I don't know if you've seen it, but there is a huge fire burning in California at the moment. The Thomas fire is the 3rd biggest California has seen in modern times and it's still burning. It started over a week ago and has slowly made it's way to the gorgeous city of Santa Barbara. The city where I have been staying for the last month. As the smoke drifted in and the air quality plummeted, ash began falling from the skies. The view from my window in Santa Barbara was not dissimilar to the snow falling at my home in London. Walking down the street, seeing people in masks and smoke making everything hazey, it was hard not to feel like I'd awoken in the apocalypse.
Staying calm has become a bit of a specialty of mine and my aunt, whom I'm staying with, has dealt with many a fire. So as it started, no one was very worried. Even when the emergency alert system kicked in last week and the bar we were in was intruded by a symphony of sirens from everyone phones, I was not worried. Impressed. Yes. The system is great, it works by locating all the phones in an area that has a warning and sending everyone a message. A few days passed, the fire grew and people began to be evacuated. I felt terrible for these people, who may lose their homes, but thanks to the warning system people were able to leave with plenty of time. As the fire got closer to us the smoke got worse and the air became very poor. Then in the middle of the night on Saturday or rather 2am Sunday morning (over a week so now), we got another message:
Civil Emergency in this area until 2:34am PST Evacuate Now SBCOEM
I knew the fire couldn't have spread that quickly over night, so I turned over and tried to go back to sleep. My aunt however, had other ideas. She had started packing. By 3am we were both packed and ready to go, where? We didn't know. It was, thankfully, a false alarm. But the panic had set in and the air was getting worse. We decided to leave and head north until the air was breathable. We landed in Pismo Beach.
It would have been easy at this point to freak out and worry. I had packed everything I own, which isn't hard when you've lived out of a backpack for a year, but my aunt still had her house and a lot of her things in Santa Barbara. Add in a fear of fire, and I was just happy she made it to Pismo. It seemed the alerts that worried us, also worried a few of our Santa Barbara friends. After a few calls we had a small team in Pismo, running from the smoke. Fire, party of 4?
So what do we do? Sit in the hotel and worry about something we can't control? Talk about a fire we can't stop? Would you?
We went for dinner and then we do what the British do, found an Irish bar! An Irish bar in the middle of nowhere, with karaoke and some great people. We had a great night, we met a lot of people doing the same as us and heading away from the fire, as well as the most hospitable locals.
The next day, we regrouped, looked at the news and decided we couldn't go back, not yet. And here's the lesson people. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in our case, when life gives you a fire, go on a road trip.
I packed up my car and headed to San Francisco. Then to Santa Cruz. Then big sur. And next? Who knows.
Don't think my life is super simple either, life throws things at me all the time, but it's how you react, if you let it get you down. My car broke down on the way, it's still in the shop being fixed. Can I do anything about it now? No. It's on the shop it will be done when it's done, until then I'm in my friend's car. I had tickets to a show in Santa Barbara, do I worry about losing the money? No. I wait and see if it gets cancelled. It did, so I got refunded. My parents should be flying out here in a few days? What if their flight is cancelled? What if we still can't get back? Again I ask, can I control it? No. Will my worrying have any effect? No. I will find a way to see them somewhere, somehow. There's no use in worrying. In fact Christmas in Palm springs has been mentioned once or twice.
So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or go on a road trip. And do the worrying later. Or never.
Side note - the fire has got a lot worse since I wrote this and whilst it's still out of our control and I'm still road tripping (currently in LA), I do hope all the people are safe and that as many homes are saved as possible. A massive thank you also to all the firefighters and emergency services working to stop this beast of a fire. And my heart goes out to the two lives lost.