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The Homeward Journey

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"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!"

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, the family moves and accidentally leaves the dog behind, or the hero winds up Trapped in Another World. 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 The 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. Another oft-stolen plot is the Anabasis, where a military unit is Trapped Behind Enemy Lines and has to fight and negotiate its way back home.

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.

Compare Going to See the Elephant, I Just Want to Be Free and It's the Journey That Counts. Contrast Boring Return Journey, where a return trip is so uneventful so as not to be shown.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Astra Lost in Space, which has its protagonists fly across the star system in an old abandoned ship to get back to their home planet, after their field trip goes awry.
  • Enchanted Journey follows a domesticated chipmunk named Glikko who escapes captivity and along with his friend Nono wants to journey over the mountains and through the wilderness to the enchanted forest where chipmunks live wild and free. A good chunk of the story is a Stern Chase involving a monstrous fox.
  • Ulysses 31, which is basically The Odyssey IN SPACE!. he Gods of Olympus are angered when Ulysses, commander of the giant spaceship Odyssey, kills the giant Cyclops to save a group of enslaved children, including his son. Zeus sentences Ulysses to travel the universe with his crew frozen until he finds the Kingdom of Hades, at which point his crew will be revived and he will be able to return to Earth.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: In Legion Lost, a handful of Legionnaires end up in an unknown region of space and try to find their way back.
  • The Phantom Zone: Superman and his friend Charlie have been stranded in a remote parallel dimension and must return home by traveling through several dimensions before General Zod and his band destroy Earth.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side parodied this with a grumpy old couple watching a trio of animals pass them by, with the woman remarking "Looks like another one of those stupid Incredible Journey things." Said trio of animals consist of a cow, a snake, and a squid.

    Fan Works 
  • In Lost Latte, Latte accidentally ends up far away from her friends and spends the story finding a way to get back to them.

    Film Animation 

    Film Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Milo and Otis: The adventures of a young cat and a dog as they find themselves accidentally separated and each swept into a hazardous trek.
  • Alpha (2018) is about a young tribesman in the Ice Age who, after being left for dead by his family and tribe, must make his way back home... making friends with a savage wolf and turning it into the world's first dog in the process.
  • Apollo 13: In 1970, the Apollo 13 was launched, headed for the moon. But this ill-fated flight would never reach its goal. Based on a True Story of the astronauts following their earth-bound counterparts' instructions in order to make it back from space alive in their crippled vessel.
  • A made-for-cable movie called Hecks Way Home is about a lost dog (named "Heck") who tries to find his way back home.
  • The Incredible Journey and its remake Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Two dogs and a cat travel through northern Ontario (in the former) or California (in the latter) to get back to their masters. The sequel has them journeying through San Francisco.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a modern day take on The Odyssey, following the struggles of (in this case) three escaped prisoners' long journey home.
  • Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird involves Big Bird walking back to Sesame Street after deciding he's not happy living with a bird family in Illinois.
  • Strays (2023) is about a Border Terrier who is abandoned by his abusive owner and goes on a trek back home to bite said owner's dick off in revenge.
  • The Warriors is about a Coney Island gang traveling through New York to get home while the entire city's street gangs are hunting for them. It's based loosely on Anabasis.
  • The Wizard of Oz: There is a big fight at the end between Dorothy and the Witch, but her goal at the start of the movie is to get back to Kansas, although it's not so much of a fight in the book.

  • In Lone Wolf, two of the books in the main series revolve around this plot:
    • In The Prisoners of Time, Lone Wolf is trapped in the the Daziarn and must find a way to return to his own world before the Darklords conquer it in his absence. Complicated by the fact that no one has ever escaped the Daziarn, because the Shadowgate connecting it and Magnamund is inactive on the Daziarn side. Complicated even further because the last two Lorestones he needs to complete the Magnakai Quest are also in the Daziarn so even if he found a way to escape the Daziarn he can't leave without the Lorestones. Fortunately, the power of the Lorestones is exactly what is needed to activate the Shadowgate.
    • In Dawn of the Dragons, Lone Wolf is stuck in a faraway distant country due to his quest in the previous book The Deathlord of Ixia. While he was away, the Dark God Naar sent an army of his draconic minions, the Lavas, to lay siege to the New Order Kai. Most of the book is spent covering Lone Wolf's long journey across Magnamund back to Sommerlund. It is a perilous one, since the Dark God Naar's servants are on the hunt.

