Travel genetics – how your parents influence your love of travel

I often think about how I got so addicted to travelling. (Because let’s face it – life would be a lot cheaper and easier without travel – although a whole lot more boring, too!)

As with pretty much any tricky thing in life, I think a common strategy is to blame your parents. And I think I can accurately blame my parents for encouraging my love of travel. I grew up hearing tales of their own explorations of the world – my Dad had worked in Papua New Guinea for several years, my Mum had explored the east coast of Australia as a teen, working her way from state to state. Then they took my sister and I out of school for six months and drove us all over Europe, when I was nine. I was hooked.

Travel genetics

When I ask my mother about what made them take that huge trip to Europe – it was a financial stretch, and most certainly a huge comfort zone stretch, especially in those pre-internet days – she tells me that she thought my sister and I would travel a lot when we were older, and she wanted to have seen it, so she’d know where we were. Of course, she turned out to be right, but mostly because she took me there in the first place – a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I think!

Does everyone who loves travel have the same travel genetics as me?

Anyway, I wondered if all my fellow travel-lovers were made that way by their parents. Actually, I suspected that what I decided to call your travel genetics was the key and that if I asked other keen travellers they would say yes, their parents had taught them to love travel.

It turned out I was sometimes right but not actually all that right. Most of the people I asked (in a very unscientific poll of friends who love travelling) had a story to tell about how their parents got them into travelling; a few, quite significantly, didn’t. Let me elaborate.

Loving travel because parents travelled for work

The first thing that struck me which I hadn’t really expected – although it has parallels to me hearing stories about PNG from my Dad – is that some travel lovers learnt to love travel by watching a parent travel a lot for work. (Most parents who have to travel a lot complain they’re away from their family – yet these ones were teaching them something very valuable!)

I met Lola Akinmade-Akerström of Geotraveler’s Niche fame (and one of those people who is good at both words and pictures) online some years back and the fact that we both really like travel is surely reflected in the fact that although she lives in Sweden and I live in Australia, we both happened to be in Dublin on the same day last year, purely coincidentally, and we got to meet up in person. Lola told me that it was her father’s work that first sparked her interest in travel:

My father’s job fascinated me. As a geologist, it seemed he was always off to some place exciting. Whether on helicopters circling volcanos or visiting offshore rigs in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the sense of adventure and wanderlust which his career gave off intrigued me. It started my love affair with geography and the geosciences.

My first trip out of Nigeria was taken before my first birthday to the United Kingdom and the United States. And throughout my childhood, we’d take family vacations abroad in lieu of amassing material possessions or spending on things we considered frivolous displays. That spirit of exploration was instilled in me at a very young age; one that chose a life of exploring the world around me despite all odds. I knew that travel – a lot of it – would be in my future.

Even when other career paths tried to derail me, I knew my calling had to do with travel. Today, I work as a travel writer and photographer whose has explored many countries (50+, maybe 60+ – I stopped counting) and who has dragged her 2-year old daughter along to roughly 15 countries or so as well.

Travel genetics - Lola Akinmade

Lola Akinmade-Akerstrom is continuing to pass a love of travel down through the generations

And then there’s my gorgeous travel-blogging friend Jo Castro of Zigazag, who not only travels widely but has lived in nearly a dozen different countries. It was perhaps less that her parents loved to travel and more that they had to, but it certainly had an effect:

As a child we didn’t travel from country to country but rather from English county to county. Due to my father’s job we moved houses a lot, and I went to 9 different schools, so not being permanent in any one place became a state of mind with which I was quite familiar. Given that we were a show jumping family, I also spent a good part of my childhood living in the back of a horsebox as we travelled around England from show to show.

