In the last week, I’ve gone from the first place I ever fell in love with to the last place I would have ever thought I’d come.
Back then, when I was 19 and positively desperate to get out of the fucking country, I’m not sure that I was even fully aware that Ukraine had become a country, let alone designs on going there. It seems weird to think about now, but I chose Italy because it seemed exotic, like a place that fewer people go.
But at the time, I was only a few years out of a private high school where so many of my friends spent their spring break or summers in France and Spain and so many of my classmates were from Germany that it seemed like Italy was somehow outside of that: like it was I place I had uniquely chosen to go.
In some ways that’s embarrassing to admit, but you have to understand that even though it was something I so very desperately wanted, travel just wasn’t a thing I understood people to do – not normal people anyway – so at the time Italy was as far as my dreams could stretch. It was already teetering into impossibility, and the painstaking process of turning that trip from a fantasy in my mind into my plane landing in Milan very nearly did not happen.
And going back to Rome felt like delivering on a promise to the young woman I once was.
It hard for me to find the words to relate to you how fucking desperate I was to stay. I couldn’t that first time, so I came back the next year. And I saw not just Rome, but five or six other cities, too, and in a bunch of different countries.
I had gathered a bunch of cities together that I had heard kids talking about when we were in Italy the year before, so that, should I ever again encounter someone who spoke of that city I could relate. “I’ve been there,” I imagined myself saying on my next trip, and I would finally be enveloped into this nebulous league of backpackers that I so desperately wanted to be a part of.
But then in Switzerland and Belgium and Spain I met even more people who had been to even more places that I had never been to and had no immediate plans to visit. I met kids who had gone to India and China and New Zealand, and I remember having the distinct feeling that I would never be done. There would always be somewhere else to go, and I had no idea how I’d ever get to all of those places.
And much like that first time, when I put myself on a TWA flight to Milan, it seemed more like a fantasy than a goal.
So there I was, just last week, now 41 years old and returning to the city that so very much cemented my wanderlust, and having just blown €30 on way too much food and Chianti, I could hear the rushing water of Fontana di Trevi even before I rounded the corner.
And my eyes filled with tears, because in the just-over 20 years since I had last stood in front of it, I’ve already been to more places than I thought I would ever make it to within my lifetime. And fuck.
I was just so fucking proud.
And I was just so fucking happy that I have, somehow, managed to deliver this stupid dream to some long-gone teenaged version of myself, especially because it was the type of dream that so many people along the way saw fit to shit on rather than encourage me to cultivate.
My last time at Trevi, I stood in the rain with a gaggle of brand-new girlfriends and drank truffle grappa straight from the bottle as the Carabinieri watched on and waved.
And this time I was was armed with something even grander than naive optimism and a wish kissed into a coin that I threw into the water:
Because this time I knew that that wish had come true.