Are you familiar with The Hero’s Journey? If not by name, you’re likely more familiar with it than you know. King of myths, Joseph Campbell, identified a similar structure in myths throughout countless cultures, eras, and in our own individual lives that shows up with striking frequency. So much so that many a movie, novel, or personal transformation story echoes this mystical pattern. Creative geniuses of the likes of Bob Dylan and George Lucas have been known to acknowledge being guided by this pattern.
So what is it? In short, the “hero” of the story experiences a “call to adventure”…some sort of pull, feeling, or event that tells the hero that their current situation has become too small and it is time to go out wandering to discover something new. This might appear as a feeling that is magnetic, a ‘must do’, without being able to actually see the magnet. In some cases, the call is not recognized or it is dismissed, often leading to a more dramatic and often painful “yank” to adventure. The universe now has the hero’s attention, and the hero commits to crossing the threshold and going on this journey. The hero goes out wandering and often encounters signs and guides along the way, as well as barriers and obstacles to overcome. Typically there is a climax as the hero is faced with the biggest challenge yet, a death of old ways and a birth to a new revelation. Ultimately, through the course of this journey, the hero learns, grows and receives a gift, his personal, unique gift. He is then faced with the task of returning back to his community, crossing back over the threshold as a transformed hero ready to share this gift.
There are many types of travelers that I meet. There are those who have a break from school or their job and are using it to travel. There are those who are moving abroad to work, either with a job lined up or the willingness to find some sort of work that will enable them to live abroad or travel. There are those who are going for months or even years, those accomplishing huge adventure goals, those taking a short vacation to experience a new place. There are those who are taking a break, maybe a sabbatical and have a job or commitment to return to. Here I am wandering Argentina, out exploring and meeting all sorts of these travelers and I feel so different from them. I feel this weight or responsibility. I think travel is a wonderful thing for many reasons, and I respect all types of travel. So what is this feeling? It finally it hit me…
I am not “gone traveling”. I’m gone journeying, a heroine’s journey to be exact. The purpose of my wandering is to pursue the call to adventure that I felt first as the “yank” and then felt more gently once I accepted it. (I touch on this in an article I recently wrote for elephantjournal.com.)
What am I doing? Well, after fighting it for some time, I gave in to the whisper to go wander foreign lands right now. I sold my house, car, most of my things, and set out to get in touch with my essence and design my life around it. Not to “find myself”, but to fully “be myself”. I’m not traveling, I’m not jumping into an expat life, I’m not looking for work. I’m on a journey to have my unique gift revealed to me. This journey could happen with or without travel. Ok, well travel is part of it 🙂
So why travel? Well, because you are alone if you are going about it the way I am. Things are different, foreign, there is a threshold to cross and dance with the unknowns. I am trying to look at things in a new way and this facilitates that because newness surrounds. And for me, I love to travel. To create a life around what I love, I started with something I know I love…travel. This is why it made sense for me.
So why alone? Because it is uncomfortable or maybe a gentler way to say it is that you are out of your comfort zone. This is a heroine’s journey. It is a rite of passage, which is very common across cultures and eras as well and is experienced alone and often in nature. Along with travel, nature is such a great teacher and mirrors so much back to you. It teaches me my tools and forces me to come up with new ones as well. It teaches me what I am capable of when I have courage and take action. What frustrates me? What does that tell me about me? What am I afraid of? Why? Is it a familiar feeling? What am I doing about it? How am I processing it? What excites me? What is it about it that lights me up? Who have I attracted doing this journey, and what experiences? What have I learned in the process of preparing to leave and throughout wandering? What do I do when I get to a new place? How do I approach people and situations and how do I want to be approached?
My journey is a conscious one and one grounded in intention. I am getting answers to all of these questions. I am pausing to reflect. I am still discovering my passions, talents, and my unique gift. I’m still out on the journey. There absolutely have been challenges along the way and there continue to be. At times I’ve actually been too obsessed with The Journey and have had to learn to just be again. I need to be guided by what I love and continue to fine tune what I learn when I do that. One component of this is that it’s a “can’t turn back” sort of situation. Once you cross the threshold into this journey, it is almost impossible to turn back. But history also shows with this pattern that if the hero moves forward with conviction and awareness, the hero perseveres. It’s not a coincidence. To me, it is an energetic response to the heroine owning her true nature and letting it out to play only to find it was within her all along.
This looks different for everyone, but the components often resonate. It feels right to share this story because I think we benefit a lot from sharing our personal experiences and connecting with what resonates. And I think the hero’s journey is just so simple and awesome. Have you felt the call to adventure? What do you love? What would it look like to let yourself dedicate time to fully pursuing what you love?
To read more about The Hero’s Journey (or Monolyth), well, just google it! Or you can read the book where Joseph Campbell first references it called The Hero With a Thousand Faces