“We make plans, and God laughs.” – Phil Wolfe
I don’t know if Phil Wolfe, better known as my dad, invented this saying but I’ve heard it from him many times over the years. As many of you know, I have been planning a trip of epic proportions that was scheduled to start June 22nd. The itinerary looks something like this:
Phil (dad) flies into LA June 19th.
Dad and I pack up the car and head out on Sunday June 22nd and begin our road trip across the continental US (LA to Holbrook, AZ to Albuquerque, NM to Oklahoma City, OK to Little Rock, AK to Rockville, MD).
ERRRRR Why. Are you driving. Is the question you have. See, I have a dog, Pepper.
She needed somewhere to live while I traveled through South America and there’s no one I trust quite like Ari, my sister. Aaaand, then there’s The Vegan Road Trip, the documentary I’m filming on my return drive back to LA in mid-August. Stay with me. It’s all part of the “plan.”
Now where were we? Oh yeah:
• Five days (ish) in my hometown with my family, celebrating my nephews 4th birthday.
• Fly to Miami where I extended my layover for the night and where I will spend time with my extended family whom I haven’t seen in 5 years and, incidentally celebrate my cousins birthday (good plan, Alex!)
• July 2nd: Fly out of Miami International into Punta Arenas, Chile (the southern tip) where I will begin my solo backpacking journey through South America.
That itinerary goes something like this:
Punta Arenas - some national parks and other amazing sights, ultimately arriving in Santiago, Chile - there, I will take a 5 day bus up the east coast of Chile through more national parks ending in San Pedro de Atacama (the desert of North Chile) - I will then find a way to join a 4wd tour through the dessert into Uyuni to see the ever brilliant Salt Flats - then, I take an overnight bus (don’t tell my mom) to La Paz, Bolivia where I will catch a flight to Cuzco, Peru, spend a couple days getting acclimated to the altitude (something like 12,000 feet!) - Then the 5 day hike trek begins to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trail - Arrive back in Cuzco in time to catch a flight to Iquitos, a small river town in Northern Peru where I may or may not acquire Malaria (pray for me) - Flight to Lima where I will spend a week exploring - Back home to Washington, DC to see one of my oldest friends get married on June 9th.
This won’t be just any wedding, folks. This wedding represents perseverance; hope, loving someone in the face of sickness and promising to stand by each other even when doing so means sacrificing a “normal” late 20s existence. This wedding will be the happiest of weddings.
Next, a small film crew will be flying from LA to DC, where my incredible family will host us before we embark on the actual Vegan Road Trip: stopping in small towns as we cross the US from the east coast to the west coast and knock on peoples doors in the hopes that we can cook them a vegan dinner, all the while filming the entire process. Oh, but before that I will be home to celebrate my dad’s 69th birthday before we head out. I am scheduled to arrive back in LA on August 23rd.
Pretty rad plan, huh?
But that’s just it – sometimes plans are great. And they work out. And you’re real stoked you had one. And sometimes plans are meant to be broken, and that’s fun too. And then sometimes….wait for it…. “we make plans, and God laughs.”
One week before dad arrived in LA, I took a beautiful trip with a beautiful person I like to call mon beau. We went to Palm Springs, and I had the WORST cough. Nothing sexy about it, I assure you. Not the kind that results in the three day “hot phone operator voice.” More like hocking up a lung, spitting, apologizing for being disgusting, can’t breathe so good, the WORKS. But he’s a peach and he just kind of shrugged it off – he practically acted like he didn’t even notice (which was impossible, but of course very loving and kind of him). Well THAT’S not what I had planned, but sometimes the sh%^#@ hits the fan and you gotta suck it up and deal. So I did. No biggie – I’ll gladly take this cough over dysentery, malaria, diarrhea in a third world country, rape, murder, muggings… you get the point. I was feeling very impressed by my PMA (positive mental attitude).
Something went wrong with Pepper. And the thing about dogs is that they don’t talk, so it’s extra disconcerting when they show pain or discomfort and they can’t just tell you where it hurts. So you have to wonder. And you’re in Palm Springs with a new dude, a bad cough, and the real kicker: expectations.
CRUSH. (In case you hadn’t put two and two together…this is the sound of my plan going to shit).