So I suppose yes, the philosophy of travel as in being on the move and discovering new places was promoted by my parents as quite normal and became part of my psyche quite early on, although I do remember getting to the age of around 17 and declaring that I never wanted to travel out of Devonshire ever, least of all get on a plane or boat. Ironically these were prophetic words – Not! Here I am finally in Australia … 11 countries later 😉

Travel genetics - Jo Castro

Jo Castro in her younger years as she learnt to love travel on the show jumping circuit in England

The opposite – loving travel despite parents who didn’t travel much

So. Then there were the people who totally wrecked my hypothesis! But that’s okay, that’s why I asked, I guess. For example, Mike Richard of Vagabondish, who approached me to write for his site years ago; we’ve been friends ever since because we have a mutual love of travel. He shocked me by having virtually no experience of travel as a child, even though now you can’t stop him:

My family didn’t travel much when I was growing up. “Vacation” typically meant semi-annual trips to Disney World and the occasional few days spent in Rhode Island to visit family for the holidays. My first foray outside the U.S. was a weekend trip with friends to Canada after graduating high school. That was Game Over for me! After 18 years, I finally had a small taste of the world outside my own country and I was hooked. So, in some sense, I believe it was that lack of travel experience that fueled my desire—my need—to step out and see the world.

Interesting point, isn’t it – that maybe it was the lack of travel experience that turned him into such a lover of travel. Nora Dunn of The Professional Hobo – whose love of train travel I can definitely vouch for, because she spent days on the train across Australia to Perth, stayed with me for less than 24 hours, then hopped on the train to head all the way back again – had something similar to say:

I traveled a bit with my parents growing up, taking the train to visit my grandparents 400 miles away (which fostered my evangelical love of long-distance train travel, about which I wrote a book), and often heading to Cape Cod for summer vacations. However I didn’t really get to experience world travel with them, and I don’t particularly attribute my current travel lifestyle to my upbringing.

Interestingly, it has almost worked the other way; since I started traveling full-time, my dad has taken numerous trips to Europe, and my mum has met me in various spots around the world, giving her the first chance in over 40 years to leave North America. Also, my own travel tips and habits seem to have worked their way into my parents’ travel agendas. For example, I’ve been traveling full-time with carry-on luggage only, and now when my parents travel, they do the same!

Travel genetics - Nora Dunn

Nora taking her mother travelling in Europe for the first time in decades

And finally: a travel lover with travel-loving parents

So out of everyone I asked, only Di Bortoletto of Travelletto really came through with the story I actually expected. Like me, her family loved to get out and about on whatever budget they could manage, and they all still love to travel today.

Growing up, we always travelled, and that’s how my love of adventure started. It was different sort of travel back then. Living on the east coast – first Melbourne and then Canberra, we were the opposite of a rich family, but that didn’t deter my parents. We were always packing up the car and going camping on weekends to different spots along the Victorian coast or south coast of NSW. We all loved it – everyone got to do what they wanted – dad spent his days fishing, usually with mum sunning herself beside him, my sister and I made friends with other kids in the caravan park and would spend our days swimming, running, playing and generally exhausting ourselves, happily. A simple dinner of fresh fish and salad was enjoyed under the stars before we snuggled into our sleeping bags and slept soundly in our tents.

Travel genetics - Di Bortoletto

Di Bortoletto’s parents inspired her love of travel and these days they meet up in exotic places around the world!

It wasn’t until I was 24 that I ventured overseas – straight to London and pretty much straight onto a Contiki tour with my sister and four friends. Now I’m in my (very early) forties and travel is very much a part of my DNA. I don’t want to go travelling, I need to go travelling. My husband, bless him, enjoys holidays but doesn’t understand that travel is my mental medicine. I need to know that next adventure is around the corner, that the next trip is booked or I start climbing the walls.

These days, I enjoy the freedom of travelling to far flung places with my intrepid parents, who incidentally joined the “SKIN” club (Spend Kid’s Inheritance Now) several years ago. We’ve met up in Rome, twice, in Lima (Peru), holidayed together in Umbria, Sicily, Buenos Aires, Margaret River (three times), and around the Coffs Coast of NSW. There’s talk of travelling through Egypt together and going to Greece next year.

My favourite line, because I agree just so much, is when Di says “I don’t want to go travelling, I need to go travelling.” Absolutely. I also love that, like Nora and like me, she gets to meet up with her parents in interesting places around the world.

So what are your travel genetics?

