Here we were, enjoying a leisurely stroll in the Upper Lakes of Plitvice National Park. Suddenly, Jarelle felt his heart accelerating (no, he wasn’t having sex with nature) and collapsed to the ground. My fallen comrade wasn’t feeling good. After checking his pulse and working on his breath, onwards we went.
But a few minutes later, to the ground he went again, this time feeling worse. He needed FOOD. Unluckily for us, we were some of the only people on that long trail. I raced after an elderly couple who looked at me like deers in headlights and shut down my request for fruits. After half an hour of desperation, we found a kind German man and Eastern European woman who gave us almost all they had. It must have felt like a Roman banquet to Jarelle, who gobbled down everything that was given to him. After feeling somewhat reinvigorated, we slowly walked the remaining 1km to the boat dock, back to civilization. If you’re curious, here’s the victim’s take on this trial.
Letting Go of Your Persona in the Face of Adversity
In the tradition of Greek tragedies, we could say @nerdwithabsofficial is Jarelle’s mask or his persona (from the latin: “a social role or a character played by an actor”). Here is this intelligent wellness coach, with a Men’s Fitness physique, gymnastics prowess, and a mentor’s love for his younger siblings and clients. Surely, he can climb Everest in the morning and return by tea time?
Well, no. To truly become the hero to many that he aspires to be, his journey would first need to make a few showing scratches on his mask.
The hero’s obstacles in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces involve shipwrecks and weeks in the desert without water. Jarelle’s obstacle was a 3-km promenade along enchanting waterfalls.
For all the hurdles that Jarelle jumped over in the park, this stout American gladiator couldn’t overcome the hurdle of sodium deficiency in his blood. (I’ve been told his condition was called Hyponatremia)
While Ulysses could have died for an excess of Mediterranean salt, Jarelle would claim that he’d have died from the lack of salt. Spartacus, this other gladiator who escaped from his masters and made a run for it, would shake his head in disbelief.
Jumping hurdles was easy for Spartacus (as played by Kirk Douglas in the 1960 Stanley Kubrick movie).
Only through some form of “death” can our Hero be reborn, experiencing a metaphorical resurrection that grants him greater power or insight necessary to reach his journey’s end.
Mask Off: Revealing Your True Heroic Self
As I watched old Japanese ladies walk past his collapsed carcass, exceptionally shutting off their camera out of respect for the fallen, I foreshadowed a theme that would repeat on this trip… A few days later, I was proven right as a little girl handed his ass to him on a silver platter on the parallel bars.
Maybe it was this love within Jarelle that I evoked earlier that motivated him through this ordeal and brought him on the Road Back. I undoubtedly believe that he couldn’t have looked his younger sister and brother, his mom, and his friends in the face had he given up, and he wanted to prove to them that No, travelling abroad wasn’t dangerous! That is what made him put one leg in front of the other to the finish line.
These unfortuitous events beget a bigger question about the purpose of travel: don’t we travel to step out of our comfort zone and see how far we can push our limits? I’ll answer this in another post.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Jarelle came back from this trip with a new sense of self and his place in the world. And perhaps, just perhaps, he might leave his Greek mask of Apollo in the closet.