Wondering Why We Wander?

‘Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.’ –Zora Neale Hurston.

I would classify myself as someone that, in comparison to many, tends to ‘play it safe’. Seeking comfort in routine, I have rarely sought to feel the thrill of ‘breaking the rules’. Boring; I know. So when we speak of curiosity, discovery and research, my mind drifts not to exhilarating tales of youthful deviance- I have never felt the need to challenge the hotplate- but to travel.

As a teenager who rarely ventured beyond her backwater town in rural New South Wales, the thought of international travel was both daunting and thrilling. For years I have fostered a deep curiosity surrounding my family’s origins and the vast differences in culture around the world. However, at age seventeen, when I discussed my curiosity with those around me, I was shocked to discover that many of them had almost no desire to explore the world around them.

This week’s lecture led me to reminisce on the feelings of utter disbelief I felt as close friends revealed that they ‘didn’t really mind’ if they never left the state. Soon, not only was I curious about my own future travel, I was also questioning why others lacked that same desire. Perhaps my own curiosity was not as deeply ingrained as I first believed? As I began to research the matter my confusions were only echoed by expert researchers in the field. Curiosity theorists have struggled to locate the underlying cause of said curiosity; is it a primary or secondary drive (Edelman 1997)? Were my friends innately less prone to curiosity, or did I acquire mine from the outside factors surrounding me? If curiosity is a secondary drive researchers are left to question; from what more basic motive does it derive?

And so, my curiosity is yet to be satiated… now I’m left questioning, what is it that makes us so damn curious?


  • Hurston, Z. N. 1984. Dust tracks on a road: an autobiography. Urbana, University of Illinois Press.
  • Edelman, S. 1997. Curiosity and Exploration. Available online at: http://www.csun.edu/~vcpsy00h/students/explore.htm. (Accessed 2 March 2017)

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