The Hero’s Journey: Tracking Rhinos in the African Safari

Lately I’ve been reading a book called the Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. I’ve always loved movies and the story of the hero. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to learn more about.

 The different stages of the hero’s journey include the following. I used the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) as an example for each of the stages.

1. The Ordinary World – The hero isn’t a hero yet. He’s still at home surrounded by his familiar environment. This is like Frodo at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings. He’s never really left the shire and he’s perfectly happy there.

2. Call to Adventure – This is when the hero receives a challenge or the invitation to go on a great quest. In Lord of the Rings that would be Frodo receiving the great ring of power from Gandalf. Frodo was tasked with keeping it safe.

3. Refusal of the Call – This is where the hero gets the call, but he shows reluctance to go on his journey because he is too used to his surroundings. If you watch Lord of the Rings, you’ll see that this is the scene where Gandalf explains to Frodo that the dark lord’s forces know that the ring is in the shire because Golem, when being tortured says the words “Shire” and “Baggins”. In that moment, Frodo freaks. He quickly tries to give the ring back to Gandalf.

4. Meeting with the Mentor – Because the hero has refused, it’s a sign that he may not be ready. He’ll need the guidance and advice of a mentor. Since the hero’s journey does not have to be in order, in LOTR we’ve already seen the mentor and this is Gandalf.

5. Crossing the First Threshold– At this point of the journey the hero must leave the ordinary world and start his adventure into the special world. This is where Frodo leaves the shire with his hobbit friends.

6. Test, Allies, Enemies – Along the journey the hero will undergo many tests, be granted many allied and then face several enemies. The first encounter with the enry is with the Nazgul who serve the dark lord. He narrowly escapes. The Allies are obiosly Samwise, Merry and Pippin.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave – This is the point in the story where the hero must prepare to face ultimate terror and challenge. If you watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy it might not be apparent until the third movie. To me it seems like the rest of movie 1, along with movie 2 and 3 covers this area. So many supremely mindblowing events happen to Frodo that I can’t list them here. You’ll just have to watch the movie.

8. Ordeal – In this stage the hero faces life and death and he is reborn. This could be at the end of the Return of the King where Frodo is attacked by golem and he has to fight for his life, in order to destroy the ring. In the Return of the King there’s a part where Frodo is tempted last minute to say the ring, you can also interpret this as a life or death moment.

9. Reward – After the hero faces the ordeal, he gets his reward. For Frodo I believe this is being relieved of the burden of carrying the ring. Yay!

10. The Road Back– Here the hero heads back home. For Frodo, this is the journey back to the Shire.

11. Resurrection – This is where the Hero must shed persona or traits he formed in the journey and try to assimilate back into the real world. I don’t believe this is present in the last movie, or in the book because Frodo stills seems out of it and doesn’t seem to be able to integrate back into his old world. Instead he has to go the Grey Havens, where who knows what he does.

12. Return with the Elixir – The hero then has to share the exlixir with the rest of the world. In LOTR I believe this is the sharing of the peach with the entire land, with Mordor gotten rid of.


About This Picture

At this point, you may be asking, what the heck does this picture of the rhino have to do with the Heroes journey? Well, I believe this picture most reminds me of stage 5 “Crossing the First Threshold”. Our trackers and I drove around the jungle for hours. The moment I saw and smelled the rhino, I knew I was in another world. Like every special world, South Africa has its own unique challenges and villains.

Apparently rhinos are in real danger now because of poachers. Powerful and rich people have heard of the rumor that the rhino’s horn when ground into powder has potent healing properties; powerful enough to heal cancer.

The poacher goes out into the wild, tranquilizes the rhino and then brutally chop of its horn while it’s still alive. Many of the rhinos do not survive this barbaric practice. They just die!

Killing a Rhino for this purpose is like hunting a unicorn for its horn. In the middle ages the unicorn horn was known to cure poison or cleanse unclean water. I know it may sound like a fairytale to you. The hunters of unicorns in stories are never good guys, they are always villains.

If you think about it, maybe the Rhino is as sacred as the unicorn. In Malaysia the rhino is called Badak Api, where Api mean fire, because they believed that rhinos’ were attracted by fires lit in the woods. When seen, the Rhinos would put the fires out by stomping on it. In some cultures the Rhino is a symbol of protection and peace, wisdom and strength since its armor and horn makes it one of the most protected and respected animals in the wild.

My point is the hero’s and heroine’s journey is all around you, Especially when you travel. So go travel! Go on your journey. Find a way to be your own hero and make a difference.

