“Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined.” – Deepak Chopra
“Now serving 34, window 2.”
I looked down at the number 49 printed on the white paper square I was fidgeting with. I sank deeper into the uncomfortable squeaky plastic chair of the passport office center, and snoozed into daydreaming, fantasizing about my upcoming travel in the mystical land of India.
It had all happened suddenly. After feeling quite beaten down by the wet and depressing Canadian winter, I had impulsively booked a flight to India for two months to fulfill an old dream of mine, taking a course in myofascial massage therapy. While filling my online visa application (a guaranteed yes within 48h for Canadian resident) I realized that the India consulate had recently changed the rule, now demanding for passports to be valid for one year before entering the country. I had only six months left on mine.
“Now serving, 49, window 9.”
I walked into a neon-lit grey cubicle, a curly and uptight man in his early 30’s was sitting on the other side, wearing a confusing mixture of extreme boredom and arrogance on his face.
“Hi, what can I do for you?” he asked in a disinterested voice.
“Hi, I need this passport to be renewed please.”
He asked me to see my documents. I passed them on to him, and while he was nose deep within my passport, I watch his expression turned into disgust while he flipped through the pages.
“This is not a passport. This is a piece of trash. This document is no longer valid, what have you done to it?” He spitted at me.
“What is wrong with it? I just came back from Hawaii, and it was good enough for the US embassy? I traveled the world for years with what you call “a piece of trash”, and never had any problem.”
“Well, I can’t renew this, it’s unacceptable! You need to start with the application for a brand new Passport.”
“But that can take months, I leave in three weeks, my ticket is booked and I still need to apply for a visa. I need my passport!”
“That’s not my problem, is it? Maybe you should not have waited for the last minute. Come back with all your documents and I suggest you get it right on the first time if you don’t want to miss your flight.”
“Can you tell me what I need to start a new application? Can I get my passport back?”
“You can ask the internet for that and no, I can’t give it back to you, it needs to be destroyed, it’s the law” he answered with a satisfied smirk.
I was fuming. What a jerk! He even got a kick out of my despair. I couldn’t believe how this awful person worked in customer service. I left in obvious angst.
The overall process was stressful, as my only piece of ID was this old passport. To come up with three valid Identification, when you have none to start with, made it seem like I had just landed on planet earth every time I had to deal with bureaucracy employees. No paper trace, not a real human.
I had to pull many strings and pay excessive fees to try to get it all done in time. Luck worked in my favor and I received all my documents one week before my departure date. I had to go back to the passport center to get all of it approved and signed. I went to the same (and only) office, grabbed the random number 22, and sat there, hoping I would get a more pleasant employee to help me out this time.
“Now serving 22, window 3.”
As I approached the narrow desk space, my heart squished as I recognized the curls belonging to the mean employee. Why was I bound to deal with that despicable man? I took a deep breath, forced myself into a pleasant mode, and stepped in the arena.
“Hi. Do you have all the documents” he asked in a nonchalant way
I passed him my stuff, forcing a charming smile.
“It looks like it’s all there. Now, on your old passport, you had Emilie Chasse written without the accent acute on the E. All your other forms of identification are written in the French way. I recommend that this time, we do the same on your passport also.”
“I never had the accent on my passport before, I’d prefer to keep it that way, and it confuses people who aren’t French when they try to pronounce my name with the accent,” I kindly explained.
“I will add the accent, all your ID needs to be the same,” he answered in a power-trip, giving me no choice.
“Sure, if you think it’s for the best”
Gosh, he was a pain! There was no point arguing with him, I just wanted everything signed and sent today. I had five days left to receive my passport by mail and still had to deal with my visa.
I woke up on a stormy morning, three days left before my flight, and on the counter, my flatmate had left a chubby envelope addressed to my name. It was here! I ripped it opened to find my brand new passport. I turned my computer on to fill the visa application. I was officially going to India! Luck, once more on my side.
Feeling restless, I went for a walk by the ocean. Unlike my mood which was serene and light, the water was turbulent and foggy. I sat on a smooth rock on the beach, breathing in the salty air, knowing that it was the last time I would feel the sharp northern breeze on my face, as spring would already be blooming when I would be returning home in April.
