The Wheel of Fortune is one of the more complex cards in the major arcana.
Whenever it comes up in client readings, I tend to shrug and laugh nervously. That’s because what the Wheel of Fortune promises is that nothing is promised and despite our best laid plans, fate always holds the option of throwing us a curveball. It asks that we pay close attention to those moments of disruption and attempt to move through them with grace. It reminds us of how little is truly in our control and encourages us to work in synchronicity with other elements rather than forcing our way.
It seemed fitting when I pulled this card in Oaxaca, Mexico, just as my 6-month trip through Latin America was beginning. I had intentions of healing ancestral wounds and getting clarity on my soul path, but I knew that with fate at work, anything could happen.
What I didn’t expect was for the Wheel to occasionally land on the equivalent of “Lose a Turn” or “Bankrupt.”
Things started off promising. I was juggling work and play with more ease than anticipated and my friend Joanna arrived in town with her husband the day after me, providing me with companionship as I adjusted to my first solo travel experience. We spent a day visiting the nearby villages and sights, including the petrified waterfall Hierve del Agua and the weaving village of Teotitlan.
After Joanna and her husband left, I met a couple guys from Mexico City who were visiting Oaxaca to see their friends’ Colombian band. I tagged along with them to the ancient Zapotec site of Monte Alban and we gazed out over the ruins while sipping mezcal from a stone bench. Later that same day we went to a free concert that their Colombian friends were playing in a library. For a little while, it felt like I was living the dream.
That is, until my new friends went back home and I was left alone in a foreign country where I knew no one and hardly spoke the language. All of a sudden I found myself pining for home and anxiously counting down the days until my partner would meet me in Mexico City. I also started my period around this time, which only amplified my longing for comfort and stability.
Then, my water bottle spilled in my bag and got my phone wet. It seemed fine at first and I was on my way out when it happened, so I decided to pay it no mind. Then later on at dinner, I realized that I couldn’t respond to my mother’s frantic text messages checking in on my safety. I also couldn’t access Google Maps, which had served as my primary navigation. As I conceded to burying my phone in rice for a full day, I forced myself to stay close to home.
The rice trick didn’t work, so I set off to find a replacement or a technician who could repair it. Several hours later my phone was fixed and I was finally back in action. I decided to celebrate by booking a hostel for my next destination, Puerto Escondido beach. Then, mere minutes after I received my confirmation, I got an emergency weather alert that a hurricane was headed for that region.
After much debate and speaking with a few people who had recently been in the area, I decided to go anyway. The rainy season was descending upon Oaxaca as well, so I figured if I was going to be wet, I might as well be at the beach. I booked a minibus that took a faster route than the larger, more comfortable state-run buses and left for Puerto Escondido in the morning.
The rain made the winding path through Mexico’s mountainous jungles even more treacherous than usual and we ended up stopped for several hours because of a blockade. As I struggled to understand what was happening, I suddenly felt vulnerable and afraid. I began to question the purpose of this trip and whether I was making any significant spiritual progress. I wondered if my friends and family would regard me as a coward if I decided to go home.
Sitting in the back of the minibus and worried whether I’d reach my destination, I consulted my tarot cards for direction.
The Wheel of Fortune continued to appear, gently reminding me that while these misfortunes might seem temporarily magnified, it was up to me whether I would allow them to define my trip. There was no guarantee that things would get easier, but if anything was to be counted on, it was that the Wheel would continue to spin.
Instead of anxiously muttering “Big money!” in anticipation of where the Wheel might land, I decided to take the approach of the Fool. The Fool is the attitude that we are meant to bring to every situation, a flexible willingness to roll with the punches and allow ourselves to be surprised. The Fool understands that no sooner after it has landed on “Bankrupt” it’s onto the next prize and so they continue looking ahead instead of dwelling on what could have been. Often we are so focused on what has just transpired that we cannot recognize the lucky draw that follows.
And so I’ve accepted that just like my life back at home, this trip will be filled with a gradient of experiences, some more welcome than others. The Wheel of Fortune taught me how to recognize these winks from fate and to look for the lesson instead of feeling dread.