You Can't Go Home Again

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"Is anything better than finally finding your way home?

Is anything worse than finally reaching home, and finding that you're still lost?"

For some reason or another, one of the main characters is displaced from their home—be it in the sense of homeland, home planet, home universe, or literal house—and unable to return. Often, their attempts to return form a key plotline or focal point of the series, but since Status Quo Is God, Failure Is the Only Option until the Grand Finale. If the reason why they can't return is because of a Doomed Hometown, then their quest is often Revenge or a new place to stay. Sometimes they'll finally return Where It All Began to challenge the force that kept them away for so long.

This is often seen alongside Fish Out of Water, and tends to result in Walking the Earth or a Wagon Train to the Stars. Trapped in Another World usually entails this (so most examples of that trope are equally valid for this one). When this trope is applied to the entire human race, it's Earth-That-Was.

Contrast Stranger in a Familiar Land, where you can go home, but you no longer fit in. If you can go home but are banned from doing so, you're Persona Non Grata. Also contrast I Choose to Stay. Compare The Call Knows Where You Live.

Examples of You Can't Go Home Again include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed and Al burn down their house so they won't be able to give up their mission. Of course, Pinako and Winry's house is always open to them, so they're not as homeless as they'd like to think.
    • Hohenheim is convinced they did it so as not to face up to the whole "brought back an abomination of nature instead of our dead mother" thing every time they walked by the study.

"It's no different from when a child wets the bed and then hides the sheets. You were running away ... Edward."

    • In the ending of the first anime's The Conqueror of Shambhala, this is made even more poignant as the Elrics find themselves unable to return to their own world.
  • Yoko spends the first arc of The Twelve Kingdoms trying to get back to her own world. Eventually, she comes to realize that she is needed far more in Kei than she is at home, and reluctantly agrees to become the Glory-King.
  • Caro of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S was exiled from her tribe when she was very young because she was too powerful a summoner. Thankfully for her, while she can't return to her homeland ever again, Fate adopts her and gives her a new place to call home.
  • Zoro of One Piece sets out to sea to find Mihawk, but is unable to find his way back due to his poor sense of direction.
  • In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka is permanently exiled from his home village to protect everyone from his curse.
  • In Record of Lodoss War, Parn is kicked out of his village at the beginning of the story. He dons his father's armor and subsequently burns his house down and from then has to go Walking the Earth.
  • Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop. She eventually finds the spot where her home used to be, only to discover there's nothing there now, not even ruins. She draws the layout of her house, as well as a rectangle where her bed used to be, in the dirt, and lies there alone.
    • In fact, if you're willing to extend this to psychologically or spiritually being unable to return to home, then the entire main cast could count. An underlying theme of the series seems to be that the Bebop is the only home Spike, Jet and Faye have left, hence why they default to return to it whenever they strike out on their own.
  • The protagonists of Gunbuster, due to the time dilation effect.
  • In Naruto Itachi Uchiha. After killing his entire clan on orders he can never return to Konoha without dying or starting a civil war.
    • To a lesser extent, Sasuke Uchiha. After learning the truth of Itachi's actions, he no longer has any concept of home; all he wants is to make everyone else suffer.
  • Holo of Spice and Wolf. Her hometown might be the only place she belongs, and it's rumored to have been destroyed centuries after she left. Even if it still exists, she knows that the passage of time has likely changed it into something completely different. She won't give up until she acknowledges it herself, though.
  • Ranma ½ - Ranma can't go home because his father made a vow to his mother that if he failed to make their son into a real man, father and son would commit seppuku and their mother would be the one to cut off their heads. Ryoga can't go home because he can't find it, and it's not like his parents would be home if he did. Shampoo can't go home until she claims Ranma as her husband. It's not clear if Ukyo even had a home other than her dad's okonomiyaki cart.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle: Syaoran can't go home because he wasn't meant to exist in the first place, and he and his replacement Watanuki are stuck in similar predicaments: Syaoran will wander the worlds forever while Watanuki is stuck in the The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday forever, least their existances destablize time and space. At least they both have company, which includes Faye, who destroyed his world.
  • Berserk: Guts had to flee from his original mercenary band after he killed his adoptive father in self defense and the other members sought to avenge their leader's death. Later, it was revealed that Casca joined the Band of the Hawk because if she were to go home, she would be arrested and tortured for killing a noble in self defense of Attempted Rape. On the grander scale of things, the whole Band of the Hawk was forced to flee the Kingdom of Midland upon Griffith's arrest for high treason - which was popping the cherry of the princess.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: To save his father and his siblings from retaliation after he delivered a beating to criminals ruling the region where they lived, Sanosuke left them forever.
  • Spirited Away has young Chihiro and her arrogant parents wander into a supposed bankrupt themepark and explore. Long-story-short, she is forced to sign a contract, which turns her into Sen, a serving girl who must relentlessly work in Yubaba's Bath House of the Gods for all eternity, unless she wants her Transformation Trauma'd parents to be ground up and made into sausages. The whole point of the film is her learning how to be more mature and resourceful in order to reverse this fate.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • This trope is the premise of the story of the Silver Surfer. After sacrificing himself to become a slave to a supernatural godlike destroyer of worlds (to save his own homeworld, of course), the hero's memory is taken from him AND his homeworld gets displaced. After he (very quickly into the story) regains his memories, the rest of the plot is largely about finding his home planet again.
  • A series of Peanuts strips followed Snoopy taking Woodstock to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm where he (Snoopy) was born, only to find it had been replaced by a parking garage.

Snoopy: You stupid people! You're parking on my memories!!!

