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Dusting Off: The Postcard


As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, habits and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off the postcard.

Everyone needs a change of scenery from time to time.

And whether it’s a weekend road trip or a monthlong tour of Asia, we predict you’ll spend at least some portion of the next few months in unusual climes. It’s an opportunity for reflection, mind-broadening and—if you came prepared—a little nostalgia. We’re thinking of the postcard…and the kind that doesn’t come from a gift shop.

On some level, postcards never went anywhere, but they’re facing an awful lot of competition. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, Tumblr, and plain old cell phones are all broadcasting your Himalayan adventures without the need for pen and cardboard. The only thing they can’t do is convey the exotic. No matter how breathtaking your pictures are, they’re part of the same hyperreal space as thousands of cat videos and 800-word rants about Kanye. It’s the same old internet; the very thing you bought a plane ticket to get away from.

The postcard is something else. Forget the glossy shots of Mount Rushmore—the best ones look like they’re from a whole other world. Think retro paintings like the one above, or a beaten-up book cover, or a snipped-off cover of a real-life book. The object is the key: it’s traveled hundreds of miles, picking up scuffs and foreign perfumes along the way, and now your friend’s holding it in his hands, squinting to read your handwriting. And since you wrote it in the unique headspace that only foreign climes can produce, it’s a document of something he’ll never see.

Instead of the overshare of social media, you’ve bought back a little mystery. Everything else is between you and the road.