The Wanderlust Gene


Are you a wanderer? A dreamer? Do you feel wanderlust crawling through your veins whenever you see a photo of an exotic new location?

If so, you have your great-great-great-great grandfather to blame.

Seriously. I mean, think about his epic journey:

Our ancestors took an 80,000-year journey beginning in Africa, spreading through the Middle East and Europe, stretching through the rest of Asia and then they trekked through freaking mountain glaciers to reach the Americas (this according to a number of recent studies of human fossils, tools and geological records mapping out the history of our ancestors’ migration).

I told you, your great-great-great-great grandpa was a badass.

But what could drive your great-great-great-great grandpa to do such a thing? Why would someone risk their lives, their families or their cattle to cross glaciers, hike across mountains, confront wild beasts, and venture into the complete unknown?

Remember, they had no clue what dangers they might encounter! There was no such thing as a map or a compass. For all they knew, they were wandering into the abyss at the end of the world.

Why would they do that? More importantly, what can it teach us about who we are today?



Kings and Magellans

I believe there are two kinds of people in the world: Kings and Magellans.

Magellans, like the man who first circumnavigated the globe, are pioneers, adventurers, explorers, rebels, innovators, entrepreneurs, the starters of the new. These are the nomads, those who in prehistoric times decided that the land in which they resided was insufficient, inadequate or unsustainable, deciding instead to risk it all to venture onto the unknown.

Kings (or Queens), on the other hand, are the ones who stay behind and nurture. Historically, they became the rulers, the settlers, the organizers, the nurturers, farmers, conservationists, and keepers of the sacred. From settlements they built societies, from wilderness they made homes.

Kings were the ones who, as soon as the Magellans left onto their next quest, took it upon themselves to ensure that what good had been created was not destroyed. They created safety procedures, efficiency clauses, institutional practices and historical records. Kings don’t have a big appetite for risk. Instead, they overflow with a nurturing instinct, a desire to care for the good that exists, to leave it as good or better for future generations. They write down knowledge, foster culture, and keep tradition alive.

Magellans discover, Kings nurture. Magellans innovate, Kings perpetuate.

But Kings and Magellans aren’t just a thing of the past. In fact, Kings and Magellans have always coexisted—and they’re very much a dynamic of today’s society.


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The Wanderlust Gene

Recent research suggests there’s more to this than simple conjecture. The answer, in fact, seems to be found in our genes. Specifically, gene DRD4-7R, also known as “the Wanderlust Gene.”

If you carry the Wanderlust Gene, you’re more likely to be a Magellan. If you don’t, you might be a King. So, how can you know if you’re a King or a Magellan?

If you see photos and videos on social media of people taking risk, traveling to beautiful, exotic destinations, undertaking extreme sports, and your heart aches to go… you are most likely a Magellan. You have the Wanderlust Gene.

Us Magellans read tales of unexplored lands, divergent cultures, dangerous roads, strange languages, and we feel more than fascination—we feel longing. Today, Magellans can be seen taking risks, starting new ventures, jumping off of cliffs, becoming serial entrepreneurs, traveling without a map. Magellans have an innate desire for the new, a burning internal desire to explore, to adventure, to risk, to stretch. In turn, they are hard to keep confined. Risk is its own reward. When the the adventure bug bites, the itch must be scratched. Risk be damned, Magellans need to go.

If the sound of this scares you, you might be a King or Queen. Your dreams and aspirations don’t necessarily include an appetite for risk, complete randomness, or breaking convention. It’s not to say that Kings can't enjoy travel, or that they can’t withstand risk. It’s just that happiness for Kings is more likely to be in the familiar and the cozy. And while they understand the value of discomfort, they don’t necessarily seek it.

As always, nuances exist. The truth is it’s possible to be a bit of both. In fact, I might posit that ‘modes' are necessary for anyone’s wellbeing and full growth as a human being. Over the long term, there’s a chance most of us might be both King and Magellan at different times, morphing from one to another at growing stages of our lives—a Magellan in youth, a King in maturity, for instance.

But there is likely a dominant side to you. And you probably know deep inside which one that is. You feel it. You can tell by your reaction and appetite for risk.

More importantly, both Kings and Magellans can learn much from each other, and both can acquire the positive traits they admire in each other.

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Your Genetic Destiny

Even though we’ve been born a King or Magellan, it’s important to remind ourselves once more: it’s not “better” to be King or Magellan. It’s simply an evolved trait. A genetic predisposition. A phenomenon of evolution.

And why would evolution do this? It’s nature balancing itself out. Nature and society need both Kings and Magellans to function properly. If we were all Magellans, there would be no fixed rules, no stability, no risk management. The world would constantly be on the border of chaos. If we were all Kings, there would be rampant stagnation, excessive bureaucracy, and too much comfort for our own good. The world would progress at a snail’s pace.

You can see this push-and-pull dynamic manifest itself everywhere in the modern world: swings in liberal or conservative politics, bull and bear markets, even family dynamics at Thanksgiving. You can probably think of a few Magellans and a few Kings in your life.

So here’s the vital question: What about you? Are you a King or a Magellan?

Do you have "the Wanderlust Gene”? Do you feel a deep desire to explore, to adventure, to risk? Or is slow-and-steady more your pace? Either way, discover which one you are, and pursue it with courage!

Regardless of whether it’s embarking on an epic journey or basking in the comforts of home, just remember: You will feel most alive when you are being true to yourself. You will be happiest when you are living your genetic destiny.

In any case, I’d love to know… which are you? Why? And what are you doing about it? Leave a comment below!



All photos and content are copyright of Rolando Archila.