Many of you may know that I write postcards extensively when I travel. If you didn’t, you do now. It may seem antiquated and outdated, but for me it’s one of the most essential connections that I have with my friends and family.
In this ‘connected’ world, we’re never more than a quick SMS away from letting loved ones know how we are. We can FaceTime, Skype, viber, we chat, whatsapp, iMessage, text, or Facebook our loved ones all day every day if we want, and now (thanks to reduced roaming rates) generally not have to take a mortgage out to do so. But for me, there’s something incredibly special about the art of writing a postcard. Even on the most hectic of trips, I still stop by a shop and buy half a dozen postcards, and make time to write them – sometimes on the plane home, but often in the hotel one evening.
Each time I travel, I select different friends to receive the postcards – it’s not like one person receives a constant stream of mail. The friends are more or less picked at random – sometimes it’s a thought which prompts the postcards, other times it’s just a quick flick through my address book to pick who gets a card. My theory and reason for writing the cards is this:
Anyone can use an electronic gadget to keep in touch – it takes seconds, it’s free, and it updates the world on your progress. But to write a postcard takes time and thought. There’s the process of finding a shop, selecting the (often awful) design, buying the postcard in a local currency, finding availability of stamps and post boxes, and then sitting down to actually put pen to paper for 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes my entire focus is on that friend – letting them know how things are going, what i’ve been up to, and that i’m thinking about them. The process makes me feel fantastic – knowing that the friend will receive this a few days/weeks/months later, and know that they were in my thoughts. The sense that I can make a friend smile at an unknown time in the future is perhaps one of the better feelings about travelling both for business and pleasure.
I would estimate I probably send upwards of 100 postcards a year, and each one is personal. I mean what I write, when I say I want to keep in touch or to pass on a small story from my visit.
The only person who always gets a postcard is my mother – she really must be sick of them by now! For me, this acts as something of a chronicle of my life – journalling my travel by means of a few pieces of printed card and stamps. She’s kept most of them in a box for me, and one day it will be fantastic to look through and see my travel presented like that.
Unfortunately, the art of postcard writing is becoming lost. Particularly in western hemisphere countries, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to buy a simple postcard in a shop… they are full of beats headphones, candy bars, iPhone chargers and designer flavoured waters, but there is often just a small rack of discarded postcards in the back of the store. This saddens me, since postcard writing gives me such joy… If you travel as well, or even if you don’t, I encourage you to pick up a pen and write to your friends. If i’m at home for a period of time, I send postcards from my home town. It doesn’t matter so much what the picture on the front is… it’s more of a gesture towards the friend and keeping a connection alive.
Postcard writing isn’t a substitute for texting or the hundred other mediums we keep in touch today – to me it’s a completely different style of connection, and something everyone can benefit from.
Recently, as a birthday gift for one of my uncles, I gave him an “I Owe you”, promising to send him postcards throughout the year from various destinations. The effort required is minimal, and the reward for both him and me is a fantastic connection which we would never get if I were sending him picture messages on an iDevice.
A picture tells a thousand words, but a postcard only fits a couple of hundred. You’ve just read 700 words on postcards from me… pick up a pen and you can give 4 or 5 friends the immense joy of knowing you are thinking about them. Do it… you’ll feel good!
Oh, and if you’re my friend and haven’t yet received a postcard, it’s probably because I don’t have your address. It’s hard to ask friends for their address without seeming old fashioned and creepy… but please: I store all my friends addresses and keep them with me when travelling. Drop me a note with your address and i’ll make sure you get added to the postcard lottery next time i’m travelling.