The Hero's Journey: Life of an Expat, Part 2
This is where ish gets real. If you thought that you were on vacation until now, your bubble’s about to burst. In the Ted-Ed video, the narrator continues that is the point in which you will begin to be tested. The hero may have to slay a monster or escape from a trap. In other words, there will be a series of tests to prepare them for the final test.
In reality, you probably won’t have to slay dragons or solve some impossible riddles. But you will have to search for housing and register with immigration. More likely than not, everything will not go as planned—if there is a plan, to begin with. This is where the homesickness begins to set in, and you worry that you have possibly made a huge mistake.
Here is what we have all been leading up to. The hero is set to face his or her biggest hurdle yet. The expat must come face to face with the reality of his or her new life. Is it as you expected? Are you reaching the apex of whatever goals you set for yourself?
Like it or not, it all comes down to this moment.
Here now is the darkest hour. The Hero faces death, maybe even dies from the final trial.
Only to be reborn again stronger and with an improved will to fight.
Things hopefully aren’t as grim for the expat, but they face their share of personal drama. For others, it may mean breaking up with the lover that they flew halfway around the world to be with. Or perhaps the expat is facing possible deportation after a filing mixup at the local immigration office. Or worse still, they become gravely ill and may have to cut their new life short and return to their home country.
For me, it wasn’t necessarily that dire. I confronted my school principal after he refused to allow my immediate supervisor to write me a letter of recommendation. I had no intention of staying at the same school, for the following year. So, I had to reapply for a different program altogether. I also planning on applying to programs in Korea or Japan and I need someone to account for my teaching skills.
This is all completely normal process both in Spain and the US. All I needed from him was a stamp verifying that I had indeed worked at that particular school. In a normal or larger school, this is something that the secretary would handle. But here, due to the small size of the school and the large size of his ego, everything had to go through him. And he refused.
Not because I wasn’t good at my job. No. That wasn’t the issue. Not because he wanted me to stay at his school. That wasn’t it either. While I was good at my job, we both shared a mutual disdain for each other. The problem was this: he felt I should have asked him for his opinion and advice about where to go on my next step. Yes, you read that right. He thought himself as my supernatural advisor and felt insulted that I had not consulted him first.
I was furious and refused to kowtow to his ego. Especially not after he had come to the school in Blackface and had compared my skin to burnt toast. At this point, his feelings were the last thing on my mind.
This is the point in the story when all your hard work pays off. And this is the point in which I feel as the expat and the hero converge the most. For the hero, he will claim some special recognition or treasure. Or will possibly become imbued with a new special power.
The expat may find themselves out of whatever storm they are facing at the moment. And may walk away with newfound language or intercultural skills. He or she may find new love in place of loss, or possibly recovery from a life-threatening illness in a country with universal healthcare.
But I stuck to my guns, I found a way around my principal and was rewarded with a year in Minorca—the sister island of Mallorca and Ibiza. And I’ve been living it up ever since.
But the real treasure for the hero and the expat is that they become the master of both worlds. No matter what else the hero may be fighting for, the safety of his loved ones, or even enlightenment, this is the true goal of the journey.
It is at this point that the story begins to whine down. It is time for the hero to leave the special world. In the process, he may find that the monsters or villains have bowed down to him. Or, they may chase him from his special world.
The expat may feel at this point that he got what he came for, and is ready to return home or move on to his next journey.
The next three steps seem tied together. The expat and the hero return home to their old life changed in possibly unexpected ways. You have outgrown your old life and as you settle back in, you untangle all the old plot lines. All the little worries and stresses that used to plague you, now seem unimportant and superficial. You deal with them accordingly and learn to let go.
Life returns to normal, but a precedent has been set. This is a new normal an upgraded life. Because nothing is ever the same once you are a hero. So you settle in, put your swords away, and maybe, just maybe begin to plan your next trip.