So I return home (LA) and immediately head to the vet. Now because I don’t indulge in drama and negativity (anymore) I’m gonna make a very, very long story shorter. Some tests were done indicating that Pepper’s white blood cell count was exceptionally high as were her kidney values. Early stages of kidney failure? Pyelonephritis? Addison’s disease? We weren’t sure. And I’m supposed to leave for my road trip in two days. THIS IS SO NOT PART OF THE PLAN, YO. So I did what any mature adult does: I had a breakdown. My PMA was dwindling fast and I was feeling incredibly vulnerable. The thoughts I wasn’t willing to indulge before now flooded in like Katrina:
My dog is dying (drama – I don’t know this, but fu%^* it, let’s just fly down the rabbit hole. Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200) - Who the hell do I think I am that I can just take two months off from life to vacation in SA (ps. I think I’m awesome for dreaming big, and daring bravely to listen to my heart and follow my gut and face my deepest of fears). - My dog is dying (this possibility was really weighing on me).
I’m in a brand new relationship (three months young) and what if he’s the one, it’s way too soon to leave for two months AND have faith that he won’t abandon me and find someone better (prettier, skinner, funnier, more interesting, braver, lovelier, kinder, gentler, more impressive, someone stop me this fear spiral LITERALLY has no end)…. Of course the reality is that no one can abandon me, I’m an adult. The only one who can abandon me is myself, and homie don’t play that no more.
I will be penniless and HOMELESS.
OH YEAH. How could I leave out my favorite part?* Being Jewish I have a natural inclination for finding deals and making extra cash. After hearing about a friend who would rent her apartment on Airbnb, I wanted in. I started to use Airbnb to supplement my income (in fact this is how I saved the thousands of dollars my epic adventure will be costing me). Part of the plan was that I was going to sublet my apartment on Airbnb while in SA (I know, you’re probably incredibly impressed with my Martha Stewart like planning capabilities. Yes, you can hire me. I’ll probably need a job when I get back). Not only would it pay my rent, but I was also going to make a profit of $1,000 extra dollars/month that I was gone. Right about now you’re thinking, that’s a stellar plan. I know, me too. I thought the same thing.
Cut to: my apartment gets sold to… hmmm.… how to say it nicely? A monster. Really. The worst of the worst. The kind, who for no good reason, starts threatening eviction, threatening security deposits, just a major bully. Extremely panicked, I allowed myself to sit with the discomfort for 48 hours, after which point I made the very difficult decision to move out of my apartment of five years and just stop fighting the injustice of it all. I moved my stuff into storage and took a room in my kindest friends home (her name is Sarah and she is one of the most generous and loving souls to roam this planet) for the three weeks I would be without lodging before my trip. Needless to say, I was feeling displaced, stuff in East LA, Sherman Oaks, and Silverlake. Boyfriend in Venice, dog sick, dad arriving very soon (with nowhere really to put him). So I turned to my spiritual practice. I’ve been through much worse. I can handle this. Deep belly breaths, as my best friend always reminds me.
Wait a minute.
That’s right. I don’t do this to myself anymore. I would not speak to my closest friends and loved ones with such intense fear mongering, so why would I be willing to talk myself off the ledge? I made a decision to walk stoically, hand in hand, with uncertainty. To get acquainted with the unknown and to embrace adventure and all that comes with it. When I got the call on Saturday (I was planning to leave Sunday) from my vet that we still didn’t know what was wrong with Pepper, but that she was very glad to hear her eating and general mood had improved, she strongly encouraged me to continue with the plan. “Next step for Pepper is an ultrasound, which you can easily take care of when you arrive in DC. If you hear something bad then you can decide to cancel your trip to SA. If you don’t, and in fact, she seems to be responding to the antibiotics, then off you’ll go!” she said brightly. Deep belly breath, “okay. Ima go then.”
So here I am, somewhere near Oklahoma City, my beloved Pepper by my side, and my father in the drivers seat. Better him than me. Turns out it’s not always best when I try and take the wheel, pun intended.
Grant me the courage to accept life on life’s terms, to have faith that real love is built over time and in response to caring for oneself in front of your partner, and speaking your truth so that others may feel less afraid of the bully within. May you find peace today, adventure tomorrow, and leave expectation at the front door.