  • Occurs to mutant alligator Leatherhead in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after he is inadvertently left behind on Earth by the escaping Utroms; several stories involve him unsuccessfully trying to reach the Utrom homeworld.
  • This is the premise of the Legion of Super-Heroes story Legion Lost. A group of Legionnaires find themselves galaxies away from Earth in a thrashed starbase.
  • Alan Moore wrote a Time Twister for Two Thousand AD centered around a character, Sideways Scuttleton, who can travel to alternate universes by "wiggling his back in a certain way." Unfortunately, he didn't count on his back going out in his later years, making it difficult to him to return to his own universe. The story is actually a bit of a subversion because when he asks someone for bus fare in a dimension that he's pretty certain is his own, the man produces the British £1 coin which upsets Scuttleton because in his dimension people use paper notes instead of coins; however, the story was written shortly after such coins were first introduced in 1983, and Scuttleton very well may have stumbled into his home dimension without fully realizing it.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck combines this with Stranger in a Familiar Land. Having spent most of his teen and adult life abroad, Scrooge has a great deal of trouble fitting in with the traditional Scottish people. He decides to begin a new life in America, this time bringing his sisters along for the ride.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In Stars Above, Homura's trip from her own time and universe was one-way. Even with her powers, it took a significant boost from another Puella Magi to go back six years, and there's no way to do it again.


Film[edit | hide]

