I fell in love with collecting postcards years ago, and they have since become one of my most treasured possessions. Not only do their pictures spark memories of places I’ve been, but they’re also the keepers of some of my most fond stories.
The excitement of my first trip abroad led to many of my friends and family requesting postcards to be sent to them from the countries I would soon visit. That’s not to say I wasn’t excited too, because I was. Actually, to say I was excited would have been the understatement of 2016. At the time, backpacking Europe felt like the closest I would ever get to being a modern-day explorer. Call me Lewis AND Clark because I felt like I was about to do enough voyaging for TWO. Obviously, I was being a bit dramatic.
Anyways, I ended up having to make a list that detailed who wanted postcards from which country. When I started sending them off, I realized how much I enjoyed the sentimentality of it. Choosing a postcard specific to each person and inscribing them with the perfect anecdote became my favorite way to share a piece of my trip with others.
Of course, email or text is much faster, but I’d like to think snail mail has a certain je ne sais quoi that electronic transcription lacks. I mean, who doesn’t get excited when they find a letter addressed to them that ISN’T junk mail? Plus, they’re so much more personal than a text ever could be. And with taking up to a month to arrive — talk about anticipation.
When I got home, my friends shared their excitement about receiving a postcard and brought up the stories I had written to them. It was then that I realized there were some stories I had forgotten because so much had happened in the preceding few months. But when they showed me the postcard they received, the memories came rushing back.
At the time, I read an article about how pictures can store the essence of a memory and trigger our minds to recall their specific details. Details we often can’t remember on our own.
Apparently, this is why postcards can work better than journaling. The pictures on the front prompt our recollections and can help us remember beyond what we write about in a journal. Or, on the back of a postcard.
When I realized how valuable postcards were in documenting my travels, the extra ones I purchased during that trip to Europe quickly became covered with all of my favorite stories. Most notable of those memories was the moment I stood at the base of the Three Sisters in Scotland, realized how vast the world is, and that I wanted to spend my lifetime trying to see all it had to offer.
Each place I have visited since has been commemorated on the back of a postcard that I picked up on my way out.
Even my domestic travels have come to hold a special place in my collection. Some of my favorite college memories include a weekend trip to Boston with friends, a ten-hour drive to Big Bend at one in the morning, and a spontaneous trip to Vegas. Each of these experiences is now remembered on a postcard of its own.
This ~thing~ has also escalated to the point that my friends now bring me back postcards that document their own travel highlights. Of course, I add those to the stack with the rest and cherish them all the same.
Since starting this, my collection has become quite the montage of embarrassing anecdotes, recollections of incredible scenery, and tales of self-realization and discovery. Not to mention full of pictures worthy of being on — well, a postcard.
While they’re all completely different, they’re equally meaningful. I carry them with me when I travel, and their constant handling has given them creases that only add to their character. I’d like to think they give me a sense of comfort when I am far from home reminiscing on the fond memories that cover their backs.
While collecting them has become an important part of my travels, I still love sending postcards with tales of my adventures to people back home. I’d like to think they like receiving them too, but that could just be my love of postcards clouding my judgment.