Take it, or Leave it?
As an avid traveler and frequent residential nomad, possessions are something that I reevaluate regularly, weighing their allure over their necessity. Of all the materialistic objects and tchotchkes accumulated over the years, one of the few keepsakes that have consistently made the cut is been a box of written correspondence, collected from grammar school through today.
These handwritten chronicles come in all forms, from scrawled notes–the type that children pass back in forth in class, to supposed love letters–composed in the passion of youth. There are also postcards from intrepid traveling friends, and letters from pen-pals or others that have moved away. A few are of my own composition–notes that were once written, but never sent. There are even some that I have inherited from family members– letters that have been passed down from generation to generation.
How’s My Penmanship?
It was during a recent transition, while pouring over these parchment treasures, that I realized how long it had been since I’d sent or received anything new. Reflecting on my current communication practices, I realized why. My email accounts were full to repletion with inbound and outbound mail, the barrage of text messages showed no sign of slaking, and social media activity was the highest it’s ever been. The postal service, however, seemed to loath delivering anything but a steady stream of bills and consumer flyers. No one that I knew was using the slowly outmoded system of letter writing any longer. We had all fully succumbed to the modern means of sharing information electronically.
Sending out an S.O.S.
I recall my last lengthy sojourn to the United Kingdom. It was a month and a half of touring historical structures, sampling authentic cuisine and libations, while schmoozing amidst the populace. Heaven! Photos were posted to my social networks, a few emails were sent to co-workers (to stir up a bit of wanderlust envy), and I definitely bought postcards–they were quite pretty too! However, the actual act of sending anything that required a trip to a mailbox seemed to have eluded me. I could have added a pressed flower from the park below Edinburgh Castle, or clipped an interesting article from the local press in London to send along with even the smallest of notes. These simple, yet thoughtful extra touches could have been meaningful additions for their intended recipients, but none of these thoughts even crossed my mind.
Thinking back on this causes a considerable amount of regret on my part. All of the technological advancements have taken over the physical representation of the personalized and handwritten communication that I still value. I can’t be the only person that feels this way–but I can be the one who does something about it!
I put forth a small challenge to you, and to myself (I recognize the irony as I type this, but I will sally forth regardless)!
Choose three friends and family members that you’ve emailed, tweeted, wall posted, etc., in the last six months. Collect a stylus and stationary of your choice. What memory or experience could you share with them from the past that still brings out a smile, a laugh, or perhaps even a tear when you reminisce? Is there a foreign destination exploration or an event that you attended either alone or with them that you can wax poetic about?
Now, tell them about it. What you saw, how it made you feel (then and now), and why it’s important to you. You can expound as much as you like on the rest of the daily minutiae of life and what’s new, but focus on the base first. Give yourself no more than a week to finish the three. In that time, go ahead and walk away for a bit if you need to, scratch out your mistakes, or draw in the margins. Whatever you feel will add character, but once you’ve started writing, don’t start over. This is not about writing the next literary masterpiece, but creating a memorable and thoughtful reference.
The most important part is that you DO finish, mail them out, and don’t tell the recipients that they’re coming. DO however ask for a reply in kind!
In holding to my end of the bargain, on my next travel adventure, instead of merely making status updates and e-mailing information; I will include a date with a local purveyor of stamps and stationary. There is a cozy café or a solid piece of turf that is going to be the perfect spot for a writing break, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes my way.
With hopes for your own paper dreams,
P.S. Whether you follow through with this posed exercise or would like to chat about a previous travel experience of your own, I’d love to hear from you!