  • A major element in 2007's Transformers movie.The civil war on Cybertron damaged the planet's surface, and the Allspark being destroyed means that the planet will die eventually. At the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the Space Bridge's destruction possibly causes Cybertron to collapse on itself, forever preventing the Autobots from returning to their old home.
  • An American Tail : The reason the Mousekewitz family emigrates to America is because the Cossacks burned their village to the ground.
  • In Grosse Pointe Blank, John Cusack's charcter, Martin Blank, return to his home town for a reunion. While there, he visits his childhood home, only to find that it's become a convenience store. This causes him to say the line, "You can never go home again, but I guess you can shop there."
  • In Inception, the sole reason for Cobb to accept the mission is because Saito has enough influence to allow him to return home to his children. He is wanted by the police as the primary suspect for his wives death and went into hiding, leaving his children behind with their grandparents. In a particularly painful twist to the old plot, his wife believed that the real world was a shared dream of them and that they would have to die to wake up in the real world. So she set up her own suicide making it appear as if he murdered her, directly mentioning that he would no longer be able to return to his family in the supposed dream, in the hope that he would also kill himself so they could both wake up in the real world.
  • In Star Trek, Spock and Spock Prime both wind up afflicted by this trope: Spock because Vulcan has just exploded and Spock Prime because he's marooned in another timeline...and Vulcan has just exploded.
    • And, of course, the Big Bad, Nero, is in the same boat, thanks to the supernova that took out Romulus and his subsequent time-traveling.
  • The Searchers ends with John Wayne leaving because his behavior has alienated his family.
  • In the Forrest Gump movie, Forrest has Jenny's childhood house razed in order to bring closure to years of abuse by her father.
  • Paint Your Wagon features this lyric: "Home is made for coming from, for dreams of going to/ which, with any luck will never come true."
  • In the film version of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, the Earth is restored, but Arthur Dent decides that the world would be a better place without him, having fallen in love with Trillian and wanting to share her wanderlust.
  • The Hunt for Red October. Marco Ramius makes sure that his defection will be real by burning all of the bridges behind him.
  • In Idiocracy, where the main characters, after hibernating in pods for 500 years, wake up to a world of naturally selected idiots.
  • In Harlem Nights (1989), Quick (Eddie Murphy) and Sugar Ray (Richard Pryor) pull The Caper that results in the death of the major rival crime boss.. Knowing the danger of what they have done, they take a last wistful look at the New York skyline before bidding the city goodbye.
  • The movie Silent Hill after Rose and Sharon leave Silent Hill and apear to arive back home, they are still in another reality because they entered the world of Silent Hill. Thus they can never truely return home.
  • It takes Columbus a while to come to this conclusion in Zombieland. He wants to get back to Ohio to see if his family is still alive (although he eventually admits that that wouldn't mean much even if they were). He reacts appropriately when Wichita tells him that that's a pretty fruitless venture, as it's "a total ghost town". He still doesn't quite get it until he's about to leave and he realizes that he really can't go back home.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • A theme in A Series of Unfortunate Events. At one point, Snicket even parodies this trope directly. "People say that you can't go home again, though they may not have been talking to you."
  • Thomas Wolfe's novel You Can't Go Home Again is the Trope Namer, and combines elements of both this and Stranger in a Familiar Land. George Webber, an author, literally can't go back to his small-town home because the residents think his debut book gave them a bad name and threaten to kill him over it, and the recent development boom has made the town almost unrecognizable compared to how George remembered it as a kid. Plus there's the deal with the Nazis taking all the magic out of 1930's Germany, and the whole Great Depression thing.
  • The titular Ghosts of Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts earned their nickname in part because their homeworld of Tanith was destroyed by Chaos on the day of their Founding. Later, after the novel Necropolis, thousands of survivors from Vervunhive join the Tanith after their home hive-city is so badly damaged in a battle against Chaos that the whole hive is rendered uninhabitable.
  • In The Lord of the Rings the hobbits return to the Shire only to find that it has been pretty much destroyed during the war. While it can and probably will be rebuilt, it will never be the same as they remember it. Interestingly this was left out of the films for pacing reasons, and possibly because it was considered too much of a Downer Ending. Fans of the novels are not at all pleased with this as it is felt the scene was important for showing the true cost of war.
    • That said though, the one thing the film did get was Frodo not being able to get back into normalcy once they did head back. The adventure and the burden of being the ring bearer having taken too much of a toll on him that the Shire just didn't seem the same anymore. Thus he goes with Bilbo, Gandalf and the Elves into the West when they invite him along.
  • In The Silmarillion, Maglor. He was the only survivor of the Noldor who was not any more allowed to return to the Undying Lands because of his crimes.
  • Arthur Dent and Trillian in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Earth is gone for good, as are Arthur, Trillian and Ford. Even though there's a sixth book on the horizon, which means Arthur and Ford, at least, is still around in some form, I doubt the Earth's coming back.
    • Even if Earth II was introduced, Adams' screenplay of the film version seems to indicate Arthur might not wish to return anyway.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Richard Mayhew no longer exists to his "London Above" life and most of his adventure helping Door avenge her family's deaths is because he thinks that when he does that, he'll find a way to go home. He doesn't fit in anymore when he ends up home in the denoument, so he returns to London Below.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, Tristran goes back home, but returns over the Wall to stay.
  • The premise of The Odyssey, making it Older Than Feudalism.
  • The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones makes a feature of this trope, with the titular characters traveling from world to world (unwillingly, unagingly) hoping that eventually they'll end up back home and stop. The main character discovers that "you can never go back" when he finally manages to get to his world. Decades have passed; his 'home' no longer exists anywhere in the multiverse.
    • It's implied that his home was our world circa 1905, and he returns sometime after WWII and the rise of wargames.
  • Throughout the latter half of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, Rand al'Thor has the ability to open a Cool Gate pretty much anywhere in the known world, and yet the closest he comes to going home is when he gives someone a lift there. He refuses to stick around, knowing that that part of his life is gone.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, leaving your home of Winterfell is really not a good idea. You may end up dead, on the run from people who want you dead, held captive, or in sworn service of the Night's Watch. If you ever do make it back, Doomed Hometown.
  • In The Scar, stand-alone sequel to Perdido Street Station, Bellis' primary objective is to get back to New Crobuzun, until her plans change when she realizes that she can't escape Armada.
  • Andre Norton examples:
    • In Android At Arms, the protagonist and his Salariki friend accidentally end up in an Alternate Universe via a Cool Gate that the protagonist knew of by reputation; they had taken a chance of hiding out in its vicinity to avoid pursuit, since it rarely went into operation, and had bad luck. The protagonist knows, thanks to his studies with his late father, that nobody taken by the Cool Gate has ever returned.
    • In The Beast Master, Earth has been destroyed in an interstellar war as of the beginning of the story; the titular character, a specialized kind of commando, chooses another planet to be sent to after the war. The military is (justifiably) worried about his state of mind, particularly since they haven't seen any of the obvious / expected reactions from him.
    • In The Crystal Gryphon, Ithkrypt (the capital of Ithdale) and Ulmsdale are both destroyed by Functional Magic to keep them out of the hands of invaders (though in separate incidents). The latter had no survivors other than the Fish Out of Water male protagonist, as far as he could tell; he joined up with the refugees from Ithdale (who include the female protagonist, their leader) to try to get them out of harm's way.
    • In the Time Traders book Echoes in Time (co-written with Sherwood Smith), this is the fate of some human time travelers who go back into the far past on another planet. The rescue mission sent to retrieve them learns that the team survived, but were physically changed so that they could not survive returning to Earth, so they had made the best of a bad situation.
    • In Here Abide Monsters, the protagonists are swept into Another Dimension through a Cool Gate, and learn that they are Trapped in Another World, called Avalon. Such refugees from our world fall into two groups: those who accept an offer by The Fair Folk to be assimilated, and those who persist as rootless wanderers and are treated as prey by various creatures.
    • In Wraiths of Time, the protagonist changes places with her Alternate Universe counterpart, who dies in the process. Since she has no strong anchor to take her home, she cannot go back. In addition, the titular characters - the victims of a Mad Scientist - are in their wraith-state due to a similar problem.
    • In Star Rangers (alternate title The Last Planet), the characters are stranded when their spaceship crashes ... but even if they were rescued, the main character can never go home, because his home planet was sterilized in an interstellar war.
  • In Robert Sheckley's Dimension of Miracles the protagonist spends most of the book trying to get home.
  • In Star Wars, Alderaan is blown up. This is mined for much drama and angst in the Expanded Universe, with the various Alderaanians who were offworld at the time.
    • Not to mention Luke's home, which is destroyed by Imperial Stormtroopers.
  • Spader and Gunny from the Pendragon series ends up like this after Bobby tries to pull his Acolytes through the flume from Eelong to Zadaa, causing the Eelong flume to collapse and trap Spader and Gunny on a territory surrounded by catpeople for months (and like four books).
  • Those selected for training as Eternals in The End of Eternity could never return home, because home would no longer exist due to Reality Changes.
  • The short Painwise by James Tiptree Jr. featured a man whose nervous system had been played with. Anything that would cause him normally to feel pain would just cause him to see coloured lights. Turns out that his pain centers only kick in if he returns to Earth.
  • Eragon's house is blown up and later his home village's population evacuates and joins the Varden. Angela the fortune-teller even predicts that he will eventually leave Alagaesia altogether, never to return.
  • In The Forever War, decades and even centuries pass on Earth while the hero spends a few years on the front, due to relativistic trips to and from the black holes that make FTL travel possible.
  • Time Dilation plays into a short story by Nancy Etchemendy, where a woman follows the man she loves into space, then gives up her child to her mother on Earth after her husband dies. Decades have passed on Earth, and on top of all the strange fashion, technology, and slang freaking her out, she fears her mother might be dead and her presumably middle-aged son hates her. To her surprise her mother is alive and her son is only five years younger then she is since he went into space too -- and they're both happy to see her.
  • In David Eddings's The Belgariad Garion spends much of the first series wistfully wishing he could return to Faldor's farm where he grew up. This becomes much more evident when he discovers that he is the heir to the Rivan throne, with all the responsibility and weight that carries. Oh, and he's supposed to challenge the insane god Torak in mortal combat. You know, run of the mill stuff.
  • The setup of Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash is a expatriot midwesterner, now a NYC resident, going back to his home town to write an article. The book is a collection of short stories relating scenes of his youth there. It becomes clear that he doesn't belong there anymore.
  • A major theme in Vilhelm Moberg's Emigrant Suite. Kristina is very homesick in America and it doesn't help that she knows she can never go back home again and never see her family and friends again.
  • Poul Anderson's The Long Way Home involved astronauts on a year-long voyage with a new FTL drive coming home to Earth to discover the drive wasn't faster than light after all[1] ... meaning the past year of exploring had actually taken roughly five thousand years....
  • Kvothe from The Name of the Wind is of the Edema Ruh, who are travelling performers similar to much more honourable gypsies; their homes are their caravans. When his troupe was killed and their caravans destroyed, he found he had no home to go to.
  • Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear experiences this twice - first when her home is destroyed in an earthquake as a child, then when she's exiled from the Clan. Every other home she left voluntarily to go with Jondolar to the Zelandonii.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: The series definitely has fun with this! The book Sweet Revenge has Isabelle Flanders stating the trope after she talks her old fiance Bobby Harcourt, and it's made clear that it's too late for them to restart the relationship they once had. At the end of the book Free Fall, the Vigilantes become fugitives and a major plot point involves them waiting to be pardoned by the President. They do get pardoned by the book Game Over, but they still go through a few more hurdles. By the last book Home Free, the Vigilantes finally get some homes, and their lives are certainly different from what they had before.
  • In one of the Warrior Cats graphic novel trilogies, after Graystripe is captured by Twolegs, it takes him several moons to escape and find his way back to the forest... but that's when he realizes there is no forest - it's been destroyed by Twolegs. He eventually manages to find his way to the Clans' new home.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere an Autumn Tale, once you come through the Crimson Veil to the Woerld, you're stuck there.
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invicible, Geary. He can't go home because he slept through a century and everyone he ever knew is dead. (His planet's still there, but the Living Legend that grew up about him means he doesn't want to.)

