In 1949, a literature professor at Sarah Lawrence College coined a term that summarized comparative mythology and its relationship to the human experience. Joseph Campbell began to describe the narrative process of a protagonist venturing into the world to fill a need, who then faces and overcomes conflict and adversity, and finally returns, triumphant, as “The Hero’s Journey.” It is a narrative of struggle, resilience, and victory.
The Hero’s Journey is 12 steps, within three stages. The three stages are the Departure, when the Hero leaves their ordinary world; the initiation, when the Hero ventures into the Unknown; and the triumphant Return. When we apply the more detailed and thorough 12 steps to our own lives, particularly when we set the intention to grow from our travels, we embrace the magic of mythology and our destiny to design meaning for ourselves during this glimpse of time on Earth.
Personal growth and travel both require us to confront the unknown. Like the Hero, at some point we are aware that the lives we are living are no longer providing what we need. Something needs to change. We need to adjust our experience, and cross borders into other lands. That space may be inside of our own psyche, or across the distant mountains, or both. When we journey across the Earth, what we experience is a projection of our expectations, and a mirror of our own fears. As creative beings invested in a mythology of experience, we can apply the Hero’s Journey to our process, and use it as a guide to grow deeper.