Contrary to what you have heard, the power of the written word is not dead. The lonely postcard is still a consistent seller in just about every tourist location known. Who knows if these postcards actually are sent or if there merely filed away with the rest of the vacation memories we collect. However, for some, it remains a pipeline to relay the beautiful images we see wherever we roam. I, for one, remain convinced that this form of journey communications will exist as long as the post office continues to mail them. In my own personal experience, it will always retain its relevance.
Growing up as a young child, my traveling escapades were limited to the once a year beach trip that could always be counted on in summer. My knowledge of the world consisted of a beach in South Carolina and my home in Nashville, Tennessee. Nevertheless, what I could not visualize on my own, I had a helping hand in my dreams of the world outside this bubble. And that was a postcard from my Grandmother. A small 4 x 5 piece of paper with enough writing on the back to compare to a tweet and a picture on the front that could rival any Instagram post today. In fact, the postcard could be considered the first Instagram, if not for the instant part.
But, for a young kid with very little experience in the world, it provided a glimpse on what could be seen beyond my four walls. The mere fact that the images I saw on the countless postcards throughout the years offered me the hope that I may soon see some of the very places that jumped at me from the paper. While I slugged it out in school, and in later years, work, the postcards kept coming. Deep down I always wondered if they were sent to me to simply state where she had been or if there was more to it. Maybe it was to show me where I can go.
Travel Then Tell
The mentality of a world traveler is such that going is only half the adventure. The opportunity to relate what you see and what you experience completes the journey. It is not in the interest of a traveler to merely gloat. It’s more to exclaim what we already know and to hopefully tease the mind to the point of making the decision to become one of us. To see, to live, to be. There’s a reason that social media is a valid partner of the travel industry. In my own personal experience I would suspect that this message was sent in an effort to not only excite, but to push this message of opportunity.
Eventually the postcards came less frequently. Maybe she thought I was too old to get excited even half as much as the many years prior. Maybe she thought they were simply discarded as rubbish and not viewed as important in reading as they were in writing. No matter the reason, her travels came to an end several years ago. The unfortunate loss of my grandfather and subsequent surgery to take one of her legs due to illness solidified what she knew was inevitable. These countless journeys, including several trips around the world, would come to an end. But the postcards didn’t and that’s where the story continues.
Paying it forward is done in several ways and where she could no longer go, I could. It was my turn. And so the second wave of postcard communication began. For years, we would venture far and wide and would stay on busy itineraries. But one thing we never forgot was to send that postcard to Grandmother. And on our visits to see her, they were all proudly displayed. She mentioned that she would look at them every day and dream of the world outside. Just like I did for so many years. The difference being it was a spark of memories of days gone by, but still fresh. She remains my mentor and the one most responsible for this traveling lifestyle my family and I share.
This past week in Rome, we discovered that her health was failing, and quickly, to the point where communication was limited, if at all. As we said our last words to her on the phone from so far away, the clarity came back for a few moments. She told me how proud she was for taking my family to see this wonderful world and how much she was looking forward to receiving my next postcard from Rome. At that point I realized how much they meant to her and I explained how much they had driven us to pursue this travel hobby. She passed away the next day, with our completed postcard never sent.
Piece of Paper Changed Us
That unsent postcard is displayed for my family to remember the relevance of what a small piece of paper can do for the soul. It opened the world to new adventures and reminded us of how something so insignificant in a tourist trap shop can forever leave an imprint on the mind of those who receive it. Those two minutes of addressing a postcard and sending a few inspirational quotes changed my life forever, both in sending and receiving.
I hope to continue writing and sending postcards once the loss softens and I hope that whoever is the lucky recipient will see beyond the pen and paper. Because what lies beneath are hopes and dreams of a young child that looked a bit further and made them a reality.
Live Within Your Means, Travel Beyond Them!