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Farscape, John Crichton. Eventually he does make his way home, but he can't stay because he's changed too much...among other things, he's killed, a lot. While he's there, though, an assassin tortures and kills his best friends, and wrecks his family's house. On Christmas. Later, after he leaves, he's forced to close the wormhole for good, to protect Earth from the Scarrans.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • An episode called "A Hundred Days" plays with this trope. A meteor shower during a mission strikes the Stargate, burying it and leaving O'Neill stuck on an alien planet, with the rest of SG-1 having made it back to Earth. O'Neill spends the following months trying to find the gate, hoping that rescue will come. As he finally gives up on the idea of traveling through the stars and going back to Earth, he begins to make a life for himself with the people still on the planet with him. That is until his 100th day there when SG-1 finds a way to make contact with the gate and dig it out. O'Neill's having to choose between his new life and his old one is something of a Tear Jerker.
    • Martin Lloyd, the creator of Wormhole X-treme!, is one of the five known survivors of a spacefaring people that was destroyed by the Goa'uld. The only reason they're alive is they deserted from their homeworld's military.
  • Stargate Atlantis, the entire cast in the first season. That concept was quickly destroyed.
  • The basic premise of Stargate Universe. Apparently wanting to avoid the problems of the previous one, they've stranded the crew so far out that it would literally take decades for a current generation ship to catch up. The can make short trips home using the communications stones, but such trips are temporary and don't solve the supply-line issues.
  • Battlestar Galactica (both old and new) combined this with a Doomed Hometown to form the series premise. In addition, the fifth episode of the re-imagining's first season is called "You Can't Go Home Again", and involves Kara Thrace attempting to escape a barren planet to return to the Galactica, which (surprise, surprise) she does manage to do at the end, by using a crashed Cylon fighter to get off the planet.
    • Oddly enough, throughout the first and second seasons of the new Battlestar Galactica, numerous characters did go back home. Most notable case was Kara Thrace who literally returned to her (mostly undamaged) flat in Delphi.
  • Sliders for the entire run. They eventually combined this with Doomed Hometown in order to give the series a Big Bad.
    • Although one episode ended with them briefly (a few minutes) ending up in a world that looked a lot like theirs, only to end in disappointment when Quinn sadly noted the fence gate at his home didn't squeak, as it did in their world, so they jumped into the next vortex that appeared. Only, after it vanished, to have a local guy come out of the house with Quinn's mother and mentioning he'd finally fixed the squeaky gate hinges.
  • Star Trek: Voyager, series premise. In the premiere, the ship fell through a rift in space and wound up on the far side of the galaxy. Their journey home by the linear route (even at warp speed) would take at least 70 years, or more than most of the crew's lifetime. They use alternate technologies and wormholes to significantly reduce the time it actually does take but this was still the situation they were facing at the start of the series.
    • This is especially true for Neelix, whose homeworld was destroyed, and Icheb, whose parents want only to use him as a weapon.
    • One exception to this is the Doctor; he's the ship's Emergency Medical Hologram, so Voyager is his home.
    • It is mentioned that even if Kes returned to the Ocampa homeworld, they would no longer accept her.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Garak was exiled from Cardassia and is only permitted to return after the entire planet has been carpet bombed.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. In "Home" the crew of NX-01 Enterprise return to Earth after three years in space, only to find that while they have learned to accept aliens, xenophobia has increased as a result of the Xindi attack. T'Pol returns to Vulcan to discover that her mother's career has been destroyed because of her loyalty to Archer, while Archer has difficulty relating to his Starfleet superiors and friends who haven't shared his experiences.
  • Lost in Space, series premise.
  • Likewise in Life On Mars. Sam finally returns from the grey-brown-orange world of 1973 and decides the modern world lacks colour.
    • And in the spin-off, Alex Drake discovers that she can't return to 2008, because she is dead.
  • Gilligan's Island, in a comedy example.
  • Quantum Leap, in which not only can Sam Becket not go home, he can't even stay where he is, and must live moments from other people's lives, his leaps inevitable, finding himself in a new stranger's shoes each time.
  • The Doctor in Doctor Who is unable to return to his home world of late, ever since it kind of got destroyed.
    • In the old series, where the Doctor couldn't reliably control the TARDIS, most of his companions couldn't go home until it randomly ended up back in their home place and time again. Most of them didn't mind so much, but there were a couple of plot arcs in which the Doctor was actively trying get a character home, invariably without success; variations included "exactly the right place, but three centuries early" ("The Visitation"), "exactly the right time, but several light-years away" ("Four to Doomsday"), "the right place and the right time, but due to a technical fault we're all only an inch tall" ("Planet of the Giants"), and "the right place and time, but the wrong universe" ("Full Circle"), not to mention the ever-popular "despite the Doctor's confidence that he's succeeded at last, both the wrong place and the wrong time" ("The Reign of Terror", passim).
    • Also in the old series, the Doctor couldn't return to Gallifrey because interfering in the histories of other planets was considered a heinous crime. When he was forced to reveal his location to them ("The War Games"), the Time Lords captured, tried and exiled him.
  • And Torchwood's Jack Harkness. Not that he'd want to go back, apparently (going by the conversation with Ianto in "To the Last Man.")
  • Space Cases, a thinly disguised ripoff of Star Trek: Voyager... which was, itself, a ripoff of Lost in Space.
  • Sid and Marty Krofft Productions are notorious for using this one (HR Pufenstuf, Lidsville, Land of the Lost, The Lost Saucer, Far Out Space Nuts).
  • In Firefly, neither River nor Simon Tam can return to their home on Osiris, because doing so would get Simon arrested and River sent back to the Academy. On a more blunt note, Malcolm Reynolds can't go back to his home on Shadow because the Alliance virtually destroyed the planet during the Unification War, rendering it uninhabitable.
  • Part of the premise of Lost. Subverted in the third season finale, when they finally do get to go home, only to have Jack convinced it was a big mistake to leave.
  • In Highlander the Series, Duncan MacLeod is banished from his Clan after he resurrects for the first time.
    • This happens to most Immortals. Once people notice that they are not aging they will have to move away and can only really come back when most of the people who used to know them are dead. This is also required when an Immortal 'dies' in public and thus risks revealing The Masquerade if he/she does not leave.
  • Captain Buck Rogers really can't go back home because a) he's been gone for over 500 years and the neighborhood has changed a little in the time since and b) a nuclear war effectively wiped out 90% of the world he knew.
  • The key premise of Red Dwarf. Protagonist Lister awakes from what was supposed to be six months in stasis, but was actually three million years. He is the last living human on his ship. He sets off to see whether he's the last living human in the universe. Hilarity Ensues.

