Feb 2, 2013

Backpacking Round the World Trip - A modern day "Hero's Journey" (Joseph Campbell)

<< crossposted on the 'Let's Get Real podcast' blog

Are you about to embark on a Round-the-World trip? Have you recently returned from an epic adventure and wondering what to do next? Do you have a yearning to travel, voyaging to foreign lands, exploring exotic cultures and meeting interesting people?

It's the classic template for 'The Hero's Journey' as elucidated by Joseph Campbell, found in myths around the world and mirrored in popular works such as 'Star Wars' and 'The Lord of the Rings'. Whilst our modern day travels might not have the magic of these mythical quests, what with our GPS, crowdsourced tips and online booking there remains the sense of wonder and discovery even if the roads are paved and well-trodden. Myself, I prefer traveling with as little foreknowledge of a place as possible, guided by my instincts rather than technology. Its my way of preserving some sense of adventure.

If you've read even a few travel blogs, you might be familiar with certain tropes. Posts addressing whether long-term Travelers are running away or towards something. Advice on how to free oneself from the shackles of debt or comfort. These themes recur because they are part of the human condition, torn between needing to branch out and being rooted with our comforts. A cycle that began at birth.
Comparing long-term travel and Joseph Campbell's "The Hero's journey"
Whilst our trips may not be as outlandish as those found in legend, to us they are still the stuff of fantasy. People often remark that the treasure at the end of the journey was finding themselves, for a lucky few they may have even snagged the Princess.

VIDEO: The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell (1987)
The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell (1987)
NARRATOR: (43m 30s) The 'Hero with a Thousand faces' was the synthesis of years of work. In his book, Campbell outlined the Hero's Journey he had seen repeated in cultures around the world. He saw the hero as a personification of a Culture's mythology. Traditionally the hero might be a warrior, the ideal of strength and courage. An explorer, a founder of civilisations. A philosopher, an adventurer of the mind. And in the modern world, Campbell would add the artist and the scientist to the pantheon of heroes but the journey is essentially the same - One shape shifting story of the vision quest that transforms the world.

Whether it is Odysseus, King Arthur or Luke Skywalker. The hero is the one who responds to the call to Adventure. The stories often open with the hero appearing restless, something is missing in life, there is a feeling of destiny. It is a time for separation, sometimes it takes a shock to make the final break from the past and gain the final courage to accept the call. But noone can go it alone, everyone needs a mentor to provide wisdom and magical power...

The descent to the underworld of adventure is often blocked by dangerous threshold guardians. They mark the point of no return. Beyond them is the region of the unknown, a dreamlike labyrinth of tests and trials. To pass his initiation, the hero must become a Dragonslayer - seize the treasure or rescue the Princess. But the decisive ordeal of the quest is when the hero confronts death, he is challenged to follow the wisdom of his heart....
Find some of my favorite Adventure posts below:
- Read more about the "Hero's Journey" (aka The Monomyth)
- Coming Home from a year abroad. Reverse Culture shock and beating the travel Blues: The Hurt Locker (2008)
- Find all my 'Movie' posts here
- Traveling life as a movie
- Other people's stories - Tales of: Adventure


  1. A backpacking adventure is both fun and exciting. It is great recreation but in order to have a safe trip there are a few things you need to plan so that you get the best out of your trip - safely.

    backpacking advise

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