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The trip back downriver was uneventful, and over in only twelve words.

In stories where the characters travel to some distant location to achieve their goal, their journey will often be difficult, yet when they go home, things will be a lot easier. Indeed, the story may just show the protagonists arriving home without describing their return trip at all. This could lead to Fridge Logic, or there might be a good reason (such as the defeat of the Big Bad, whose minions were pursuing you) for this.

If "getting there" is hard, but "getting back" is easy (or undescribed), it's this trope. Contrast The Homeward Journey, in which the whole focus of the plot is the attempt to get home.

One of the main reasons this trope exists is to prevent Ending Fatigue after the main conflict has been resolved. Another, related, reason applies to video games. Leaving the player to backtrack through an entire empty level after completing the mission is about the worst thing a level designer can do, which is why many games provide a Door to Before right after the Boss Battle or even allow the characters to teleport home from wherever they please. Other games avert this trope by filling the area with a new batch of interesting enemies, changing the level layout, and/or adding a time limit.

If the boring journey back took just as long as the exciting journey there, but gets a fraction of the screentime, it's because of the Law of Conservation of Detail.

Examples of Boring Return Journey include:


Comic Books

  • Several in the Tintin series, but the first that comes to mind is Tintin in Tibet: They had to get back from the secluded mountain monastery somehow, didn't they?

Fanfiction

  • Completely averted in the Chronicles of Narnia fanfic Into The West, in which Peter has just as many exciting adventures on the way back from his quest as he does on the way there.


Film

  • In Toy Story 2, after the climax, the next scene shows the toys back in Andy's room. Earlier, just crossing the street caused mayhem. It's shown that, rather than walking, they simply drove the luggage cart back to Andy's house--which may not have been any easier, but would certainly have been quicker.
  • In Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, after Sinbad has spent the majority of the film traveling to Tartarus to confront the goddess Eris (overcoming numerous obstacles set out by the aforementioned goddess), his return journey to Syracuse is apparently instantaneous. However, Eris has not actually been defeated yet, and she would have every reason to try to prevent his arrival there.
  • In Stand by Me, the four kids take almost the entire movie to find the dead body they're looking for, and encounter all kinds of obstacles on the way. But a quick cut gets them home. Though it is said they walked through the night. Considering we don't know what time they left the town and what time they reached the body, it is possible they only needed to walk for eight hours.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the four friends promptly return to the Emerald City and the Wizard, after defeating the Wicked Witch of the West.


