the experience.

white and red boat

The World Schooler

Homeschooling has a very cool cousin and that cousin is getting more and more popular. World schooling is becoming quite a trendy way to experience all the benefits of homeschooling and take them on the road. Parents who choose this way of life to take care of their own travel addiction tend to have tons of work flexibility and dedicate this time to not only classical education topics but also to soft skills that create worldly humans.

The Digital Nomad

For the ultimate travel experience, digital nomads craft their careers into portable jobs that compliment their travel addiction. It’s like winning the trifecta when DNs find a career, a companion, and a course that allow them to wander around the world experiencing as much as they can.

While some DNs have a home base, many live a minimalist lifestyle and prioritize their commitment to travel. Some people take years to arrange the perfect exit strategy from society norms. They often sell off everything they own, take on side hustles, and save like maniacs to get themselves started.

MacBook Pro on brown wooden table inside room

What Do Addicts Do To Make Travel Work For Them?

In the end, we addicts are addicted to the people and experiences that we find while we travel. So what do we do to make travel work for us? A few things come to mind.

  • Learn a little. Travelers learn a few words and get a hold on the cursory history of their next destination.
  • Do stuff. Travelers favor doing over just looking at things from a distance.
  • Eat slow food! Travelers avoid major chains and frequent mom and pop shops.
  • Balance. Travelers make it a priority to balance great icons and hidden gems.
  • Think responsibly. Contrary to popular belief, travelers are some of the first to think about hot topics like waste, and carbon footprints.
  • Communicate. Travelers use international words like photo instead of picture and toilet instead of restroom.
  • Enjoy downtime. Travelers enjoy talking, well, travel. They enjoy watching and listening to travel. They play games with their kids to enjoy even more travel. to expand their horizons or quench their thirst until the next trip.