July 15, 2018

The Hardest Part of any Journey.

Whatever kind of journey we happen to be on—spiritual, physical, or some combination, most likely—we tend to focus on the “answering the call” or “facing fear” portion of the adventure. After all, that’s where all the juice is, right?

But what about that other bit? The part that, according to legend, is more dangerous than all the rest.

The return.


It’s tough. Maybe, just maybe, tougher than facing the dark question mark of the unknown. The other side of the unknown offers its own buffet of trials and monsters.

I know this. We all do. It’s archetypal stuff. Gather so much beauty, so much wisdom, so much knowing—but then, how to bring it home, into the body, into the mind, into the world?

The heart opening, horizon shattering, mind expanding is the first step, not the end of the road. For every obstacle we overcome, there is a higher one around the bend. For every road we walk, there is a longer one still to travel. For every difficult journey we complete, there are yet more turbulent waters to navigate up ahead:

The return.

Everything that follows.

The plane lands. The boat docks. The train whistles as it arrives at the station.

You step off. Pause. Look around.

Friends and loved ones wait with brilliant smiles and open arms to welcome your return. They look just like the pictures you carried in your mind, and yet… The station looks just like your memory of your departure, and yet…

Is this home? The place you left? It feels different, but you know it has not changed. No, you have changed. Or rather, you have become more yourself, and you do not yet know how to share this new, deeper you-ness with these spectres of an earlier time.

You have crossed oceans, scaled mountains, fought dragons, and befriended shadows. You have faced challenges you could not imagine, and you have learned your strength.

But this. This seems insurmountable. How can you possibly carry your lessons back?

We come back from our journeys changed. It’s such a platitude that it hardly bears mentioning, but it also is entirely true.

We return more sombre, or more joyful. Heavy with nostalgia, or lighter with all the baggage we have dropped along the way. Wiser, or more innocent—or both.

We live more lifetimes than we could hope. We die small deaths, traverse dark nights, emerge at dawn with new perspective. In the end, none of it matters, and yet—we go on.

We move through the unknown driven by something deep and primal and insistent. We arrive at the other side, and then what?

The sun still shines. The leaves still whisper. The birds still call. The guitar strings still vibrate.

Just as they have always done.

And so we still follow rules of time, of dress, of conduct. We still shine, speak, sing, dance, play—just as we have always done. But we feel like crying and laughing both, because we won’t be the same. We will never be the same.

We have traveled far. We have met dragons. We have shed the layers of ourselves, and now we put them back on. Now we return, full of questions.

We have said hello to the unknown and moved beyond it. We have touched secrets and tasted their blessings on our tongues, our skin, our hearts.

One thing is certain. There is no turning back.


author: Toby Israel

Image: A Different Story Studio

Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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Marilyn Regan Aug 23, 2018 3:29pm

Wonderful and truthful thoughts...thank you for sharing.

Toby in the World Jul 16, 2018 3:17pm

Thank you for reading, Hillary! :) <3

Hillary Rebekah Jul 15, 2018 10:25pm

This is the ultimate truth! I loath the idea of going home after years of nomadic travel. But the challenge it poses is both unique and exciting. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel!

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Toby Israel

Toby Israel is a vagabond and storyteller with a metaphorical closet full of hats. She currently works as a creative facilitator, editor, and writer, and as Chief Storyteller at NuMundo. She is also a full-time lover of movement, food, and words. For the moment, she lives in Costa Rica. (She came for a master’s degree in Media, Peace, and Conflict Studies from the UN-mandated University for Peace—and stayed for the papaya, sunshine, and conscious community.) Share her journey on her website, and on FacebookInstagram and Twitter!