I just got back from two exhausting, but refreshing weeks in Europe. In 14 days, we boarded trains, planes, and subway cars that took us to the very best parts of Rome, Florence, Milan, Paris, Lisbon, and Sintra. We climbed hundreds of steps to get to the top of the St. Peter’s Basilica dome, the top of the Duomo and Bell Tower in Florence, and the rooftop of the Milan Cathedral. We navigated our way through side streets and alleyways, up and down the hills in Lisbon, and across bridges that spanned the Tiber River in Rome, the Seine in Paris, and the Arno River in Florence.
The trip marked my third time in Rome and yet, when I found myself standing in front of the Trevi Fountain for the first time since my last visit in 2018, it felt like I was seeing it all for the very first time. Its grandeur can undoubtedly have that effect. It makes you stop and ask yourself, “How can something this beautiful exist in our universe?” And then you follow that up with, “How’d I get lucky enough to find myself in front of this right now?”
On that first day in Rome, we joined a free walking tour that took us to the Trevi Fountain to end the tour. Our guide shared the classic “throwing a coin into the fountain” principles with us – if you throw one coin into the fountain, you’re guaranteed a trip back to Rome. This is the principle most commonly known, and it’s why you’ll see tourists from all over the world tossing a coin into the fountain, already hoping that they’ll be making a trip back to Rome soon. Then, for added humour, he continued, “Two coins into the fountain means that you’ll have a fling with a Roman. Three coins into the fountain means that you’ll end up marrying a Roman! But if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry – you can throw four coins into the fountain, which will guarantee a divorce with a Roman.”
As he was talking, I suddenly remembered that the last time I was here, craning my neck to take in all that the fountain has to offer, I had thrown a coin into the fountain (Just one, luckily). Even though it was four years ago, during the summer of 2018, I remember so vividly what I had been wearing, and how hot it had been that day. It dawned on me that the coin toss had worked – my trip back to Rome had indeed been guaranteed. After all, I was standing in front of that same fountain four years later, was I not?
And what I continue to think about is the nature of time and of destiny. Four years ago, as I was throwing that coin into the fountain, I never could have imagined the circumstances that would end up taking me back to Rome. Even if I could predict that I’d be back in the Eternal City at some point later in life, I could never elaborate on how that trip would actually come to fruition. At the time, I couldn’t have known that this trip to Europe would mark my first international trip in 2 years, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that would shut down the world. I couldn’t have known who I’d be traveling with, and I couldn’t have known that Rome would be just one stop on a wild two-week Europe trip we’d planned. I couldn’t have known that this trip would mark my one-year work anniversary, my two-year graduation anniversary. At the time, where I’d be working, where I’d be living, and who I would end up becoming were all variables.
Nothing was known and couldn’t have been known. And yet, it was fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it, that led me through the right doors and down the right paths for the last four years, all for me to end up back at the Trevi Fountain with another coin in hand, ready to toss in.