Joseph Campbell introduced the world to The Hero’s Journey in a book entitled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. After years of study he discovered similar storylines in stories, fables, and fairy tales. He called these similar steps, The Hero’s Journey. Though there are many ways to explain this layered epic journey, one simple way is to outline the five stages:
- the call to journey;
- preparation for the journey;
- the path and encounter;
- the return; and finally
- reflection in telling the tale to others at home.
HERO is meant, not as a male model, but an inclusive, universal archetype.
Archetype = a classic prototype
As a traveler, an adult educator, writer and blogger, I believe I should not only write about the Hero’s Journey, but I should model what it is and how we can use this ideal in our own lives. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to share how I use these steps as I get ready to travel to Lima, Peru for a visit with friends. This week I’ll write about THE CALL.
I will not be touring Machu Picchu (one of the wonders of the world), which would make this an epic spiritual experience—a true Hero’s Journey. However, The Hero’s Journey, as an outline or model, helps us see and realize travel as a practical AND spiritual experience, regardless the weight of the travel or the experience.
Joseph Dispenza in his book, The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey of Self-Discovery says the call to journey is a request of our inner self. Often we are ready for a shift, change or perhaps even a transformation in our lives. When we answer the call, our intention sets something in motion—whether you call it God’s hand, the universe, or spirit.
My husband Lynn and I try to make a trip (just the two of us) each year, in addition to visiting family. In recent years we have traveled within the U.S. borders. In the past however, we have journeyed to such exotic places as Japan, South Africa and most recently in 2008 to Turkey. It has been a long time since we have been out of the country, except for our annual month-long stay on a Mexican island.
Lynn and I are both adventuresome, but in different ways. He is more physical in his need to step into the world and explore; while, I am more intellectual or interested in exploring ideas and relationships.
For the last year or so, Lynn has been talking about going to see our friends, Raul and Patricia in Lima, Peru, where they grew up and currently live and work. (They and their children are bilingual by living in English-speaking and Spanish-speaking countries since we last saw them.) Raul had been Lynn’s graduate student decades ago. We have had them in our home many times in the States and know their kids, Daniella and Ian. But have not met their youngest, Mariana, born since we last saw them.
Lynn and I asked them early this year when would be a good time for us to visit, April or September. They opted for September, so when Lynn went to purchase airline tickets, he asked Raul, “early or late September?” Because Mariana experiences her first communion in late September, Raul asked if we could come then. How special to get to celebrate this milestone in her life.
Dispenza writes in his book at length about The Call and our reaction to it. We choose to see friends, who happen to live in Lima, the City of Kings, so we can see the city as well. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have fears about going. Dispenza suggest we identify our fears (hesitations, reluctances), write them down. Next, decide which ones are irrational and which ones are realistic. For the fears that are left, write them on a piece of paper and place them in box, so you don’t take them with you.
Here are some of my fears. I’m afraid…
- That I won’t have the stamina to keep up with our hosts and their younger family. (Realistic)
- That I will be intimidated visiting our bilingual friends. (Irrational)
- That we will impose too much on a family, which is still working. (Realistic)
- That we will not get to explore and feel adventureous, because we are staying with locals. (Maybe, maybe not)
- That I won’t be able to look and act as cosmopolitan as Raul and Patricia, who have grown up in the city. (Realistic, but irrelevant.)
Dispenza suggests that we take the realistic fears and see what we can do about them. Lynn and I have offered to take off on our own to tour the city while they are at work. This addresses fears #3 and #4. Fear #1 requires that I get plenty of rest while away, I don’t let myself get dehydrated, and I stay active, but not to the point of exhaustion. These things mean I must communicate with our friends how much is enough or too much.
In answering The Call to this place, Lynn and I also offered our services to Raul’s university to do a workshop or seminar with our extensive university backgrounds. This idea grew out of an experience years ago in which Lynn and I conducted a week-long in-service training for Mangosuthu Technikan in South Africa. We found we got to know locals in a more real and personal way. We got to learn what their higher education problems were as compared to ours in the U.S., which often were more similar than different. And three cultures in the training workshop, African tribal, Indian, and Afrikaans, shared their separate stories as they related them to the issues of higher education in South Africa, their challenges as faculty and as South Africans post-Apartheid.
Raul and we have come up with a plan to share our experience in experiential learning that augments the standard classroom learning. We hope this sharing will be a two-way street between us and the faculty, and will be useful to the university, students, and faculty in implementing new learning opportunities for students.
Lynn also asked Raul to attend an English-speaking Toast Master International club while there. He will offer an extemporaneous speech, if the two of them can manage a time to go together.
MEANING OF PLACE
Again, Dispenza offers guidance on how to think of The Call in allegorical ways. He suggests we list the different meanings the PLACE can be for us, both literally and metaphorically.
Lima, the City of Kings, associations:
- Wealth, whether I’m talking about money and jewels, or conversation and friendship
- Silver and gold, whether learning their history or shopping for jewelry
- Incas, learning about a culture that vanished years ago and experiencing the current cityscape of Lima
- Treasures of friendship long-ago, treasured time together now, what we have to share today
- Opportunity to be part of a major family tradition, Mariana’s first communion, and the chance to meet with her extended family members who will attend also
- Glittery society of a metropolitan city versus a small-town atmosphere, simply the lights of the city will be a sight for us
- Spanish language, a romance language, the language of today, most likely not of the Inca’s
- Latin America, different from Mexico and Costa Rica, central American countries with which I’m acquainted
- Spiritual, the Peruvian history has an aura of spirituality, especially Macho Picchu; our contribution through volunteering can be a spiritual experience
With these associations in mind, here are some possible ways our travel can create meaning for me.
- We get to explore and discover a Latin American culture that provides some adventure in our routine lives. By experiencing city life in a Latin American country, which I have not visited before, this may be a glittering example of riches of a culture I have not participated in before.
- We have the opportunity to participate in the spiritual lives of our friends by attending Mariana’s first communion.
- The primary reason for the trip is to become reacquainted and spend time with our friends. This visit will be special, because they will be sharing their hometown and their culture, unlike it has been in the past in our country, when we shared ours with them.
- Our volunteer work at the university might open some doors of new friendships and international cooperation and/or research. It is possible this seminar might develop into future consulting that might bring us back.
As I consider what this place can mean to me, I realize that these ideas are pure conjecture on my part.
BUILDING A SHRINE
Dispenza suggests we build a small shrine to present what is going on in the outer world that represents what is going on inside of us. He considers a travel shrine, as a “tangible expression of the journey in all its many manifestations, including your excitement, your hesitations, your preparations, and your expectations.” (p. 46-47)
Right now I have a stack of books about Peru: its history, its landscape, its significant people and locations. I have the days marked off my calendar and reservation filed. I will have to think about shrine building some more. But the call to journey demands preparation next.
Travelers: Can you identify with any of these actions I took as a result of trying to follow the Hero’s Journey? Was building a shrine easier for you than me?
Writers: Do you see the value of viewing your protagonist as a sojourner? Can you craft the “call” of your main character in your next story? Does this add an element of intrigue, depth, or richness? How did you do it?
SHARE YOUR ANSWERS BELOW. I look forward to hearing from you!
Next Week: THE PREPARATION
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