Literature

  • Some books in the Redwall series.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • The Hobbit indicates that, while Bilbo did have trouble in his return journey, "he was never in great danger". Which makes the original proposed title "There and Back Again" a little misleading. The book explains this by saying that many of the most dangerous monsters along the way were destroyed during the Battle of Five Armies, and Bilbo was accompanied the whole way by Gandalf, and for a good portion by Beorn and the Elvenking.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, getting home is much easier when you don't have to worry about Sauron's servants pursuing you and you're riding on giant eagles. After the Hobbits got home, however, things weren't so easy.
  • Roverandom had many "perfectly safe" adventures as he and his wizard protector travel from the dark side of the moon back to the light side. Also, he has similar small adventures when he leaves the beach to make his final journey back to his owner.
  • Journey to the West: The journey to the West takes 86 chapters. The return to the East (with supernatural assistance loaned by the Buddha) takes 1.
  • In Star Of The Morning, Morgan is conveniently transported back home on dragon-back, a journey which takes about a day, in contrast with the several months it took to get there.
  • Kushiel's Legacy averts this: it takes ages for her characters to get places, and almost as long (in some respects) for them to return. And while the return journey isn't as exciting, stuff still happens.
  • In Harry Potter, our heroes take some time fighting their way through the obstacles guarding the Philosopher's Stone. We're spared the return trip, as Harry is unconscious. In Chamber of Secrets, the trip out of the Chamber of Secrets is shortened by a phoenix ride. In Goblet of Fire, for some unexplained reason, the Portkey transports Harry outside the maze on the return trip, rather than back to the spot where he found it inside the maze. Averted in Prisoner of Azkaban, (the Shrieking Shack), Order of the Phoenix (the Department of Mysteries) and Half-Blood Prince (the sea cave), where the return trip takes just as long as the trip there.
  • Alan Dean Foster has this in his Journeys of the Catechist series. The main character accepts the dying wish of a man and goes to save that man's fiance from being held by the evil overlord of a distant kingdom. The trilogy is three books of the most creative weird obstacles you could ask for, with only about a quarter of the third book being spent in the overlord's kingdom. Then the main character takes the girl back to her kingdom from halfway through the second book, then back to the overlord because she'd fallen for him, then he goes all the way back to his own village. All without a description of the events.
  • This is parodied in multiple versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with the great poetic saga of Golgafrincham, which involves the adventures of five sage princes on four white horses, journeying forth to adventure, saving beautiful monsters from ravening princesses, etc. etc. At least, that's the first part of the saga. The second, much longer, part is about the princes arguing over who is going to have to walk home.
  • In one of the Warrior Cats books, The Fourth Apprentice, the cats have a lot of difficulty in traveling to the spot where the beavers have blocked the stream - humans, dogs - but the journey back is hardly described.
  • Played with in Verne's Journey to The Center of The Earth in that the rapid return journey is anything but boring. After reaching their greatest depth in forty-odd chapters, the explorers find themselves in the shaft of a volcano and get erupted out in just a few chapters.
  • Played straight and then subverted in Discworld. Witches Abroad features the titular witches having all sorts of adventures (Greedo encountering a vampire, a spoof of the Running of the Bulls, a riverboat showdown with a card shark...) on their way to the main plot in Genua. At the end they simply head home and we're not told what happened, save that "they went the long way and saw the elephant" (i.e. enjoyed themselves and did some more sightseeing). Lords and Ladies, however has them just arriving back home after several months of further travel between books.


Tabletop RPG

  • Dungeons and Dragons
    • Module EX 1 Dungeonland, Changed View of the Long Hall. When the PCs stand on the heap of rubbish and look upward, they will be whisked back to their home lodging place.
    • Module EX 2 The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. In the Mad Feast hall there are three doors. One leads back to the house where the PCs originally entered the module and another leads to EX 1's Changed View of the Long Hall.
    • Module I5 Lost Tomb of Martek. After the PCs resurrect Martek and he destroys the efreeti pasha, they will be sent to the place they wished to go, presumably their home area.
    • Module OA6 Ronin Challenge. If the PCs used the Nung Dragon to fight Goyat in Tempat Larang, Nung Chiang may offer to have it fly the PCs back to Saihoji to meet with the emperor, making it unnecessary for them to hike all the way back.
    • Module Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. If Lolth is killed, her spider ship starts to self destruct. The PCs are rescued by their gods and sent back to their home plane.


