My dad travelled a lot for work when I was younger, so he started a tradition: Every time he visited a new city, he would send my three sisters and me a postcard. Four individualized postcards from all over the world would end up on massive bulletin boards that hung on the walls of my childhood home. He would end each card with a trivia question about the city he was in, which became my earliest form of geography and culture studies.
Remembering the joy I felt every time a new postcard arrived in the mail, I decided sometime early in high school to introduce that tradition to my friends. To this day, I keep a note in my phone with all my friends' home addresses, and the first thing I do when I visit a new country is find the nearest tourist trap and load up on postcards. During downtime (which is hard to come by on Strasburger family trips) I get to work, always starting with a greeting written in the local language (I've since mastered writing "hello" in Arabic, Hindi, and hieroglyphs [dusts off shoulders]) and ending with a trivia question of my own.
I recently realized that writing postcards serves two purposes. The first is that it's a good excuse to take a moment during an otherwise hectic trip to reflect on the experience I'm having. I'm essentially writing a mini diary entry about what I've seen and how it's made me feel. And since I always send a postcard home to my roommate, I'll later catch a glimpse of one taped above her desk on a boring Tuesday in the middle of winter and immediately get transported back to the exciting sights and smells of summer in Kazakhstan.
Secondly, it's a sneaky way to insert yourself into your friends' homes. I love going into a kitchen to grab a beer at a party and seeing my terrible handwriting sprawled across the host's fridge. I get an egomaniacal rush realizing that they must see it and think of me every time they go in for a sandwich or a midnight snack. I aim to be whatever the opposite of "out of sight, out of mind" is.
So next time you're heading to a new place, budget in some time and money for writing postcards and buying stamps, and let the surprised and delighted texts from friends start flowing in approximately one month after your back from the trip. Hey—it's called snail mail for a reason.
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Answers: Berber and Arabic; The Heart-Shaped Land; Three: Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius; True, second to the United States; Coca-Cola.