During the past year I spent traveling around the world, I didn’t purchase many things. I bought food, water, the occasional alcoholic beverage, and admission to various sections of land that contained things deemed to be precious in this world. I purchased the ability to sleep in relative comfort on occasion, and the capability to contact other humans over the internet. But I didn’t allow myself to buy many actual, tangible things during my trip. I packed what I thought was the bare minimum amount of things I could live with, and forced myself to sacrifice one item every time I bought something new, as baggage overage charges on airlines can wind up costing a pretty penny; regarding international shipping, in most places you’d have better luck throwing your stuff off the side of a cliff and hoping an eagle would swoop by and carry it to its destination.
The one exception I allowed myself was post cards. Since they’re each so light and don’t take up much space, I would go into gift shops and browse but made sure to leave only a few post cards heavier. I turned my selection process into a craft, going into the weirdest old stores I could find and picking ones that may not have borne typical icons of that region’s beauty but contained a deliberate statement by the photographer. I looked for ones that captured the essence of a place, or the absurdity, or the hypocrisy. I mailed some to friends if the specific place reminded me of them, and if I could find a post office. Others I began incorporating into a scrap book where I arranged all the other pieces of paper I accumulated to denote the chapter. But the rest I kept in a box in the larger suitcase that I would check on airplanes and use as storage while keeping the immediately relevant items in the smaller carry-on bag.
At one point, I think right around the time I left Thailand and had to carry my bags from a boat across a wooden plank the approximate size of a balance beam, I realized that about half the weight of my luggage was paper products. I have never been able to let go of paper. I hoard it. I know—know, deep in my heart—that someday a question will come up and the only way to answer it will be by locating the one specific cocktail napkin that I preserved approximately 27% of the way down in the 2009 box of random NYC paper items.
After finally unpacking yesterday, 21 days after returning to NYC, I went through my post card collection and realize that I had accumulated almost exactly 100 loose ones, even after solidifying about half in my scrap book.
Each one is a mental trigger for one of the crazy stories you may have caught brief references to on Twitter or seen snapshots of on Instagram over the past year, which I consider the most positively formative year of my 27-year existence.
Coincidentally, I happened to find a cardboard box full of post-card-sized empty picture frames that someone had abandoned in my apartment lobby a few nights ago. I decided to create a wall of inspiration with the spoils of my travels and luck. As I go through the process of hanging them, I’m going to tell the related story here on Beacon Reader.
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