If you’d like to find more about the hero’s journey please visit Christopher Vogler’s site (’s_journey.htm )

If you’d like to find out how to help the Rhinos, there are several organizations who keep the Rhino safe. One I found is this one:

Sacred Moments at Ankor Wat

I have never woken up early enough to catch the sunrise, but I figured since I’m in Cambodia, I might as well catch the dawn coming up behind Ankor Wat. So I awoke at 4 am and set up my gear. The driver Hoy, who I hired for a week was there on time and picked me up at 5 am.

I’m extremely glad I got up. I was there early enough to catch the sky before it turned orange. Here’s a shot, where the sky is still in blue hour mode. At this time the moon was still out and could still be seen in the sky. It was too high up to capture in this picture, but it was there.

As I walked the path toward the body of water where I wanted to shoot, I had to walk through a series of hallways. I’m the only adventurer who didn’t bring a flashlight, so I almost tripped in some of the really dark corridors.

Outside I could hear the jungle and its myriad of noises. I use this term a lot, but it felt magical. It’s these magical and almost sacred moments that make travel worthwhile for me.

Ankor Wat - Blue Hour

Wood and Metal in Harmony

Recharging Your Energy

The last few days, I’ve felt discouraged from creating or posting anything. It’s like all the life events that happened within the last year (weddings, funerals, and school activities) had finally caught up with me. I always felt like if I had the free time, then I would for sure work on my photography. Actually, once this time came, I found other things as an excuse. I learned that I needed some time to decompress and pursue activities that I knew would re-energize me. I caught up with my favorite shows, read a couple books and spent an ample amount of time exercising and meditating. I’m glad I did. During this time of reinvigoration I realized that my mind had been cluttered with imaginary worries. I was focusing on the past, which I had no power to change as well as too much on the future, which hadn’t come yet. By finding ways to calm my mind, I was able to focus on the present, and I found the courage to create another picture. I’m glad. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, the author Robert M. Pirsig discusses the fact that one can’t create “quality” without peace of mind. I’ve been thinking about this and it makes sense. Unless someone is completely calm and undistracted, how is he/she supposed to know if what they’ve produced is any good?

Everybody has their own way to recharge. What are some ways that you use to build your energy back up? In the book the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she recommends taking 1 day per week as a personal day to feed creativity. Maybe if I was doing this on a regular basis, then I probably would have felt more joy and never have hit a slump in the first place.  

Photo of the Moment: Wood and Metal in Harmony

Sibelius Monument can be found in Helsinki, Finland. It was built to commemorate Jean Sibelius, a Finnish composer. Although it is made of 600 hollow metal pipes, I still get a sense of its organic-ness. Notice the way that its lines follow the trees in the background.

Helsinki Finland Sibelius Monument

What do Cougars Eat for Breakfast?

The Importance of Fighting Laziness

Early in the morning we would wake up before sunrise to go on safari. At first I dreaded waking up early because I felt that since I was on vacation, I should be able to sleep in. This conflicts with the photographer side of me who believes that I should wake up early every morning to photograph things like sunrises.

Since I didn’t really have a choice;  and because I realized that I didn’t fly half way around the world to South Africa just to sleep in, I forced myself to wake up at the crack of dawn. I was tired, cold and hungry. We drove around in the Humvee for about half an hour before we spotted anything. Despite the freezing temperature, I was filled with excitement.

After a while our tracker Jimmy spotted a cougar. I guess it was hungry also because it had just caught a fish from the river. I was amazed to see how agile the cougar actually was. He jumped from rock to rock with the greatest of ease. I learned that sometimes it may be hard to push ourselves to follow our passions. We may be tired or sleepy, but we should do it anyways. I was so surprised to see the cougar and I thought myself “I’m so glad I got up early to do this.”

 3 Tricks I Use to Get Up On Time

Now here are 3 tricks that I use to be able to get up on time when I’m on travel.

1. Set multiple alarms on a mobile phone – My phone allows me to set as many alarms as I like. I usually set 3, with 5 minute intervals in between each. This way, in case I sleep through one or I immediately turn it off, I then have possibly two more from that device to wake me up.

2. Set the in room alarm – Another trick I like to use is to set up my in room alarm. This alarm is usually louder and more deafening than my mobile phone. I rely on its obnoxiousness in a good way and it usually wakes me up.

3.  Have the front desk provide a wakeup call – Lastly, coordinate with the front desk and have them give me a wakeup call. If I somehow sleep through my mobile phone alarm and the hotel room alarm, then there’s still no way that I can avoid the ringing of the hotel phone. It’s guaranteed that I will pick it up and at least say “hello”. By the time I’ve said ­hello, I know I’m not going back to bed.

Photo of the Moment: What do Cougars Eat for Breakfast?