Music[edit | hide]

  • The song "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" by the Shangri-Las is made of this trope. It's essentially An Aesop about a girl who runs away from home and breaks her mother's heart to be with a boy, who she forgets about almost immediately, while it's implied that her mother dies of loneliness in the meantime.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The Deep Imaskari race in the Dungeons & Dragons Underdark setting live in a Hidden Elf Village. If anyone decides to leave, they automatically have the location of their home erased from their memory so that in the (highly likely) chance they are captured by something evil that can read minds, they will be unable to divulge the secret location.
  • The odds of a member of the Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000 making it to retirement age are pretty low, considering that the Imperium is almost continuously at war with some if not all of its neighbors. Those that make it are generally discharged on the planet they happen to be on when they retire, and their retirement package does not include a ticket back to their home planet (which could be over a thousand light years away, depending on what events happened during their deployment). As such, there is a very good chance that anyone who enlists in a Guard regiment will never return to their home planet, let alone their home town, ever again.
    • Indeed, the lucky ones instead get a commission and land on the planet of the world they conquered latest, and become essentially landed gentry in that world.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Secret of Mana for the SNES kicked off the plot with this, when The Hero is kicked out of his home village for removing a rusty sword from a stone, thus drawing monsters to it. In order to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, he has to find a way to unlock the sword's true potential.
    • With a little glitching, he can go home again, but he can't get out.
    • Also, in Seiken Densetsu 3, if you have Duran in your party and try to enter his house in Forcena, he will say that he can't return home until he has killed Koren, and the party will be unable to enter the house. Even after you kill Koren you still can't enter his house!
  • In Luminous Arc 3 Sara and Sion was supposed to have liver hundred year ago but because of wrong experiment that caused them to be in the present era. While Sion adapted her live Sara still want to return to the past. In the end both of them give up and continue their life with Sara become principal of Urgard and Sion become famous actress and depend on who you choose, the main reason is they want to be with Levi.
  • For most of Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd is exiled from his hometown due to a petulant proclamation by an arrogant mayor who scapegoats him for the town's problems.
    • To be fair, Lloyd and Genis did provoke the Desians into burning the village. Other bigoted mayors would probably be organizing a lynch mob at that point.
    • Averted toward the end of the first disc when The characters must decide which side they stay on when they separate the worlds. Ultimately, this is ruled out as a solution.
  • The premise of the first Homeworld game, where you can't return to Kharak because The Empire has annihilated all life on the surface. In the end, everything works out fine, though.
  • In Wild ARMs as well, Rudy is exiled from his adopted hometown by the town's mayor for releasing monsters into the village, after said mayor orders him to go into a dank cave and poke random things with a stick until something interesting happens.
    • Made stranger by the fact that not even an hour later he is in the company of a knight and a princess, both of whom could have easily stood up for his character and cleared his name.
    • Less strange when you realize he was exiled for using forbidden Lost Technology (even if, in the original, you choose not to; The Remake changes things so that the gun is the only weapon Rudy has.)
  • Half Life Opposing Force's Adrian Shephard can't go home again because he was trapped by the G-man in an alternate dimension to preserve him. All in the name of "discretion". Which ultimately is made more depressing by the fact that Earth is now a Crapsack World under the jackboots of the Combine.
  • Final Fantasy X: Tidus spends most of the game looking forward to returning to Zanarkand, which he discovers is pretty impossible seeing that it's been in ruins for the past thousand years and wasn't even really his Zanarkand anyway because he had been living in a literal dreamworld.
    • Final Fantasy VII has it too. Cloud and Tifa can never have their home town back because it was burned to the ground by Sephiroth. Although the town is rebuilt by Shinra and stocked with actors to cover up the event later in the game, the implication is still the same.
    • In Final Fantasy IX, this happens to a lot of the characters due to the massive property damage over the course of the game, but special mention to the Terrans (including Zidane), whose home planet gets blown up, and the summoners Eiko and Garnet, whose village was nuked in the backstory.
  • Might be the fate of the crew of The Spirit Of Fire From Halo Wars
  • Rath from Fire Emblem 7 was outcast from the Kutolah tribe at a very young age, due to a prophecy that said he'd have a great future if he saw the world on his own. In his solo ending, he returns to the tribe after the end and his tribesmen welcome him back warmly; in his paired ending with Lyn, Rath comes back alone but some time later Lyn joins him and they have a daughter, Sue.
  • In Suikoden V, you are forced to leave home when the palace is attacked and the hero's parents are killed, and are unable to return to Sol Falena until winning every battle in the game.
  • Inuyasha: Secret of the Cursed Mask (which has little to do with a cursed mask) the main character is yanked out of his or her time and can't return. Kagome's normal method of using the well is established early on to not work for the protagonist.
  • In Terranigma, Ark is literally unable to return to his home in the underworld, as the portal in the ground closed after he went to the surface. The game plays with this idea, allowing him to purchase a home in the surface world, but it only serves to heighten a sense of homesickness which the character comments on in one of the climaxes. In the end, he is finally allowed to return home... Only for him to seal it away by necessity, since his home was the domain of Dark Gaia.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Jedi certainly aren't supposed to go home. Or have any contact with their family ever again, for that matter.
    • Carth Onasi's homeworld Telos was glassed by the Sith in the backstory.
      • A similar fate is inflicted on Juhani's and Mission's adopted homeworld Taris during the game.
    • Zaalbar was exiled from his homeworld for attacking his brother with his claws, a massive taboo among the Wookies.
    • Visas Marr in the second game is one of the few remaining Miraluka after Darth Nihilus ate the souls of the entire population of Katarr.
    • The Handmaiden pissed Atris off enough by leaving with the male Exile that she probably wouldn't be welcome if she ever chose to return.
  • In Jade Empire, the village where the Spirit Monk and Dawn Star grew up is burned to the ground at the end of the prologue. Subverted in that the Spirit Monk actually gets to go to Dirge, his/her real home, later in the game.
  • In Mass Effect, all three of Shepard's backgrounds ensure s/he can never go home again: if you choose Earthborn, Shepard is an orphan who grew up on the streets; if you choose Colonist, Shepard's parents were killed and the colony razed in a batarian raid; if you choose Spaceborn, Shepard has a family, but grew up on multiple space stations and colonies as they moved around with the military.
    • In Mass Effect 2, Miranda parted from her father on rather bad terms.

