Physical Vs Metaphysical Travel


Many literature capture the theme of travel in different ways. Some books make reference to physical travel, while others emphasize the idea of metaphysical journey. Physical travel is movement of the body from one location to another, but metaphysical travel is movement of the spirit or mind from one location to another without movement of the body. The themes of travel are explored in both The First Journey of Sinbad and The Odyssey.

Physical Travel in The First Journey of Sinbad and The Odyssey

First and foremost, both storylines entail physical travel. The First Journey of Sinbad depicts Sinbad's first maritime expedition. He seeks fortunes in far off lands to replace the inherited wealth that he had squandered. Of his travel, Sinbad explains that he, “joined a company of merchants who traded by sea, embarking with them at Balsora in a ship we had fitted out between us” (Lang 126). Similarly, The Odyssey captures the epic journey of Odysseus. It took Odysseus 10 years to return to his home after the war in Trojan. On his journey back, Odysseus encounters several struggles with mythical creatures and gods who are disinclined against his return to Ithaca. The narrator documents define Odysseus as, “one who had suffered twenty years of torment, sick at heart, cleaving his way through wars of men and pounding waves at sea but now he slept in peace, the memory of his struggles laid to rest” (Homer 105).

Metaphysical Travel in The Odyssey

Nonetheless, there is more than one form of travel in The Odyssey. Odysseus is shown to have travelled onto mystical land. In these places, he fought with mystical creatures who were against his desires and won. This constitutes metaphysical travel because it did not involve the movement of the body but that of the mind. To fight the gods, it is expected that Odysseus would have assumed a new mystical body. On the other hand, the First Voyage of Sinbad documents only the physical travels of the main character. His struggles are humanly and his movements involve the change of physical location. Furthermore, the locations that are documented in the story, such as Baghdad, exist in life.

Choice and Intention Behind Physical Travel

Physical travel gives the traveler the liberty of more choices to choose from as it is with Sinbad’s case (Perriam 20). Sinbad was often bored by life on land in Baghdad which is why he often went for his voyages. Other analysts and critics of the story attribute his voyages to his undying greed for wealth. Their argument is pivoted by the fact that Sinbad always returned home with a lot of wealth, but what holds is the fact in the story that Sinbad left for three more voyages having run into trouble that almost cost him his life. Also from another perspective, it may seem like Sinbad liked to be in trouble. He would always go back to sea like it was his first time over and over again despite the trouble he had faced there before. These views of his traits and the uncertainty that lies in the untold reason for his behavior raise many questions about his intentions. Even more compelling was his desire to visit the sea despite the fact that he was not forced into the initiative. Compared to Sinbad, Odysseus did not have a choice. He was going back home after having won a war with his men. He provides the hero than can unlatch his community from the shackles of dishonesty and deception that was perpetuated by the leaders at the time. The events all unfold not solely because of his choices but mostly because of his men’s mistakes, for example with the wind bag they opened that led the to them island with the cyclops he had to kill to live, who turned out to be Poseidon’s son. His metaphysical travels were mostly made to face raging gods who were angry with him. He even had to be aided by Athena, the goddess of love, for him to survive, and at another instance, both Athena and Zeus helped his course. Sinbad always landed himself in trouble and thus he always got himself out. Both Sinbad and Odysseus were smart for they are the ones who always came up with the plans that always saved the and some of their men, but the travels make them bolder and wiser in the end.

Struggles and Challenges in Physical and Metaphysical Travel

In both stories, the main characters are faced with struggles which they eventually fight and conquer. This is both in the physical travels of both Sinbad and Odysseus and also in the metaphysical travels of Odysseus. The fact that they did indeed conquer the various troubles that they came across their ways to their intended goals does not go to prove that both forms of travel offer equal opportunity to fight one’s way out. Odysseus was helped where his abilities could not fight by Athena. What it however goes to prove is the presence of challenges and struggles in both worlds, and therefore in both forms of travel. Given the degree of decision making allowed for in the different worlds in respect of the actual physical actions one can carry out. Similarly, given that Odysseus had to be aided by Athena to win the metaphysical struggles, it goes to show that more than the physical form of travel, the metaphysical travel is challenging.

Transformation and Growth Through Travel

From their journey’s, both the characters become wiser and even more prudent. Sinbad, after his physical struggles in the sea, learns to be gracious and not wasteful. He seeks to better himself and his community as a man. This is contrary to the man that he was before his voyages. He becomes wealthy again and reclaims his position in the society (Pomerantz 21). After the end of his narration, he extends the poor Sinbad a purse containing one hundred sequins. Similarly, Odysseus reclaims his throne on his return to Ithaca. From his conflicts with the mystical creatures he becomes wiser and intelligent and engages these metrics in administrating over his people. He bravely faces Antonius and reclaims his wife and child.


Conclusively, the two texts majorly explore physical and metaphysical travel. The Odyssey captures both the physical and metaphysical travels of Odysseus while The First Voyage of Sinbad explores solely the physical travels of the rich Sinbad. Furthermore, the texts reinforce the essence of travel by documenting the lessons that the characters learned in their journeys. Through their struggles and through their journeys, the characters become stronger and more resilient. Essentially, the change of environment may serve to enhance one’s potential. Travels expose individuals to new ways of accomplishing goals. Moreover, they provide an opportunity for re-birth. Both Sinbad and Odysseus emerge victorious after their journeys.

Works Cited

Homer. The Odyssey . Wordsworth Editions , 2002.

Lang, Andrew, ed. The Arabian Nights Entertainments. Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 1898.

Perriam, Geraldine. "Sacred Spaces, Healing Places: Therapeutic Landscapes of Spiritual Significance." The Journal of Medical Humanities 36.1 (2015): 19-33.

Pomerantz, Maurice. "Tales from the Crypt: On Some Uncharted Voyages of Sindbad the Sailor." Academic Journal Article 2.2 (2015).

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