Do The Childfree Have a Distinct Wanderlust?

Any childfree person should know about sociologist Jean Veevers. She was a pioneer in the study of the childfree, or “voluntary childlessness” as it was called back then. Even in the 70s, she was writing about how the voluntary childless was a “neglected area of study.” Check out some of what she did find in her research. 

Childfree readers out there, does this describe you?

She found that the childfree have more of a value on:

-having new experiences,

-seeing new places,

-feeling new sensations,

-meeting new people,

-traveling to new places,

-accomplishing goals, and

-taking on new personal challenges

In their book, The Parent Test, (an excellent work from 1978 that needs to be resurrected!) authors Ellen Peck and William Granzig, speak to Veevers’ findings, and describe the childfree as having a kind of flexibility that is based on a “certain restlessness,” “taste for freedom” and “continual novelty.”

They say that the “determined childfree, according to all evidence, have a distinct wanderlust.  Peck and Granzig sum up the idea by writing, “Almost everybody gives some lip service to wanting an adventurous life. Almost everybody talks at one time or another of sailing off around the world. But when a childfree couple talks like that they seem to mean it—in fact, they are apt to be looking at boats!”

To the childfree reading this, do you resonate with the concept of wanderlust when you think of yourself?

Me—I have to say yes. I’d put a check beside all of the items above. In fact, the wanderluster in me is hitting the road later this year to Brazil and Argentina!

In talking to hundreds of childfree over the years, though, I would not say most would likely describe themselves as having “distinct wanderlust.” Most however, do speak to valuing their personal development and wanting the opportunity to follow life goals that are important to them. And those goals span a very wide range.

The idea of wanderlust can dovetail into the stereotype that the childfree don’t want to “grow up” or take on the responsibilities of adulthood.  The childfree know that this is a myth; we have adult responsibilities like anyone else. We are just as apt to take charge of our lives as those who decide to raise children as part of their lives.

Veevers identified these characteristics of the childfree around 40 years ago….what do you think? Are they true for you? Of the childfree today, in general, your opinion?

26 thoughts on “Do The Childfree Have a Distinct Wanderlust?

  1. Wow. This is very wild. I hadn’t ever looked at myself through these eyes. However, my husband and I travel ALL the time. (Well, not all, but much more than most of our friends.) He probably suffers from wanderlust much more than I do. (I miss my fur kids too much.) However, we do fit the above and can relate to those checks. And why I said “wow” is because when you put it in perspective this list was created nearly 40 years ago…wow. Interesting and enduring findings! Another super interesting post, Laura!

  2. I’m a very quite person and just want a simple quite life actually. And I HATE both travelling and meeting new people. I do value my freedom and want to be able to to stuff I enjoy and I do enjoy new experiences. But at the end of the day I just want to be at home and relax with my husband without kids running around screaming. And I really need my sleep and my me-time to be able to function properly let alone take care of another human being… So no, kids would be the wrong thing to do for me, and the scary thing is that I almost fell for the pressure… That would have be scary!!

  3. Sorry, Laura, that list does not apply to me. I place a greater value on peace and quiet, personal freedom, and having more money to have been able to retire in 2008 at age 45. I am not a very outgoing or adventurous person and I don’t really like to travel.

    1. No need to be sorry! I am am just very curious how the research from years ago really relates to the childfree today. I suspect that that research is skewed and stereotyped in some ways, and would love to be able to research it further with the childfree today. Until then, informal surveys like this are interesting!

  4. This completely describes me! I relate to all of those things! I hate being tied down and get bored living in one place too long. That is spot on for me!

  5. I agree with deegee and Artimis. I am childfree for 3 reasons (in no order): 1, peace and the need for sleep; 2, A responsibility to the planet not to contribute to overpopulation, famine and global warming; 3, I don’t believe I’d be a good parent. The advantage of being able to do what I want, when I want, with my disposable income is a very welcome byproduct 🙂

  6. None of those characteristics describe me or my husband. I’m not an ambitious or adventurous person at all, hate traveling and very much a homebody, not at all sociable. For me, one of the greatest things about being CF is that it’s just me and my husband and I get plenty of time alone with the house all to myself. I very much enjoy a very simple life with lots of quiet time (and lots of sleep)! To me, the lives of parents always look so busy and hectic, like there is no time to just be.

    1. Would love to hear from others who are reading this…seems there could be those that resonate with Veevers work and there is a whole other personality “cluster” of those who don’t want to be parents. I have to say that in interviews and in talking to lots of childfree over the years, I see that we that we are a heterogeneous group with all kinds of personalities. However, like my previous post re divorce, there is nothing like good research. Very lacking int he childfree area on lots of fronts. Maybe the intersection of those who resonate with Veevers and those who do not is the experiences of independence and freedom (to create the lifesyle that suits us most–parenthood creates a lifestyle for us!)—thoughts always welcome~

  7. My first reaction to the list of characteristics was to think it was way too vague. “What a silly article! Doesn’t EVERYONE want these things? That’s just being human!” But, when I thought about it more, I realized they do not describe everyone, and the more I thought about it the more I realized it doesn’t fully describe me either.

    I’m a home-body who has always dreamed of travelling but not so much that I do it very often. I’m an introvert not very interested in meeting new people, sometimes not even meeting with people I already know and like!

    I think the ‘learning new things’ and ‘taking on personal challenges’ are more common among childfree people. Those seem to be the broader categories. Some people do these things by going to new places and meeting new people, while others do these things by devouring many different books and doing projects at home.

    1. Yes, the research I read about was described generally–tried to find the exact research on the internet and have not to date–it is from awhile ago! But thought thematically it could be an interesting question to ask of th childfree today. I like your thinking re the childfree tend to like learning new things, and taking on personal challenges, and given their personal styles, just do it in different ways…

  8. Very much have a case of the wanderlust! I spend all my non-work time volunteering or working on ‘projects’ and then reward myself with money in my travel savings fund! 🙂

    The website I’ve linked is a co-authored childfree blog. Enjoy!

  9. I also think the childfree are a very heterogeneous group. I also think that maybe traveling for some may be traveling intellectually through books, gardening, other ways of seeing new things and places. Those of us willing to answer questionnaires (and blog comments) about their personal business are a different kettle of fish from those who are more careful with their privacy. Because I like my travels to be comfortable ones I haven’t thought of myself as having that wanderlust but once upon a time I did want to see the whole world before I changed my mind.

    1. Brenda, I ofen wonder if we could get into the minds of the childfree who volunteer to answer questionnaires and be in research, don’t cruise and participate on the internet, how it could compare to those who do. Unfortunately even witn research in which the sample was identified from those who volunteer on the internet will technically always skew the sample bit. But I’ll take it! We have to gather info in ways we can and discuss with appropriate caveats…

  10. I love travelling, also if I prefer a little comfort, and I love to do also some one day-excursions. I live in Piedmont, Italy and I have near both mountains and seaside, and a lot of artistic and cultural places.
    I also love to have time to read, visit museums, attend cultural events, go to the cinema. I’m a creative, and I couldn’t do a awful job because I have to give food to one child.

  11. I think a person either has wanderlust or they don’t. Having children doesn’t extinguish it. It merely leaves the parent to either incorporate the children in some way that could be vey exciting and fulfilling for the children once they’re old enough, neglect the children and wander anyway, or spend 20 years resenting the children for limiting their options.

    I have met quite a few people who think that having children is an experience that one simply “must have”, just for the novelty alone, or because they think it makes you a better person. If that’s not novelty-seeking or valuing one’s own personal growth — with the consequence of CREATING A WHOLE NEW HUMAN BEING — I don’t know what is.

    1. Michigoose, your excellent point about how people can have wanderlust even if they are parents brings to mind a dear friend of mine. She definitely has the travel bug and had always wanted to be a mother. Once her kids got old enough she took them on the road, and the kids had different reactions to this. Her need for novelty and stimulation did not really match where her kids were at, but in the bigger picture, exposing them to the larger world has been a very good thing.

      And agreed–creating a new person as way to fulfill novelty seeking and personal growth is a Big way to go about it….!

  12. I am just now finding this blog – how fantastic.

    I am a writer with hard core wanderlust; I live out of the U.S. now, have never settled and maybe at some point will. But at 38 (and married) I have been struggling with the decision whether to have a child and a therapist is helping me work it out. The desire to move again and again keeps coming up. My husband is younger than I am, also a writer and really focused on moving around (he doesn’t want to have kids either, but it’s hard to trust him because of his age and I worry that he will feel differently in a few years). If we choose to remain childless it’s important to us that this wanderlust translates into something meaningful, not mere restlessness.

    Re. Michigoose’s comment: I too imagine it would be fun for kids to travel with their excitement-seeking parents. I do recall Pres. Obama in his book wrote about how his mother’s free-spiritedness affected him as a kid. It sounded hard. I have also had interesting interactions with gypsies and circus performers who move around everywhere in big family groups and it looked like great fun.

    1. Jennie, Welcome! I agree there is a difference between wanderlust and restlessness. What can drive the latter– seeking the answers to life question (s) we just can’t see to find the answer to — our culture tells us that the answer to the life fulfillment question is parenthood. We really need to shift that mindset to what is true — it can be One way to find fulfillment; it is not The way for all. Rather than expect kids to deliver fulfillment, better for one to figure out what gives him/her real meaning in life and how kids will/won’t fit into that picture before ever having them….

  13. Amen Laura! Your site and my ongoing work with a counselor gave me the courage to tell my mother today that I was very seriously leaning toward not having kids, after months of lying to her and my sister that I am “trying.” She was very nice about it (heartbroken as she probably is). She said, “If you do, I’m retired and can help. If you don’t, I’m retired and can travel.”

    1. Good for you!! And good for your mom, who sounds like she is respecting your decision, and can see a bennie in you not having them….possible travel with you!

  14. I’ve never cared much for travelling. I just like to come home to my quiet home at the end of the day and put my feet up. I also think there’s nothing wrong with spending Friday or Saturday night at home eating take out pizza and watching videos or playing on the computer. Not all CF people fit any particular profile.

  15. My husband and I love to travel (though we haven’t done as much as as we would have liked so far). It is so exciting to see new places, natural environments and cultures. I think it is incredibly enriching and expands ones view of the world. We also don’t like to go to resorts (which feels like a fake micro-environment), but to really experience the local place. We also like to just get up and go as see where the adventure will take us. Our decision to not have children will definitely increase our traveling in life!

  16. I definitely have the inclination to travel to exotic and sometimes dangerous places that would be inappropriate or inhospitable to families with small children. I’ve been all over the Middle East, North Africa and Central America and want to explore some more. 🙂

    But my “wanderlust” also translates into the desire not to be beholden to a certain places or certain schedules. For example, I don’t want to have to make mortgage payments on a home. If I ever have enough money to buy one outright, that might be different. But I want to be able to pull up stakes if need be should I need to do so for my career or personal life.

    Life is filled with petty administrative detail. Most people have to get up in the morning and go to work even if they don’t have children. They’re limited as to the vacation time they can take. Me? As a writer, I have deadlines. I didn’t get a vacation this year. We’re all on a “schedule.” We all have things that suck up our time, from paying bills to figuring out our taxes to getting the car fixed. Adding children to my life would increase that administrative detail exponentially, and my life would not be my life anymore — it would be someone else’s life.

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