Do you love travelling because your parents did? Because they didn’t? My theory’s been blown totally apart anyway, so now I’m just plain curious. How much influence do our parents have on whether we take to the travelling life or not? All your thoughts in the comments, please!

And a big thanks to Lola, Nora, Mike, Jo and Di for their generous thoughts and gorgeous images.



  1. What a lovely and varied mix of responses. Like you I expected travel to be ‘in the genes’, but really nature and nurture both have their say in the end.

    • Thanks Jo – and I’m glad you had the same expectation as me, I wondered if I was just silly – maybe not. But it did turn out everyone comes to travel from different backgrounds. Which is good really – it makes me feel like I can convert anyone at all to be a travel-lover now!

  2. Lot of big names in here. I don’t think my love of travel came from my parents at all. Just evolved after a trip to Japan.

  3. What a great post Amanda. Really enjoyed reading everyone’s stories, and thinking about how my parentals influenced my love for travel. Sharing!

  4. My parents didn’t travel. We did a lot of family camping trips. I’m not sure where my love of travel came from but I always knew from a young age that I wanted to see things in this world. I suppose it was my parents who encouraged me to say yes to my first opportunity to travel (without them!) at the age of 14 and for that I am eternally grateful.

  5. When I was a child, a week long camping trip to a mountain lake was about as exotic as it got other than a still memorable trip to Disneyland when I was 13. I initially got introduced to International traveling while working for an airline. I took full advantage of my then quite affordable travel benefits in the 1970’s and literally a “whole new world” opened up for me. I have been addicted ever since.

    • Oh Joanne – working for an airline would definitely open up a whole lot of possibilities, you lucky thing! Of all the things we could be addicted to, I guess travel is one of the best options!

  6. We went on only two family vacations when I was growing up, one to Disneyworld and one to Puerto Rico. Neither of my parents have ever had a passport. I had one I never used until I was 32 years old, when my boyfriend at the time took me on my first overseas trip. Eight years and 34 countries later I’m hooked. And I agree that my parents lack of travel probably did influence me to want to see more. My father passed away at 43, and never left the U.S. Very sad.

    • Ah – so again the non-travelling parents can have a big influence after all – very interesting! Guess you are also very grateful for that boyfriend who took you on your first trip abroad – obviously quite life changing!

  7. I definitely blame my parents for my love of travel. They took me all around Australia before I turned two and took me and my brother on a 3 month Europe trip when I was 7. Then when I was 11 they took us to Austria for 3 months, and then Dublin for a year. A few years after that we all moved from Sydney to London where we have been for the past couple of years.
    Now that I truly have the travel bug, I start to get stir crazy after a couple of months if I haven’t been anywhere!

  8. Bhagwan Das Countryman says:

    So I can also blame my parents for my passion for travel , but neither they loved travelling nor they encourged me . I can blame them because they were/are never concerned to my whereabout and this gave me a time and opportunity to roam freely around india . Those travel expreinces and meeting some great people filled the void in my life so now travel is my life and all .

    • Aha – another different reason – great point, that being free of restrictions or expectations can definitely help you have the freedom to travel a lot and learn to love it.

  9. When I told my parents that I wanted to spend a year of high school abroad they looked at me like I had three heads. I was born wanting to travel – seriously, as a kid I used to beg my parents to move us abroad – but I have no idea where I got it from! Definitely not my parents. Fortunately, after I’d spent a couple years abroad, my parents came to visit and they finally understood my wanderlust. Now, we take road trips together whenever I go home to visit.

    Thanks for participating in the #MyGlobalLife Link-Up!

  10. Great post! I’ve often thought about this. Whilst my parents aren’t necessarily big travellers (not at all, really), they always encouraged me to explore other cultures and different ways of thinking, so I wonder if that was a catalyst for my love of travel.