Miranda: Shots were fired.

    • Also, in Mass Effect 2, Tali can end up exiled from her fleet during her loyalty mission.
  • In Dragon Age, all six of the possible origin stories end in the Warden not being able to go home. Human Nobles have everyone in their castle slaughtered, Mages would get sent to Mage prison, City Elves would be tortured and executed, Dalish Elves would die of a disease and their clan can't wait for them to be cured, Dwarf Commoners would be imprisoned indefinitely, and Dwarf Nobles were cast out to die.
    • In the Mage and City Elf examples, you can return home after dealing with the civil war and Blight, depending on your choices. If you side with the Mages in the Circle of Magi, First Enchanter Irving will even welcome you back to the Circle personally.
    • Sten also has this issue, as he cannot return home to give his report because his sword was lost. As he explains it, the sword was forged for his hands, and he "was to die wielding it." If he returned home without it, he would be slain on-sight by the qunari border guards for being a deserter.
    • Zevran has quit his role as an Antivan Crow, and thus if he ever goes anywhere near Antiva again they'll probably have him assassinated.
    • Leliana is in Ferelden after a botched mission left her with treason charges in Orlais.
  • In Dragon Age 2, Hawke's Doomed Hometown of Lothering is burned at the beginning of the game. Subverted in that over the seven years the game spans, Lothering is rebuilt, but by that time Hawke doesn't really want to go back.
    • Fenris doesn't want to go home after all the Magisters of Tevinter did to him.
  • In Okami, your Ninja Butterfly Issun ran away from home rather than become a celestial envoy and refuses to accompany you when you have a chance to go to his hometown. Also, the celestial beings murdered by Yami can't ever go back to the Celestial Plane.
  • In Three in Three, the main character spends most of the plot trying to get back to the spreadsheet she lived in, only to discover in the end that she doesn't really belong there anymore.
  • In Baldur's Gate, Gorion's influence was pretty much the only reason Ulraunt tolerated your presence in Candlekeep. When he dies, the fortress becomes as off limits to you as it is to the rest of the world. The sequel touches on this a few times as well: as time passes, you become a big fish in a very small pond—even if they did let you go back home, could you ever be content there?
    • You can (and in fact have to) go back to Candlekeep some time after Gorion's death while following the conspiracy you have been embroiled in all this time, only to discover that nearly everyone you knew there was killed and replaced by doppelgangers.
  • Warcraft universe:
    • Played straight with those High Elves who remain loyal to the Alliance, after most of their brethren join the Blood Elves who defect to the Horde. Also those humans and elves who fled the kingdom of Lordaeron when it fell to the undead.
    • Zigzagged with the Goblins, who made a mass-exodus from Kezan before it was attacked by Deathwing. Blizzard has gone on the record saying that the city Deathwing destroyed is only one small part of a larger island, and that the Goblins plan to go back eventually. The issue is when.
    • Chromie uses the Trope word for word in this trailer for the upcoming Legacy servers, then challenges such a notion, claiming that all you need is vision. Well, that and a temporal discombobulator.
  • In OtherSpace, the universe that houses our solar system began to break apart due to a massive war between titanic forces, forcing the players to make the journey to a new universe and start over there.
  • In X: Beyond the Frontier, Terran test pilot Kyle Brennan is marooned in a distant galaxy after the Xperimental Shuttle's jumpdrive goes haywire during a test flight.
    • In X3: Reunion, three games and several dozen years later, the Solar System is reconnected to the X-Universe's Portal Network at the end of the main plot. By this time, Kyle Brennan has a grown son in the X-Universe, is a war hero, and is the head of a multibillion-credit company. At best, he'd likely be a Stranger in a Familiar Land.
      • At worst, He Still Can't Go Home Again, because Earth's government consists of xenophobic paranoids, and almost immediately enters a Space Cold War with the rest of the X-Universe (the Argon Federation, Brennan's adopted country, included). Then, at the beginning of X3: Albion Prelude, his associate Saya Kho blows up Earth's Torus Aeternal, putting another nail in the coffin.
  • Super Mario Galaxy had a subplot which demonstrated that remaining in space too long will result in you finding all of you friends on Earth now long dead.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in Megatokyo, where Piro and Largo end up in Japan without any money to buy a ticket back home. They get several opportunities to fix this, yet for whatever reason, they never actually go back home.
    • Megatokyo is an interesting case indeed... With the plot and Character Development going the way it is, it seems that Piro and Largo feel too tied up in the personal lives of all the people they've interacted with. As such, even if they were offered a fool-proof method to return to America, neither would likely take it.
      • One scene with Meimi and Junpei implies that they may end up being forced out of Japan at some point. Until then...
  • This trope is the premise of Earthward-Ho! [dead link].
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger: It's impossible, really, to acclimatize to a world which has changed over a decade while you had three months. [dead link]
  • In Order of the Stick, it is foretold that Durkon will return to his homeland—posthumously. However, he's actually happy to learn this because he'd much rather be buried with his ancestors than to die somewhere else.
    • Of course, he doesn't know the real reason he was sent away from his home in the first place: it's prophecized that when he returns, it will result in the land's destruction.
    • Then there's Vaarsuvius, whose quest for power cost V's marriage and nearly the lives of spouse and children.
  • A minor plot point in Homestuck and partially a source of angst in the first parts of the story. The kids get over it fairly quickly though. The reason they can't go home is because Earth is a desolate wasteland and they're the sole survivors of mankind.
  • Zeetha from Girl Genius doesn't know where her tribe is from. Everyone who was involved in her journey to Europa ended up dead one way or another.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Dimensional Guardians trapped in Creturia in the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes.
  • In the Whateley Universe, Phase can't go home again. His family are the largest anti-mutant force on the planet.
  • Ultra-Man, from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, can't go home again because his home was seventy years in the past. His parents, his siblings, and all but one of his friends are now dead, and the surviving friend is almost ninety years old and has Alzheimer's. The town he grew up in has ten times as many people in it now than it did then, and looks nothing like it did. And of course, his house is long since been bulldozed down and replaced by a shopping mall.
  • qntm's "Be Here Now" story introduces a multiple-universes system of time travel. It's impossible to time-travel in one's own timeline, but you can "jump the tracks" to any point in any other timeline. The only thing is, the destination timeline is always "the next one down the [infinite] chain", so you can never go back home again once you've time-jumped once.
  • Survival of the Fittest: At the end of v3, JR Rizzolo manages to return home after (ostensibly) being the Sole Survivor, only to find that his family has disowned him and completely moved out.
  • The premise of Mabaka - Magic is for Idiots! revolves around a novice wizard from another dimension getting stuck on Earth with no way to get back. Naturally, he ends up staying with the same girl whose yard he crash-landed into. At least until a year is up and he can return via a dimensional transport system.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Re Boot for most of the third season.

