"Is anything better than finally finding your way home? Is anything worse than finally reaching home, and finding that you're still lost?"
For some reason or another, one of the main characters is displaced from their home — be it in the sense of homeland, home planet, home universe, or literal house — and unable to return. Often, their attempts to return form a key plotline or focal point of the series, but since Status Quo Is God
, Failure Is the Only Option
until the Grand Finale
. If the reason why they can't return is because of a Doomed Hometown
, then their quest is often Revenge
or a new place to stay
. Sometimes they'll finally return Where It All Began
to challenge the force that kept them away for so long.
This is often seen alongside Fish out of Water
, and tends to result in Walking the Earth
or a Wagon Train to the Stars
. Trapped in Another World
usually entails this (so most examples of that trope are equally valid for this one). When this trope is applied to the entire human race
, it's Earth That Was
Contrast Stranger in a Familiar Land
, where you can
go home, but you no longer fit in. If you can go home but are banned from doing so, you're Persona Non Grata
. Also contrast I Choose to Stay
. Compare The Call Knows Where You Live
. When this happens, some people may choose to Start A New Life
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- This trope is the premise of the story of the Silver Surfer. After sacrificing himself to become a slave to a supernatural godlike destroyer of worlds (to save his own homeworld, of course), the hero's memory is taken from him AND his homeworld gets displaced. After he (very quickly into the story) regains his memories, the rest of the plot is largely about finding his home planet again.
- Occurs to mutant alligator Leatherhead in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after he is inadvertently left behind on Earth by the escaping Utroms; several stories involve him unsuccessfully trying to reach the Utrom homeworld.
- This is the premise of the Legion of Super-Heroes story Legion Lost. A group of Legionnaires find themselves galaxies away from Earth in a thrashed starbase.
- Alan Moore wrote a Time Twister for 2000 AD centered around a character, Sideways Scuttleton, who can travel to alternate universes by "wiggling his back in a certain way." Unfortunately, he didn't count on his back going out in his later years, making it difficult to him to return to his own universe. The story is also possibly a subversion because when he asks someone for bus fare in a dimension that he's pretty certain is his own, the man produces the British £1 coin which upsets Scuttleton because in his dimension people use paper notes instead of coins; however, the story was written shortly after such coins were first introduced in 1983, and Scuttleton very well may have stumbled into his home dimension without fully realizing it.
- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck combines this with Stranger in a Familiar Land. Having spent most of his teen and adult life abroad, Scrooge has a great deal of trouble fitting in with the traditional Scottish people. He decides to begin a new life in America, this time bringing his sisters along for the ride.
- Used as the in-story reason for Static joining the Teen Titans. He was worried that his family believed him to be dead due to the months he spent in captivity, so he stayed with the Titans for a while until he could work up the nerve to return home and confront his parents.
- When Power Girl finally had her back story settled during Infinite Crisis it was decided that she still came from the alternate universe of Earth-2 which had been destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Under Geoff Johns run Karen struggled with being the sole survivor of an entire universe, until she was seemingly sent back to Earth-2 by the being called Gog. The residents of Earth-2 believed theirs was the only Earth that survived the first Crisis, until it was discovered that this Earth-2 was a brand new version with a copy of Power Girl already living in it. Karen was then hunted down like a criminal because her copy believed she was an impostor who had something to do with the disappearance of Superman.
- In Rorschach In Equestria, Rorschach is sent to Equestria by Dr. Manhattan, with no way back. Turns out Dr. Manhattan had to kill him in the Watchmenverse in order to make that happen.
- In Stars Above, Homura's trip from her own time and universe was one-way. Even with her powers, it took a significant boost from another Puella Magi to go back six years, and there's no way to do it again.
- Happens to Nanoha in Game Theory when she joins Precia, since she can't return home without being captured by the TSAB.
- In Sophistication And Betrayal, the protagonist ends up permanently stuck in Equestria after efforts to send him back home fail, resulting in the spell unable to be cast on him again without killing him in the process.
- People's responses to this discovery in Pokeumans have varied, but much angst and personal drama has been caused over this issue.
- In Raven Child's The Smurfette Village series, the Smurfettes lose their village to a volcanic eruption in the second story, then ten surviving Smurfs in the third story lose their home in the Smurf Village due to a Synthetic Plague.
Films — Animated
- An American Tail : The reason the Mousekewitz family emigrates to America is because the Cossacks burned their village to the ground.
- In Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Alex and his friends finally make it back to the Central Park Zoo in New York City, only to realize that they have grown to prefer being free after all.
Films — Live-Action
- The Deep Imaskari race in the Dungeons & Dragons Underdark setting live in a Hidden Elf Village. If anyone decides to leave, they automatically have the location of their home erased from their memory so that in the (highly likely) chance they are captured by something evil that can read minds, they will be unable to divulge the secret location.
- Elminster Aumar of the Forgotten Realms. At the start of his book series a magelord on a dragon burns down his home village to assassinate his father, a prince of Athalantar who had abdicated. About a century later, an orc horde destroyed the entire kingdom. The present day city of Secomber is built on its capital's ruins.
- The odds of a member of the Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000 making it to retirement age are pretty low, considering that the Imperium is almost continuously at war with some if not all of its neighbors (And quite frequently itself). Those that make it are generally discharged on the planet they happen to be on when they retire, and their retirement package does not include a ticket back to their home planet (which could be thousands of light years away, depending on what events happened during their deployment). As such, there is a very good chance that anyone who enlists in a Guard regiment will never return to their home planet, let alone their home town, ever again.
- Indeed, the lucky ones instead get a commission and land on the planet of the world they conquered latest, and become essentially landed gentry in that world.
- Parodied in MegaTokyo, where Piro and Largo end up in Japan without any money to buy a ticket back home. They get several opportunities to fix this, yet for whatever reason, they never actually go back home.
- MegaTokyo is an interesting case indeed... With the plot and Character Development going the way it is, it seems that Piro and Largo feel too tied up in the personal lives of all the people they've interacted with. As such, even if they were offered a fool-proof method to return to America, neither would likely take it.
- One scene with Meimi and Junpei implies that they may end up being forced out of Japan at some point. Until then...
- This trope is the premise of Dumm Comics Earthward-Ho!.
- Tower of God: Urek Mazino followed Phantaminum in to the Tower, but he discovered he could not get out of it anymore.
- Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger: It's impossible, really, to acclimatize to a world which has changed over a decade while you had three months.
- In The Order of the Stick, it is foretold that Durkon will return to his homeland—posthumously. However, he's actually happy to learn this because he'd much rather be buried with his ancestors than to die somewhere else.
- Of course, he doesn't know the real reason he was sent away from his home in the first place: it's prophecized that when he returns, it will result in the land's destruction.
- Then there's Vaarsuvius, whose quest for power cost V's marriage and nearly the lives of spouse and children.
- A minor plot point in Homestuck and partially a source of angst in the first parts of the story. The kids get over it fairly quickly though. The reason they can't go home is because Earth is a desolate wasteland and they're the sole survivors of mankind.
- Zeetha from Girl Genius doesn't know where her tribe is from. Everyone who was involved in her journey to Europa ended up dead one way or another.
- A plot arc in At Arm's Length allowed for the introduction of a new character, one that was in their Character contest back in 2012. This character appeared in a flash of light, and apparently is from another reality. Sadly, nobody knows how he got there, or if they will be able to send him back.
- In Freefall, Sam Starfall is prohibited from returning to his home world, due to his acquiring knowledge of technology far above the approximately "Steam Age" technology level there.