The small gift shop in the lobby of the Lion’s Dive Resort had yielded the postcards I wanted (at the usual tourist’s fare of three for a dollar), and I settled into an Adirondack chair on the patio behind my room to write. The patio was a shared space with other rooms overlooking both the pool and the Caribbean Sea, and was a popular gathering spot for the group of divers traveling with me. Since the cards were for my dad and my nephews, and wouldn’t really take long to write, it was no distraction when several friends joined me in the warm, Dutch-Caribbean sunshine, filling out dive logs or simply chatting among themselves.
Seeing me writing postcards did prompt some conversations, and I was privately amused in the next few days to see a few of the others scribbling on postcards of their own. Sure, we all had access to email, facebook, and other social media, but there is a certain charm to the simple picture card. I was doubtful anyone else would follow my postcard tradition beyond this trip, but at least there would be a few family and friends that would find a nostalgic note in their mailboxes soon.
Writing postcards to my dad and nephews has become a tradition for me over the past few years. Dad and I share a love of travel, both of us having held jobs that involved seeing different parts of the country and the world. While circumstances and health issues have stopped him from traveling as much as he once did, sending a card from whatever port of call I happen to be visiting is a fun way to stay connected. My nephews are both young, but still old enough to read and to have the wanderlust instilled in them.
There is something tangible and personal about a handwritten postcard. It is a connection that starts when you choose it from the colorful spinner rack with a certain person in mind, through writing the words in the tiny space available, and ends in the hands of that person as they read it. I have no idea if my dad or my nephews bother saving the postcards I send; at best they’ll be read immediately, and then will be tossed in the bottom of a drawer. Yet, even years later, the connection can be found again.
Much of the joy as a writer comes in choosing a place and atmosphere in which to write. I have written blogs seated in a noisy coffee house sipping a pumpkin spice latte, worked on magazine articles late at night sitting on the couch at home, and even written journal entries on damp paper on the decks of sailing schooners and dive boats. Each setting creates an ambiance that lends to the work being done, or the “feel” of the piece being created.
I want the postcards to my nephews to “feel” like they’ve come from the adventurous uncle describing someplace exotic that they will enjoy seeing for themselves one day. That may sound a bit silly, but I believe it does more than simply tease them with a picture and a few words about someone having a good time on vacation; it gives legitimacy to the idea that they, too, can visit places just like someone they know personally. They are holding a piece of that place, a moment captured forever by a person who was really there and thinking specifically of them.
Hotel lobbies are an excellent place for me when writing postcards. I like sitting in an open-air lobby under a slow moving ceiling fan, watching the comings and goings of other travelers. Hotel lobbies have the feeling of eagerness at the beginning of a trip, as well as the weary ready-to-return feel nearing journey’s end. It blends a multitude of people, from the foreign businessman on company travel to the local maid quietly sweeping the lobby floor. It is the place with the most comfortable furniture in the hotel!
As I sit trying to squeeze words into a small space (while still allowing room for an address and a postage stamp), I attempt to combine the feelings of excitement about being in such a place, describing what I’ve done while here, and hopefully expressing the view of being not a tourist but a traveler. For Dad, it may recall memories; for my nephews it might inspire not just dreams but plans…
The final ritual of the postcard is insuring that it carries the cancellation stamp of the country it comes from. The cards would doubtless arrive faster if I simply carried them back stateside in order to mail them, but that removes some of the charm and mystery. I’ve gone in search of oddly-shaped postal boxes only minutes before the final transfer to the airport, and have even had to ask if it was a postal box! I’ve seen desk clerks reading my cards from the corner of my eye after they agreed to get them into the mail at the hotel for me. No matter; the purpose of the card is to bring joy to the reader, to share a brief glimpse of a time and place. If that happens for more than the person named on the address, it’s simply spreading some of the fun!