"I live in the games. I search through systems, people, and cities, for this place: Mainframe; my home. My format? I have no format. I am a renegade, lost on the Net."

    • In more ways than one too. While Matrix and Andraia are lost on the Net, Bob is lost in the Web. At the same time Dot and Mouse are forced to abandon the Principal Office offscreen and are forced into hiding. The Tor also gets destroyed forcing Megabyte to find a new place to "set up shop". Seems like everyone in this show loses their home at one point or another.
  • For Samurai Jack, it was his home time.
  • Part of the series premise for Transformers: Beast Wars. Everyone was stranded on a strange planet far from their homeworld of Cybertron; at the end of the first season, this was Planet of the Apes Ending, far from their home time, which would be about three hundred years past our present day.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: One of the things that makes Aang and Zuko Not So Different is that neither can go home again—Zuko because he's been exiled, and Aang because it's not there anymore.
    • Subverted when Zuko betrays Iroh and is allowed to come back. Then subverted right back to straight when Zuko realizes it wasn't worth it and makes a Heel Face Turn. And subverted again in the finale when he not only goes home, but he owns the home.
  • Mario and Luigi in Super Mario Bros Super Show.
    • One episode did focus on the duo finding a way back home, but they opt to stay in order to protect the Princess.
    • In another episode, they did go back home, only to find out Koopa was terrorizing Brooklyn. They then tricked him into following them back to Mushroom Kingdom and blew up the way so he'd not be able to return to Brooklyn.
  • A conversation between the Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl in an episode of Justice League notes that this trope applies to so many of them—Superman and J'onn are each the Last of His Kind, Hawkgirl is stranded light-years from home, Batman is an orphan, and Wonder Woman has just been exiled from Paradise Island Themyscira—that they should call themselves the "Just Us League".
    • This trope is played with in Hawkgirl's case. She is actually an agent sent by the Thanagarians to spy on Earth and its secrets. The Thanagarians eventually come to Earth and take it over. She then finds out that they are going to use Earth as part of a weapon against this one alien species they are at war with. Unfortunately, Earth would be destroyed once the weapon is activated. In the end, she ends up alienating a lot of people, causes a chain of events that lead to the destruction of Thanagar, and it takes a long time before she is allowed back into the Justice League. Wonder Woman eventually manages to work things out with her mother, and she is allowed to set foot on Themyscira again.
  • Danielle in Danny Phantom can't return to Vlad's manor where she was cloned and raised on the virtue that the owner is willing to kill her in order to make a better clone! She spends her time constantly on the move.
  • For a while in The Fairly OddParents, Mark Chang was unable to return to Yugopotamia, since it would force him into an Arranged Marriage with Princess Mandie.
  • Gargoyles sometimes plays with this trope, for example in "Enter Macbeth," in which Xanatos is released from jail and free to return to his castle... forcing the titular gargoyles to leave said castle and find a new home. It doesn't stop them from visiting occasionally, though...
    • Also notable is the Avalon arc, where several characters spend much of the second season being dragged around the planet by a magic boat.
  • The Simpsons parodied this a Tree House of Horror episode where Homer inadvertently travels back in time and repeatedly makes changes to the world. After some time, he settles on a world almost identical but where everyone has long forked tongues.
  • In the last two episodes of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego??, appropriately named "Can You Ever Go Home Again?" (pt. I & II), Carmen meets her father, Malcolm Avalon, who has believed for almost thirty years that she died in a fire. At first, he disowns her but later acknowledges her "willful determination" and seems ready to accept her. Then Lee Jordan captures him, and while Carmen and ACME are trying to rescue him, he falls off a roof and suffers amnesia, causing him to forget ever meeting her. Carmen resolves herself never to get close to him again.
  • The basis of Futurama. Fry subverts it in the final moments before the Opening Theme, however:

"My God, it's the future. My parents. My co-workers. My girlfriend. I'll never see any of them again... [pause] Yahoo!"


