“Oh also- what are your thoughts on tarot?”

It wasn’t a message I was expecting to get, but one I wasn’t upset about getting.

We had otherwise been talking the less cosmic details of airport pickups. What time are you due in? What’s your flight number? Do you take your coffee black or with sugar and cream? Ticking this logistical box was a strange and happy bonus.

“I love it,” I typed back into messenger. “Why? Did you want to get a reading??”

“Erm, no,” my friend Ally replied. “I do them. I have my own set. I’m not that great at it, but I just had a message from a friend saying part of a reading I did for her came true, so I am super excited!”

As was I.

I had decided about three months before that all my stuff would be going into storage, the donation bin or my backpack, and that I would be going to travel the world, with no clear direction and a muddled intention at best. Guidance, in any form, was a welcoming thought.

At that moment, all I had to cling to was a half-coherent system of packing piles. I was halfway through the sweaty chore of sealing up what had once been my own little world. A mental tax as much as physical, sifting through memories and cherished totems, wondering exactly what the hell I was doing.

What does one hope to get out of such a trip, besides the utter wipeout of their savings, a couple cool photos and perhaps a nice souvenir?

It’s a question I’ve been asked many times, not least of which by my own better judgement.

A world of opportunities, I typically told the others. I’ll figure it out when I get there, I privately told myself.

“There” would be New Zealand. I knew at least that much. My sweet second home. My safe space. In my mind, it had always represented the recentering point of this journey.

It was also the first leg of this journey, but it took nearly everything I had just to make it there. The three months between deciding to go and going were a Rube Goldberg gauntlet of my own hellish design, fraught with all the logistical Tetris of closing down the apartment, transferring the job, getting the car across country—after a separate road trip that entailed its own spate of planning, getting some sort of working budget together, figuring out the phone thing, figuring out the digital storage thing, and maybe remembering to eat every once in a while.

Yet the payoff was always there. A beautiful soft landing in Auckland. Lovely Ally at the airport, waiting with my coffee. (Black.) My own room to stay in her lovely house. A bed and four walls between which to let my mind whirl around strange subjects in relative peace.

And a few Welcome Home cocktails. Among her many talents, Ally makes a famous martini, so good it comes with its own set of rules, including the highly important policy: You may only have one in a night.

One is enough. And apparently enough to inspire some less-conventional party games.

“It’s time for your reading,” she declared at the bottom of her glass, despite my jetlagged, prostrated protest. “The spirits help conjure the spirit.”

It wouldn’t take long, she said. Just a one-card reading. She shuffled the deck. I cut it, then let my subconscious left hand choose my destiny.

The Four of Swords.

“Oh,” she exclaimed right away. “What an interesting card!”

We looked it up to be sure.

Representative of fear, anxiety and stress, the card signifies mental, physical and spiritual overload. Problems may exist, it reminds us, but they aren’t as overwhelming as they may appear in our exhausted state.

Breathe, relax, and recenter, the Four of Swords implores us. Take advantage of what peace, quiet, and sanctuary you can and your path forward, and purpose, will start to ring clear.

Even through the martini swirls I felt newly reassured. Maybe this is where I’m meant to be after all. Somewhere to catch my breath, gaze at an upside-down moon and figure out my next move, just like I had imagined all those months ago.