100 Remnants of a Year Well Lived

This post was originally published on Beacon Reader, an experiment in crowdsourced publishing that has subsequently ceased to exist. RIP Beacon Reader. 
Overview: This past year I traveled around the world buying post cards in every place I went. Each one tells a story. As I go through the process of framing and hanging them, I’m going to tell the related story here on Beacon Reader. Please subscribe to my page to support my writing efforts and to get strange tales of faraway lands delivered straight to your inbox—and to get access to all the other great content on this site.

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.

Please subscribe to my page to support my writing efforts and to get strange tales of faraway lands in your inbox—and access to all the other great content on this site.

<3 Arikia

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