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • In the late 1990s, numerous US Army, Air Force, and Naval bases throughout Europe and the United Kingdom closed down - often becoming the property of the home militaries of those countries in which they were located. You want depressing? Try this: the children who grew up on some of those bases would be turned away by armed guards if they tried to visit their old home-towns.
    • The children that grow up in most Army, Air Force, or Naval bases will get turned away by armed guards if they try to visit their own home towns; you need a current military ID, or an escort with current military ID, and simply being the offspring of an Enlisted or Officer individual won't get you a current military ID past the age of 21.
      • Many military brats move between bases so frequently while growing up that they don't have a home town. Asking them where they are from will yield a blank look.
    • Reversed in cases where the former base is annexed by the surrounding town and added to the local housing stock. Then, the trick becomes figuring out where the gates used to be.
  • Its not just the military brats - the "diplobrats" (aka children of diplomats) often have the same feelings. You live in so many homes, but you don't own them- the government does, or you rent. They're not your home, and going back would just emphasize that point.
  • Many people find themselves displaced from their homes due to political turmoil. One noteworthy case was Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian who ended up having to live in an airport terminal lounge for 18 years because his refugee papers were stolen.
  • At the end of the Second World War the borders of Poland, Germany, and Czechoslovakia were altered by the Soviets. Nearly ten million people were forcibly relocated, many leaving behind villages where their ancestors have lived for generations. Particularly heartbreaking for POWs who were released and suddenly found their homes didn't exist anymore.
    • When the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to complete the "Iron Curtain", those who found themselves in East Germany had to stay there. Not that it stopped some of the more determined ones.
    • Some of the Soviet Union soldiers during World War II who were captured as POWs by the Germans risked a few years in prison by returning to the Soviet Union after the war. This was because failure to fight to the death against the Nazis was seen as a potential sign of cowardice (or worse). Many either stayed in Germany living in Displaced Persons camps, or migrated elsewhere.
  • For many Americans today, the concept was an abstract or something that happened in other countries... until Hurricane Katrina left tens of thousands with no homes (or jobs) to return to.
    • The vast majority of them have managed to make new homes in Texas or so on.
  • The Last Days, a film that featured interviews with concentration camp survivors from Hungary who revisit. For one of the women interviewed, it was especially painful coming back to the town where she had lived and seeing her old house. She and the other survivors had moved elsewhere, often to America, after getting out of the camps.
  • It used to be a common thing in American culture where parents would kick their children (especially boys) out of the house as soon as they turned 18 or graduated High School depending on when in the school year their birthday fell (by law, hitting 18 legally makes you an adult), since they were supposed to face the world on their own and survive on their own. People even scorned others that chose to live with their parents, believing that they were freeloading or just lazy. While this mindset is still around, it is almost rare now thanks to a changing economy and prices on everything always going up, which has forced people to either find roommates or stay home with the family. That does make you an Acceptable Target for comedians though...
  • Much of the original American colonies were settled by the losers of seventeenth century religious and political brawls in Europe. The colonies of course hung on even if a reversal of the fortunes of war meant that they now COULD go home again.
  • The Jacobites, the White Russians, and many others who have lost a civil war. White Russians had their own neighborhoods in Paris, Istanbul, Shanghai, and other cities. They would often become mercenaries or spies, or similar such things.
    • In some cases it did mean they finally went home to a place they never knew. Mannerheim was a Finnish Noble who was in the Russian Military for nearly 30 years and forgot how to speak Finnish. He became Regent of Finland but found Finland strange. He lost his bid for president after helping to set up a new government. He spent most of the next 20 years semi-retired until World War Two when he was Field Marshall and was later elected president.
      • Mannerheim didn't forgot Finish because he was A Finnish Swede who had Swedish as his native tongue as most of the upper class of Finland.
        • He did forget Finish. He spoke a great number of languages,[2] one of them was Finish, and he forgot much of it do to lack of use. He later relearned it.
  • The foreign volunteers of Waffen-SS after the World War Two. Germany had lost the war and they would have faced trial of high treason in their native countries. Many of them found their only solace in French and Spanish Foreign Legions. It is said the majority of the French forces in Vietnam consisted of former Waffen-SS soldiers.
  • Ever lived in a small town or a rural area that, after you'd left it, went through a sudden bout of development? It's freaky, especially when landmarks like entire hills just disappear.
    • This is more likely to happen in a large city. Compare New York City in 1850, 1900, 1950, and 2000, or compare Shanghai in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. You can scale this up to entire countries during times of industrial revolution.
  • This can occur during severe infestations of pest animals (IE: Rats, cockroaches, etc.). The infestations can be so severe that the families living in said home have no choice but to pack up their things and leave. The Animal Planet series Infested is a documentary that is basically about these situations (Though, fortunately, they are often subverted, but not always).
    • Some infestations can become so severe that the home is essentially uninhabitable to humans.
  • In 1958, a Virginia interracial couple-Richard and Mildred Loving-were arrested for leaving the state to get married in Washington D.C. and then returning to Virginia to live as a married couple. The judge sentenced them to a year in prison but suspended the sentence for 25 years on the condition that the Lovings never return to Virginia together or at the same time.
  • The village of Imber, in the middle of Salisbury Plain, was evacuated in 1943 to allow planning and training for the Normandy landings - the population were not allowed to return even after the conclusion of the war, and their families are still only allowed to return for an annual church service.
  1. Those aboard perceived the travel as being instantaneous, but it was really at exactly the speed of light
  2. Swedish,Finnish, Russian, French, German, English, Polish, Portuguese, and he understood some Mandarin, if you where curious.