Once back at my house from the bone-chilling promenade, I made myself a peppermint tea to warm up my insides, sat on the couch, and opened the computer. There was a new message from my Visa application. That was a fast reply! Cheerful, I opened it.
“Your visa has been denied as the name on the form differs from the name on the passport of the applicant.”
DEAR. GOD. NO!
Panicked, I immediately called the embassy to get help.
“Hi. Your application form doesn’t allow for the acute accent to be added. Now it says my names do not match. How can we fix this please?”
“We are very sorry Madame, we can’t add it to the online form. The name needs to be the same. Use the paper application. Thank you” explained an Indian woman with a broken English accent.
I couldn’t believe it! I was going to miss my trip because of a missing acute accent!? How could such a small stupid detail, ruin all of my plans?
After feeling sorry for myself for an appropriate amount of time, I channeled my rage into focus.
I was not going to let this situation keep me home! I had taken two months off from work, told all my clients from my healing business I was out of town, my partner had just left for Peru, and I desperately needed to feel raw vitamin D penetrating my skin.
Where could I go, with no Visa, and where I could take a quality massage course? In my frantic search, I found a little community named San Marcos in Guatemala. It was located by the Lake Atitlan, supposed to be the most beautiful in the world, and appeared to be a holistic paradise.
It’s sounded exactly what I needed. Before making any decision, I made myself a vegan sharped pie and sat with both the pie and the idea for a while. Nomad by nature, many countries where on my to-go list, yet I had never considered Guatemala. It came as such a surprise, and the complete unknown of it all made it grow more exciting by the minutes.
My initial frustration evaporated into pure pre-adventure thrill, and a strong feeling that the whole situation was some kind of destiny washed over me. Somehow, I needed to be by the lake, not in Asia. I booked a round trip ticket to San Marcos, leaving the following day.
I felt in love with Guatemala instantly. It was warm, vibrant, and just the right amount of chaos and unpredictable. The rocky boat ride to get to San Marcos offered a breathtaking view. On the left side of the ginormous Lake, towering above the tangled jungle, stood tree gargantuan volcanos. I was stunned by such outstanding beauty.
As I strolled through the street of San Marcos, It all felt right. Everything about it charmed me. The bright and joyous people wandering the street, the many vegetarian restaurants, the lushness, the sweet smell of flowers, and the abundance of yoga classes and healing centers. The buzzing energy of this place was both uplifting and a little overwhelming.
I spent the next few weeks on complete reset mode. I studied massage, fasted, fueled my body with smoothie bowls, luscious salads, and tropical fruits. I treated myself to massages and plentiful sleep. I connected with wonderful, inspiring, and empowering humans, and took daily hikes in the savage mountains. With all my focus on my physical and emotional health, I was without a doubt the most vibrant I had been in my adult life. Guatemala was working miracles for me.
On one of many sunny afternoons, I was sitting in a café drinking cacao, when my friend Mary showed up and came to sit with me on the floor cushions.
“Emilie, I just come back from an Ayahuasca ceremony. It was so beautiful, but heavy also. This plant, she knows you better than you know yourself. I don’t even know how to explain it, it’s beyond magic. I feel like I just awaken from a haze I had been stuck in my whole life”
I have heard about it many years before and had intuitively known that when the time was right, I would experience the wise plant for myself. Years back in Rishikesh, I was having lunch with a few traveling friends by the Ganges, and we were talking about Ayahuasca. I shared my keen interest in it. Sitting on my left, was curvaceous women rocking an afro, who happened to be a psychic. She turned towards me and said:
“I just received a message for you. Be careful. The day that you will meet the plant medicine, your life will take a drastic turn.”
As I listened to Mary’s journey, I recalled the warning from the psychic and felt goosebumps bubbling on my skin. I knew her words to be true and whatever this drastic life change would be, I was ready to welcome it.
I looked attentively at my friends, and witness her unusual glow, and how more align and center she seemed from the previous day. I asked for the contact of the shaman and booked for the following ceremony.
I arrived on the day of the ceremony, dressed in pale clothing as requested by Anna, the tiny blond shaman holding the space. 12 people, including six musicians, and me were gathered around the Shala, cozied up on our floor mattress. On our right was a wool blanket, and on our left, a blue purging bucket.
The ceremony was held in complete darkness. After we all ingested the tiny cup filled with a mixture of Amazonian roots, we sat on our beds, waiting for the substance to do its work. As part of the sacred ritual, the shaman spits or throws sacred water on your face and neck for purification. Anna walked towards me
“Would you like the spiting version?” she murmured in a soft voice.
The fact that I lived in a reality where this was an appropriate question to be ask made me smile. One hour after I drank the potion, I was taken in an incredible psychedelic journey. The spirit of the plant penetrated my body and psyche, guiding me through time, space, and dimensions, showing me what needed to be brought to my awareness. Deeply intelligent and beyond wise, she knew exactly what, and how much to show me. She was a stern teacher, speaking the deepest truth, always in the most lovingly way.
At some point, I had a vision of me boarding a plane to go back to Canada. I felt suffocated. At that moment, I realized there was no part of me, that wanted to go back home. The plant showed me how my life would be if I stayed here. How everything I would need, would be given. The joy I would feel. The glowing health I would experience. How I would deepen my spiritual connection with life and evolve for the better as a person. Still, I resisted.
“But what about Pat?” I said to her.
“You will be reunited.”
“How about money?”
“If you stay here, abundance will come.”
“I can’t just leave everything behind, all my stuff. My new business, it’s just starting to grow. What about my house?”
“You can do your work anywhere, your dream house will be offered.”
In a split second, I knew she was right and gave up all resistance. Here is where I needed to be, and as I surrendered, profound peace and ecstasy washed over me.
I laid for the rest of the ceremony in a pure present state, bliss out, my heart cracked wide open.
I woke up when the first ray of sunshine pierced through the roof glass window, landing on my cheeks, and kindly warming my face. I gathered my things and walked back to my room to process what had just happened. After some fresh avocados and a mid-day nap, I called my partner to share my revelation with him.
I felt optimistic he would come to join me, as he had casually suggested a few weeks before, to meet me at the lake, witnessing how well I was doing. I had not taken his offer seriously then, as our lives and job were waiting for our return.
“How was the ceremony?” he asked.
“It was powerful! She told me I should stay here, to trust in that choice. I felt it so strongly you know, my whole being wanted to be here. She said everything will be provided if I stay. It’s crazy, but I trust her. When you said a while back you would come to join me here, were you serious? Cause I can’t board that plane Pat”
A man of his words and an adventurous spirit at heart, he agreed to this new adventure. He sold everything, quit his well-paying job, and brought all my things. A true hero! It was by far the most meaningful and romantic gesture a man had ever done for me.
The following day, I put an add on the community board to find myself a modest, quiet house. Minutes after I posted it, a woman answered me that she had the ideal house for a yogi. When I went to visit, I couldn’t believe my eyes!
A few months earlier on an unusually heavy rain day in Victoria, sitting at the round kitchen table in my partner overheated apartment, I was looking out the window feeling slightly depressed. Picking up on my mood, Pat asked me: “If you could be anywhere right now, where would that be?”
“I would live in a treehouse in the jungle” I answered grumpily sipping on my vegetable soup.
Right in front of my eyes, was the jungle treehouse I had imagined. The cabin was filled with a multitude of crystals, dream catchers were dangling from the ceiling, and the walls covered with sacred Indian paintings. There was a large patio swallowed by exotic plants, and a cozy sleeping loft with a superb view of the lake. My dream house had just found me.
As promised, Pat came to meet me and arrived just in time before the definitive closing of the border due to COVID 19. Because of the isolation required for the pandemic, I had endless time to devote to expand my online coaching business, and pursue my oldest dream of becoming a writer. My stories got featured in popular publications, and new coaching clients found their way to me. I experienced an abundance of money, love, and time for my spiritual practices.
Laying in my hammock with my beloved fluff ball of a cat resting on my relaxed chest, gazing at the volcano erupting a soft fountain of lava, I’m thinking about how the universe always plays its magic tricks to redirect me exactly where I’m supposed to be. The psychic prediction had indeed been spot on, and everything Ayahuasca promised me manifested itself effortlessly. I’m humbled once more, acknowledging how fast I am to judge things as good or bad when in truth, the most infuriating situation sometimes turns out to be my biggest blessings.
Emilie Button is a passionate Transformational Coach, writer, and story collector. As a coach, she specializes in: Holistic wellness and spiritual and personal growth www.upbrightcoaching.com/.
Image courtesy of Slava.