In the ear­ly 2000s, David became obsessed with cook­ing. After iden­ti­fy­ing as a most­ly veg­e­tar­i­an for most of my adult life, I feel down deep in his hole of braised pork and grilled mahi-mahi, choco­late tri­fles, and pas­ta put­tanesca.

Teaching yoga and med­i­ta­tion was just a side-hus­tle at the time; I threw every cent I earned from those endeav­ors into a trav­el bot­tle. A trav­el bot­tle is used specif­i­cal­ly to save mon­ey for trav­el. Once you slide cash down the neck of a trav­el bot­tle, you can­not retrieve it with­out break­ing the bottle.

In 2001, Ouita Michel, the sis­ter of one of our col­lege friends, opened the now-leg­endary Holly Hill Inn in Midway, so we made a reser­va­tion. That night, I drank a pinot noir that taught me the dif­fer­ence between excep­tion­al and just mediocre wine. That bot­tle was rinsed out and giv­en a prime spot on our book­shelf where, each week, we would roll bills to shove down the neck into the cylin­dri­cal body, glee­ful as it slow­ly filled with cash.

We planned to use that mon­ey to go to Napa Valley, with vague ideas about tour­ing winer­ies and tast­ing olive oil. Our favorite show at the time was Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour, a show where the noto­ri­ous “bad boy of food” vis­it­ed game-chang­ing restau­rants around the world. In one par­tic­u­lar episode, Bourdain trav­eled to Napa’s famed French Laundry for a 20-course tast­ing menu (accom­pa­nied by sev­en bot­tles of wine), all curat­ed and cooked by award-win­ning chef Thomas Keller.

We were sold. The con­som­més. The truf­fles. The tagli­atelle. The pana cot­ta. The oys­ters. The sor­bets. Each course looked more tan­ta­liz­ing than the last, intri­cate and cre­ative recipes that treat­ed ingre­di­ents like pre-ordained memories.

So we had our plan. The trav­el bot­tle would take us not only to Napa but to the French Laundry for a culi­nary expe­ri­ence we would nev­er for­get. We hadn’t either the time or mon­ey for a hon­ey­moon when we got mar­ried, so we would spare no expense on this jour­ney. We esti­mat­ed that it would take two years to save enough mon­ey to cov­er the trip with reser­va­tions at the renowned eatery. 

No mat­ter. Month after month, any extra cash that we could pick up went in the bot­tle. We bought the French Laundry Cookbook, sali­vat­ed over so-called food porn years before it would become stan­dard issue to pho­to­graph and post every meal you eat on Instagram. I added pic­tures of grapes and glass­es of wine to my vision board. David learned when to order mer­lot and when to order mosca­to; I prac­ticed pro­nounc­ing things like “ris de veau poêles” so that I wouldn’t sound like a rube when I sat down. God love our sweet hearts, we even mem­o­rized the lay­out of a 16-piece for­mal din­ner set­ting so that we wouldn’t use the wrong sil­ver­ware. We chose our hotel, picked the winer­ies we want­ed to vis­it, and found a flight that wouldn’t leave us too jet-lagged.

And then I found out I was preg­nant. After being on the pill for six­teen years. The thought of watch­ing David drink the per­fect California chardon­nay with his fish course while I sipped water was infu­ri­at­ing. The trip was can­celed, and the bot­tle bro­ken to start a col­lege sav­ings account for our unborn child.

When we pray for some­thing, the uni­verse answers in one of three ways:

Yes.

Not yet.

Something else is coming.

Yes is easy. We set an inten­tion and man­i­fest it, often con­grat­u­lat­ing our­selves on being so aligned with cos­mic ener­gy. Not yet teach­es us patience and makes us all the more grate­ful when our wish is grant­ed. But some­thing else is com­ing can be a kick in the pants. It often feels like a hard pass, an unheard or unan­swered prayer. It’s easy to for­get that what we think we need isn’t all there is.

It comes down to attach­ments and expec­ta­tions, those har­bin­gers of suf­fer­ing and tor­ment. It’s easy to say that we trust the uni­verse in its intel­li­gent design, but putting it into prac­tice is anoth­er thing alto­geth­er. How do we trust that all the set­backs around what we want are real­ly set­ting us up for the exact expe­ri­ences we need?

It asks us to stay present, to keep curi­ous­ly ask­ing what we might learn from our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, offers us an oppor­tu­ni­ty to find joy and peace in every moment and not only in the ones where every­thing is seem­ing­ly going our way.

Obviously, I have learned more as a par­ent in the last 17 years about how to be a decent human being than any sin­gle meal could have shown me. Parenting a daugh­ter is a mas­ter class in becom­ing a more patient and com­pas­sion­ate human.

I asked to trav­el the world. The Universe answered by plac­ing the world in my arms.

And, if you’re read­ing this on Monday, June 13, 2022, I’m cur­rent­ly in the air on my way to California’s wine coun­try. Older, wis­er, and more grate­ful for this trip. Cheers!

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.