Video Games

  • In many roleplaying games, once you reach the objective of a dunegeon or combat area, you are given an option to leave the area quickly without having to retrace your steps all the way back out again.
    • The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim always provides you with a shortcut back to the entrance of the dungeon or a quick secret exit out the back.
    • Mass Effect gives you the option to hit a button to return to your ship when you've completed an objective.
    • The Diablo series usually has some variant on this. All three feature the Town Portal spell which lets you return to base and then go right back to where you left off.
      • Diablo 1 was linear, and all took place underneath the same town. Every now and then you'd find a secret passage that took you right back to the surface.
      • Diablo 2 had Waypoints which allowed travel between them, but only a few per Act. Optional dungeons usually required walking back out, and since you had probably killed everything on the way in it could be tedious.
      • Diablo 3 makes the Waypoints much more numerous, so you are generally not far from one if you just press onward. Optional dungeons also now have a teleporter at the end that will take you back outside.
  • In King's Quest V, Crispin just teleports you and your family home.
  • In Star Fox 64, after Andross is defeated, Fox and co. evidently just set a straight course for Corneria and fly there slowly. Apparently the armada blockading Venom's orbit, the ridiculously dense asteroid field, and the sun just went away after Andross died.
  • Unlike most JRP Gs, the original Dragon Quest does not conclude with the defeat of the Big Bad. You complete the game by returning to visit the king. You can go anywhere you like before doing this, including visiting towns to receive thanks from all the people you've saved. While getting to the Big Bad involves thousands of random battles, after his defeat, there are none to be found, even in the dungeons, since apparently defeating the boss results in the elimination of all his mooks.
  • The end of Doom II has your character taking the long trek back home after practically destroying Hell. "Rebuilding Earth ought to be a lot more fun than ruining it was."
  • In Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and the later Elder Scrolls games based on the same engine, you have to "discover" each location manually, but once you have, all you have to do to get back is click it on your map. The main limitation to this is not being able to do so while there's enemies nearby.
  • During the ending of SaGa 2 / Final Fantasy Legend II, we see snippets of the heroes' (now joined by the protagonists' father) uneventful trip back to the first village. The one event of note is the discovery that two of the game's Guest Star Party Members are father and daughter.
  • House of the Dead ends with the protagonists making their way back to their car while the credits play.
    • The sequel ends the same way with the protagonists making their way back to the ground floor of Goldman's building with not a single monster in sight anymore (Unless you're playing Typing of the Dead.) When they get there, they're greeted either by a cheering crowd, a zombified Goldman or Rogan from the first game.
  • Averted in the Left 4 Dead 2 episode "Hard Rain". After acquiring the fuel tanks for their ship, the survivors must not only fight zombies on the way back, but wade through the same path, now flooded with water.


Western Animation

  • The animated Peanuts special, What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? (which takes place after the ending of Bon Voyage Charlie Brown) averts this. Despite making it through the adventure of the previous film, their return journey is only slightly less difficult, consisting of things like their car breaking down, them getting lost (repeatedly) and being forced to set up camp.
  • An offscreen version occurs in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Gaang, plus Suki and a young couple are going to Ba Sing Se through the Serpent's Pass, which is a very dangerous path. On the way, they're shot at by the Fire Nation, attacked by a giant sea serpent, and have to cross a long stretch that's underwater, only made possible by Aang and Katara's waterbending. Once they're safely on the other side, Suki says now that they're safely through, she's heading back to the side they started on. She apparently makes it fine, despite not having any of the bending abilities that let them cross the thing in the first place.
    • Presumably she could have taken a ferry back, since she's part of the security force.
    • That'd be fine, except they haven't actually gotten to the city yet when she leaves. They're at the Ba Sing Se end of the Serpent's Pass, and she leaves by just turning back toward the way they came.
  • Kim Possible episodes often show Kim and Ron getting a ride to the mission site from someone Kim previously helped; the return trip is skipped over.
  • The Winnie the Pooh movie The Search for Christopher Robin. The group went through scary forest, winding paths, and a skull-shaped cave that would probably traumatize younger viewers. On their way out they point at that now that they've found him and all the friends are together, the things they were worried about really didn't bother them anymore.


Real Life

  • It took Marco Polo three years to get to the Orient, but most of his return journey was by sea, or in lands he'd traversed before. Compared to exploring the unknown lands of Asia for the first time, he really had a Boring Return Journey.
  • Lewis and Clark took 3 years to get to the Pacific Ocean, but only 6 months to get back, in part because they had stopped collecting specimens, and in part because they were going downstream on the Missouri and not up.
  • After completing the historic first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Charles Lindbergh returned to the U.S. not by plane, but by boat.
  • Indonesia's national zoo Taman Safari (Safari Garden). On your enter journey, you get to see various animals in wildlife as you travel with your vehicle. You can even feed the animals (except lions or tigers). When you decided to return... none of those sight-seeing animals again, you get sent straight to the entrance.
  • The voyage of Apollo 11 to the moon is remembered in the media roughly like this: Dramatic launch of Saturn V. Some film of the crew on the way to the moon. The descent to land. "The Eagle Has Landed". "One Small Step for Man...". Raising the flag. A bit of weightless walking around. The three astronauts speaking to President Nixon after their return.
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