  • The Anabasis by Xenophon, where a Greek mercenary army finds itself leaderless in the middle of the Persian empire. The unit elects its own leaders and fights and negotiates its way to the sea to sail home. Oh, and it really happened—one of the soldiers in the unit was Xenophon, who wrote our history of it. The Greeks of his day took it as evidence that the Persian empire was sicker than it looked, which might have encouraged Alexander the Great to try (successfully!) to conquer them.
  • A Dog's Way Home is about a dog's journey to get back to her owners after running away from her temporary foster home. Bella goes on a two year journey until she makes her way back to Lucas.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Lost Fleet, begins with a defeated star fleet deep behind enemy lines after a battle. Their admirals tried to negotiate a surrender, and are summarily executed by the victors. The fleet escapes and fights its way across the enemy empire, mortally wounding it in the process.
  • In Nine Goblins, a goblin sergeant and eight of her squad are magically displaced from the battlefront and dropped far behind the enemy lines when they attack a wizard during a battle. The rest of the story is what happens while they try to make their way back to their own army.
  • 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' journey to find news of him, rather than Odysseus' journeys themselves. Which means that only a third of the poem's twenty-four books are 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.
  • The science fiction Prince Roger series is largely an homage to the Anabasis; the title of the first book, March Upcountry, is a literal translation of "Anabasis". It begins with a military unit stranded on a primitive planet; they have to fight their way to a base on the other side of the world, to get to a ship that will take them home.
  • A lost epic, the Returns deals with the journeys home of other important Achaeans.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Planet of the Dead": Most of the other passengers on the bus are heading home when it goes through the wormhole, and the Doctor promises them that he will get them home to Earth. He succeeds.
    • In the closing narration of "The Day of the Doctor", the Doctor says that this is sort of what he's doing now that he might have saved Gallifrey. When he does get back two seasons later in "Hell Bent", let's just say that he ends up at odds with his people and on the run again at the end.
  • The Fantastic Journey. A group of travelers use portals from one dimension to the next hoping to find the one that leads home. With only 10 episodes, they never got 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.
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys Targaryen spent most of her life in Essos and the first six seasons of the show trying to achieve this. She finally lands on Dragonstone, her ancestral home and the island of her birth, in Season 7.
  • H.R. Pufnstuf followed the adventures of Jimmy, Puf and Freddie the Flute, as they made several attempts to smuggle Jimmy off the island while staying clear of Witchiepoo and her henchmen.
  • Land of the Lost (1974) details the adventures of the Marshall family (father Rick and his children Will and Holly), who are trapped in an alternate universe or time warp inhabited by dinosaurs, a primate-type people called Pakuni, and aggressive humanoid/lizard creatures called Sleestak. The episode storylines focus on the family's efforts to survive and find a way back to their own world.
  • Lidsville: Young Mark sneaks backstage at a magician's show and manages to fall into a HUGE top hat. The hat is apparently a gateway to another dimension where all the inhabitants are talking, ambulatory hats. The evil magician tries to capture Mark, while Mark and his hat friends try to find a way to get him back to the real world
  • Lost in Space: The ship and all on board become hopelessly lost and it now becomes a fight for survival as the crew tries to find their way back home.
  • 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." In the Grand Finale it is revealed that he never returned home.
  • It's ostensibly the goal of the crew of Red Dwarf, who at the end of the first episode, wind up 3 million years into deep space. They don't expect to find out humanity has survived, but just want a direction to head towards.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

  • In Kiss Wood Sul, a Cool Old Guy, must escape from a Hungry Jungle full of authoritarian communities and exploding plants to reach the Gate that will take him back home.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • The Book of Exodus explains the return of the Exiles to their homeland via a 40-year trek through the desert.
    • The parable of "The Prodigal Son" tells the story of a young man who claims his inheritance prematurely, travels to "a far country" only to squander it all. He then makes his way back home, intending to hire himself out to his father as a servant, but finds the man waiting for him with open arms.

    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.
  • One of the scenarios in Elite Beat Agents features a lost dog trying to get back to his owner.
  • World's End Club starts with a group of kids suddenly trapped in an underwater theme park forced to play a Deadly Game, but the First-Episode Twist has them escape only after one round. When they reach the surface, they discover they've been sent halfway across Japan, and the rest of the story is about them making their way back to Tokyo to uncover what's happened since then.

  • 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.

    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 
  • Amphibia: Anne's main goal for most of the series is to find a way to get home. Somewhat ironically, once she gets there, she has to find a way back in order to stop an invasion.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: this is then main plot of the entire series; the title even reflects it.
  • Central Park: In Season 3 "A Triptych Down Memory Lane", In order to help Elwood remember the password to their external hard drive, he tells him a relaxing story. The story is about Patty (Paige) and Orville (Owen) leaving their three pets (a bulldog (Cole), a cat (Molly), and a golden retriever (Elwood)) at a caretaker ranch in Montana while they're on their honeymoon. When the pets learn that the caretaker is away and won't be back for while, the pets travel together to reunite with their owners back in New York because they forgot about them.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (1983) deals with this after the main characters take a roller coaster ride and find themselves trapped in "the realm of Dungeons and Dragons". They eventually do make it back, but while the final episode was scripted, it was never actually made.
  • Infinity Train has a girl named Tulip stuck on a seemingly endless train in the middle of nowhere with a Robot Buddy named One-One, with her goal being to make her way through the cars to find a way home.
  • The final season of The Legend of Korra revolves partly around Korra and some of her allies having to make their way back to Republic City in order to warn them of Kuvira's approaching army. They make it back, but are too late to stop her from attacking the city.
  • After the first season finale sees Luz destroying the portal door to keep Belos from getting it, the second season of The Owl House has this as one of subplots as she researches ways to travel back to the Human Realm.
  • 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.
  • Samurai Jack: The titular Samurai is trapped in a dystopian future, and must return to his own time to prevent said future from coming to pass.
  • Silver Surfer: The Animated Series: Throughout the series, the Surfer's goal is to return to his homeworld of Zenn-La and his lover Shalla-Bal after he regains the memories that Galactus took from him. To punish the Surfer for his betrayal, Galactus spirited away the planet to parts unknown, such that even he no longer knows its location.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: The first half of the seventh season focuses on the Paladins' journey back to Earth following their victory over Lotor the previous season.


Video Example(s):


Sam Heads to Vladivostok

After the events of Metro Exodus' good ending, in Lake Baikal Sam decides to separate from the Order to fulfil his true journey of reuniting with his father back to the United States, where the only way is to reach the Port City of Vladivostok.<br>Now serving as the main protagonist of Sam's Story, the second DLC of Metro Exodus, the opening narration of the DLC revolves around his plan to reach Vladivostok and find a means to go back to his home country, quoting how he will pursue his own wild dream like Artyom's. However, his goal of going back to the U.S. is a significant contrast to Artyom's goals of freeing the people from the Invisible Watchers' influence in the Moscow Metro. And unlike Artyom himself, Sam is far more conversational throughout the DLC than Artyom across the previous games of the franchise.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / OpeningNarration

Media sources: