Wish You Were Here – Post Collections for my friend Heef.

a mailbox in Italy next to a carosel of postcards ready to be sent.

I’ve had the cringy feeling when of opening the post filled with dreaded bills and statements or overflowing with weekly grocery circulars. Through all that mess, I love the thrill of opening the mailbox, and SURPRISE! a card or letter with a thoughtful sentiment like, “I was thinking about you.”  

Each year I make a resolution to become a better letter writer.  I’d sit quietly contemplating with a cup of tea, flaky croissant, my leather-bound journal, and a stack of postcards. I would casually drop each postcard into postbox, anxiety-free, knowing they would reach their destinations, sprinkled around the world. I would be a person that remembers birthdays weeks in advance, anniversaries, I’d send holiday cards and get-well cards. A ritual that fits nicely into each and every day. I would be the “Post Most.”  

Apparantly, my friends also envisioned this (thank you Hollywood influence). On my departure, my friends presented me with an idyllic, soft-leather bound journal filled with notes, memories, and inspiration. Along with the notebook, I receieved a sealed envelope with instructions not to open until I was really lonely.

I promise, I really made an attempt to fill that diary with my deepest thoughts and travel perceptions. Unfortunately, as all journals before it, this beautiful book became bound pages of repetitive lists: buy SIM, find laundrette, EXERCISE! as well as indecipherable, non-sensical chicken-scratch notes from travel agents, oversees bank phone calls, and must-see sites and tips from people I met along the way.

As for the envelope, it took me about a month and a half to reach my breaking point. Paris for one can be tough.  I reached deep into my backpack and dug it out. I gingerly opened the seal. Inside were several first-class stamps and a card replete with words of love and encouragement from my dear friend Heef.  Just what I needed. The stamps are still in my wallet years later. As it turns out, I’m not great at maintaining a diary and have proven to be an undisciplined, slacker, letter-writer. 

Now, I’d like to share some background about Heef. 

I have always admired her commitment to correspondence. For years, she faithfully sent snail mail. Her loyalty and unwavering support for the USPS may just keep them afloat.  She has this distinct penmanship formed of sharp angular letters, slanted slightly to the right. And her sentiments blanket the cards from top to bottom, back and front, dated and always written in pen.

It is easy to make excuses for not maintaining communications while traveling. Jumping time zones, tourist exhaustion, expensive post, creeping wifi, and each of us having our own lives and commitments. Most of us are drowning in a swamp of socials and email quicksand. Our phone habits should come with detox recommendations. So how can you stay in touch while afar?

I’ve found what works best for me is to keep it quick, simple, and personal.  Sharing an interest or seeking out something that carries significance to a friend, is a wonderful way to say, “I am thinking of you, and wish you were here.”  A quick photo and message don’t necessarily have to prompt a full conversation.

For Heef, I seek out interesting or eye-catching mailboxes and post offices. It may not hold the same significance as hand-written note, but everytime I see a post office, I think of her. 

To Heef with love. Thank you for the inspiration.

a collection of red post boxes from England, Vietnam, India, and Italy
A few discreet post slots in Southern France and Sicily.
Post from Zanzibar and Tanzania
The Post Office Tree in Mossels Bay, South Africa established in 1500's.
Chapman's Baobab tree in Botswana next to Ntwetwe Pan.  Used for explorers and settlers in the 1800's.

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