  11. My parents didn’t travel at all. My mother lived briefly as an Army brat in France and my father completed a military stint in Korea. Neither one expressed an interest in traveling much again. My grandfather however had been among other things a merchant seaman. He spoke multiple languages and had travelled extensively which was not common for a black man of his day. I loved to hear his stories of adventures in far flung lands. I credit his experiences and reading a novel called Dove by Robin Lee Graham when I was a young teen as my inspirations to see the world. Mr. Graham’s solo sail around the world at age 16 provided glimpses of wonderful off-the-beaten path destinations that I longed to visit. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I was able to travel and have done so ever since. I’ve also lived in Mexico and West Africa.

    • Ah, yet another angle – the grandparent with wanderlust! Just goes to show that sometimes your grandparents have even more of an influence than your parents. Thanks for your comment!

  12. I love travel, my father only got the opportunity to travel during his national service and then again when he was much older.
    Have missed your blog posts recently as not updating in my blogroll!

    • Oh no LindyLou that’s no good! Funnily enough they dropped off my own feed reader when I had my site redesigned (even though the URL is the same). Hope you have got them coming back up now.

  13. babita thadari says:

    very nice post. actually I was searching for love for genetics and happened to see your post by chance, but it made me realise that yes I also have reasons to love travelling(although I’ve still not started travelling) because my patents don’t travel at all… this purely encourages me to explore the world, plus their conservative nature puts me to know more outside my city and my country.
    reading your post has boosten me up :p thanx 🙂

  14. Hey Amanda, I loved reading this. I’d say my love of travel is in my genes too. My dad moved to school in England on his own at about 14, having been born in Hong Kong and moved home to Holland via 6 months in Australia (in the 1940s) my grandfather travel the trans Siberian express on his own at about 17. When I was young we travelled to Europe for holidays and a dream of mine
    since I was about 11 was to live abroad for a period of time. Having said all of that, my husband had rarely travelled before he was in his twenties (and his parents never really did) but he now has the bug as bad as me!

    • Thanks Maddi. It sure sounds like travel was definitely destined to be something you loved! And I’m glad you have managed to bring your husband over to the dark side too!!!

  15. Charlotte says:

    i definitely get it from my mom. She was a military brat, then joined the military herself when I was 17. She’s been to so many amazing places, and I’ve even gone with her a couple of times. Thanks for an interesting read!

    • You’re welcome Charlotte! I reckon it works one of two ways if you grow up in a military family – you either travel all your life, or once you can you set down the strongest, deepest roots possible and never move again! Of course the former suits my way of thinking much more!

  16. Kristie Kelaher says:

    The comment “I need to go travelling” really hit the spot with me as I was reading and thinking…….that is so me! I hadn’t considered my parents journeys around the East Coast of Australia as ‘travel’ but now I see it in a different light. We would pack up every school holidays (and sometimes for longer) and travel somewhere…..anywhere it seemed, as we travelled far and wide across this area. The most memorable was several months spent driving to and boating out to Whitsunday Island, camping there on our own. It was considered quite an unusual thing to do back in the 80’s and my Father was viewed as a bit of an adventurer amongst his friends. My parents took me on my first trip o/s when I was 21, to Hawaii and although I didn’t do the usual live abroad gap type year, I worked and brought property so that I now can afford to travel regularly with my kids. They are now at the age that we are comfortable stretching beyond our comfort zones of Fiji and Thailand, so who knows what will be next????? My hubby just tags along for the ride!

    • Yes, it’s interesting to think back on how our parents introduced us to travel! Things have certainly changed so we sometimes don’t realise that they were also very adventurous (mine certainly were but in different ways to me). That’s great that you can do plenty of travelling with your kids too, enjoy! So good for them!

  17. My parents took me on a lot of trips within the U.S. and to Europe once when I was younger, but I don’t think those trips instilled a desire to travel. I was hardly interested in travel at all until we were given the opportunity to move to Germany. It kind of opened a window in my brain to all that was out there and what we were missing. I think that having positive traveling experiences and being given the opportunity to go travel made a huge difference to me, because now I really want to travel more. I haven’t really thought about it that much before, thanks for the perspective!

    • That’s so interesting, Ava – actually my sister is similar, obviously she had the same travel experiences as a kid that I did (although she was a bit younger, which might have made a difference), and it’s only recently she’s started to be more interested in travel (though not to the same level that I am!).

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