It was the best case scenario for the worst case scenario.
I slung the strap of my duffel over my shoulder as my mom opened the garage door, getting ready to drive me to the airport to meet two friends in Philly before flying to Greece the next day. I was sad to leave the quiet comfort of my parents’ house in Austin, and my mom was trying to be lighthearted. “Got your passport?” she teased, certain I did, because if you had to choose three words to describe me, one would very likely be responsible.
I froze. Dropped my bag. “No,” I said with equal certainty.
I didn’t need to look in my bag or backpack, I knew at that moment that I had forgotten my passport at my house in California.
I fruitlessly searched my belongings anyway, hoping I was wrong but knowing I was right.
“Why?” I kept asking myself over and over again. I felt numb. Not shocked or sad, just certain that’s what happened and uncertain what to do next.
After running through any number of scenarios—you don’t need a passport to go to Samoa! Fedex can actually get a passport from California at 7pm on a Sunday night to Philadelphia by noon, for $400— my friends and I decided the best, easiest, cheapest thing to do would be go to Hawaii.
My parents kept telling me I was handling it well. But what else was there to do? I can’t go back and pack the passport, I can only move forward with a decision. The opportunity to fly anywhere on the standby passes my friend provided was just that: an opportunity. I didn’t miss a $2,000 flight to Greece, and we could change our destination without any fees. It was the best case scenario for the worst case scenario.
When I got home, I was relating the story to a coworker. She said, “the sun always shines on you.”
I grinned, because it does, but also said: “It does, but it’s also a matter of perspective. I was very lucky it happened the way it did, on that trip, in that way, with understanding friends. It was a real bummer not to go to Greece, but it doesn’t mean Hawaii wasn’t awesome.”
My friends waiting at baggage claim in Maui ran to hug me. They teased me an appropriately affectionate amount about how we ended up there, but it ultimately didn’t matter. We were on an adventure together, and they didn’t care if it was Greece or Maui or Timbuktu.
I still don’t know ‘why’ I forgot my passport. I might never know. I didn’t make a life-changing decision in Hawaii because I was in Hawaii, I didn’t save our lives because the plane we would have been on crashed on the way to Athens, I didn’t even find a new favorite vacation spot.
I did learn to surf, make new friends, and try new things—including a teeny San Lorenzo almost-thong bikini bottom. I already knew it, but I did reaffirm that the friends I traveled with are the life-long kind that love you no matter what. And I did have a great time on vacation. And isn’t that the point?
It’s not Greece … but it wasn’t meant to be.
Image: view from the Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii