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 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. 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.
- 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.
- Ulysses 31, which is basically The Odyssey (see below) IN SPACE!!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. In a notable subversion by the time they finally get back, they've realized that the zoo wasn't as great as they remembered. The climax ends up focusing on them leaving again and the trilogy ends with the group heading off with their newly-gained friends to find a true home.
- The Pagemaster is about Richard just trying to leave the library and go home.
- 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, obviously.
- The Incredible Journey and its remake Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Two dogs and a cat travel through California to get back to their masters.
- The Adventures of Milo and Otis
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a modern day take on The Odyssey, following the struggles of an escaped prisoner's long journey home.
- 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.
- 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
- A made-for-cable movie called Heck's Way Home is about a lost dog (named "Heck") who tries to find his way back 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.
- 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 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'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.
- Also a lost epic, the Returns, which deals with the journeys home of other important Achaeans.
- 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 to try (successfully!) to conquer them.
- The science fiction Prince Roger series is largely an homage to the Greek story; 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.
- Another science fiction series, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Several epiosdes of The Prisoner (1967).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: this is then main plot of the entire series; the title even reflects it.
- 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.