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The Homeward Journey

Woo, hoo, here I come! Woo, hoo, back to you! There is no home like the one you've got, 'cause that home belongs to you!
Bolt, "Barking at the Moon"

Basically, a story where the main goal is to get home.

These stories begin with some sort of displacement: The child is separated from his parents, or the family moves and accidentally leaves the dog behind. This is The Call to Adventure. From there, the story essentially follows the long, winding journey of The Quest, except there's usually no evil wizard to fight at the end — once our heroes reach their destination, that's the end of their Hero's Journey. Tropes frequently seen in this type of story: The Wacky Wayside Tribe, the Travel Montage, Hitchhiker Heroes, Random Transportation (primarily in the case of science fiction or fantasy).

This differs from Home Sweet Home in that the focus here is on the journey to get back. Marty McFly wants to get back to his own time, but he stays in the same town the whole movie; Odysseus wants to get home, and he travels all over ancient Greece (and beyond) to get there. Structurally, the Homeward Journey is closer to The Quest than The Voyage and Return. It's common for works using this plot to be a Whole Plot Reference to The Odyssey.

In an open-ended series, this inevitably leads to Failure Is the Only Option, because Status Quo Is God; films and series with a definite arc are more forgiving.

Contrast Boring Return Journey.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Legion Lost: A handful of Legionnaires end up in an unknown region of space and try to find their way back.
  • One part of DC's 52 mini-series follows Adam Strange, Starfire and Animal Man, who were stranded in an unknown galaxy at the end of Infinite Crisis. Before they can return to Earth, they have to ally with some questionable folks and survive dangerous encounters.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Brave Little Toaster: Five appliances travel from country to city to find their old master.
  • Bolt: A dog from Hollywood is accidentally transported to New York and has to make his way back to find his "person." Are you sensing a theme, yet?
  • The Land Before Time: A team of young dinosaurs, separated from their families, go on a long trek through hostile land to get to the Great Valley.
  • Madagascar: A group of zoo animals from New York find themselves stranded in Madagascar and spend at least three movies trying to get home.
  • The Pagemaster is about Richard just trying to leave the library and go home.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • The Odyssey: Ur Example and Trope Maker.
    • Although in actual fact Odysseus returns to Ithaca at the beginning of Book 13 - halfway through the epic - and the first four books detail his son Telemachus's journey to find news of him, rather than Odysseus's journeys themselves. Which means that only a third of the poem - eight out of twenty-four books - is a journey home story, the rest deals with the impact of his absence on his family and his quest to regain his position as king and dispose of the suitors in the palace.
  • Also a lost epic, the Returns, which deals with the journeys home of other important Achaeans.
  • The Anabasis by Xenophon
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice. While being beset by random shifts into Alternate Universes, Alexander Hergensheimer tries desperately to get home to his home state of Kansas.
  • Jack Vance's The Eyes of the Overworld starts with the, er, "hero", Cugel falling foul of the wizard Iconnu and being flown thousands of miles northward by a demon to a desolate beach. The core of the story is his quest to return home. Painfully, Cugel muffs the final confrontation and while trying to target Iconnu for the same fate manages to get himself send right back to the beach, mere feet from where it all began. Getting home again is the meat of the next book, a Surprisingly Improved Sequel.
  • The Bible: The Book of Exodus: the return of the Exiles, and the parable of The Prodigal Son.
  • Arabian Nights: Sindbad does this seven times.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's The Homeward Bounders. The main character, Jamie, witnesses somethings playing what look like a wargame... except the game they're playing is only a representation. They're actually playing the game with his world as a board, and people as pieces. So They exile him to wander through different worlds, with the proviso that once he finds his home, he no longer has to keep wandering. Or at least, this is the plot for the first 3/4s of the book... then Jamie discovers that because time moves oddly on different worlds, his world has moved on and his home no longer exists.
  • In Ribsy, a Beverly Cleary book, Henry Huggins's dog gets into the wrong family's car in a mall parking lot and has to find his way home.
  • Moonrise in the Warrior Cats series. The journey to the sea was hard, but the journey home is just as dangerous (In fact, one of them didn't make it back.)
  • The Incredible Journey has it right there in the title. It's about three pets, a cat and two dogs, crossing the Canadian wilderness to get home.
  • Primo Levi's The Truce, which details the author's journey home to Italy after surviving Auschwitz. Not such a simple task with the Cold War looming and anti-Semitic sentiment still running high in much of Eastern Europe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the ship gets flung about 70,000 lightyears from home and spends the rest of the show trying to get home. It's something of a running gag in fandom that the crew passes up numerous habitable settlements or technological/supernatural shortcuts that would violate their code of conduct (thus earning the fan nickname of U.S.S. Minnow). They managed to reestablish contact with Earth in later seasons, and used a Portal Network built by the Borg to return home in the series finale. Parodied in Doug Walker's improv theme lyrics:
    "We have no idea where we are, we're fucked
    Don't trust Starfleet GPS's, they suck"
  • The overriding theme of Battlestar Galactica (both versions) is this trope, though they're not heading for a home they know. Humanity is looking for its lost brothers and sisters, or at least a place to call home.
  • Farscape's John Crichton fell through a wormhole which deposited him on the other side of space, and is investigating ways of reversing the process. Much like Voyager there are a few false starts (Lotus Eater Machines, time travel and so forth). John does eventually get back home, but realizes that Earth's defenses are totally outmatched by other space-faring races. After leaving behind some technical specs for mankind to study, he closes the pathway to earth and returns to his new family in space.
  • Land of the Lost (both TV series).
  • H.R. Pufnstuf.
  • Lidsville.
  • Several epiosdes of The Prisoner.
  • Quantum Leap has this Opening Narration:
    "... And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap... will be the leap home."
  • Sliders started out with this as the premise: Four people jumping from alternate Earth to alternate Earth at random, trying to survive (and maybe leave things better than they found them) until the next slide. This lost focus in later episodes when villains were discovered that could jump Earths as well, meaning if they did manage to find the right world, it wouldn't be safe unless the threat could be sufficiently dealt with.
  • Lost in Space
  • Stargate Universe sends a large crew through a Stargate onto an Ancient spaceship in another galaxy with no way to get home. Though partially subverted by the fact that they could Body Swap with people back on Earth.
  • The Time Tunnel. The two scientists tumbling helplessly through time, with their Mission Control using the title device to try to bring them back to the present.
  • The Fantastic Journey. A group of travellers use portals from one dimension to the next hoping to find the one that leads home. With only 10 episodes, they never got home.

    Video Games 
  • Homeworld centers on the revelation that your race's current world, Kharak, was not the planet you came from, and your efforts to try and reach your original planet, Hiigara. The fact that Kharak is razed a few missions in, killing everyone on it and meaning You Can't Go Home Again, sort of forces the issue.
  • BIT.TRIP Flux has that as one of the main themes.
  • One of the scenarios in Elite Beat Agents features a lost dog trying to get back to his owner.

    Web Comics 
  • In Beyond Reality, Orion and Laura are traveling through worlds to get home.
  • Digger wants to go home, but doesn't have much of an idea how to go about it, and more pressing matters keep coming up. We never do find out if she gets home, as the comic ends right before she leaves town with the merchant, but given her tenacity it's a safe bet she does.
  • Sluggy Freelance uses this trope a lot, given its love affair with Trapped in Another World stories.
  • Para-Ten

    Web Original 
  • Naka Teleeli's ongoing Minecraft: Journey Home series of vids, which focuses on him trying to get back home after the events of the Minecraft Survival Let's Play.

    Western Animation 
  • ReBoot. Enzo and AndrAIa spend a decent chunk of the third season "Game Hopping" from system to system and traveling through the web to find Mainframe.
  • Dungeons & Dragons deals with this after the main characters take a roller coaster ride and find themselves trapped in "the world of Dungeons and Dragons". They eventually do make it back, but while the final episode was scripted, it was never actually made.


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