The sound of soft footsteps striding up your pathway, the feeling of anticipation as your letterbox lid is lifted and that moment that seems to last for eternity as the postman struggles to push your bundle of post through that tiny opening… For some reason, the feeling that comes with receiving post from afar simply cannot be beaten. Sadly though, it has become a rare sensation these days, with the dramatic rise of Social Media.
Long gone are the days when an ink quill, a scroll and an owl (or perhaps a stamp and some help from the Postal Service) were all it took to pour out your deepest most heartfelt feelings and get them to your person of choice. Why bother, when these days a short text, a quick Facebook comment, a simple email or a public Blog can do it with far less effort expelled and in much less time. No longer do we need to send a letter or a postcard from our travels, such archaic means of communication have been rapidly and almost entirely erased.
Writing postcards: now a thing of the past?
To me, this seems tragic. When I was living and working far from home, there was nothing that could beat opening up an airmail full of news from my tiny village in the middle of nowhere. Despite the fact that little ever changed, the idea of my Mum sat at the kitchen table, Radio 4 on in the background, scribbling away to me, was a home comfort in itself. Ok, she didn’t quite manage to conjure the taste of Heinz baked beans into my mouth or fill my nostrils with the scent of the farmyard next door, but it did bring me that little closer to home. As did the letter from my best friend, inside which she had slipped a PG Tips tea bag. What a treat!
So when I returned to Southeast Asia for my second round of travelling, I came armed with an authentic Polaroid camera (snapped up from a charity shop for the bargain price of £2) and a bag full of film. Surrendering my Facebook password to a friend and banning myself from the internet, I set about finding the most weird and wonderful snapshots of Siam to send home, complete with scribbled addresses and foreign stamps a plenty. More personal than a postcard and a heap more fun for me to create, my friends began to fight over who was next on the list to receive one of these little squares of Southeast Asian love. And I loved to send them!
Sometimes postcards go on their own adventures…
However, after two months detox from the Internet, the need to catch up on my friends love lives, night lives and day-to-day doings overwhelmed me and I managed to hack my way on. Surprise, surprise, I hadn’t been left in the last century and I was not a total technophobe. My Facebook skills came back like riding a bike, despite the site having had a mini-facelift and a nip and tuck here and there and Twitter was just as easy. While my email inbox was so crammed with spam from my freebie-seeking student days that I simply gave up and started afresh. If anything, it made me realise that perhaps the simple life without these technological complications was one I had begun to relish. Spending less time on the Internet and more time on the road encouraged me to get out more, make real (not cyber) friends and enjoy my time away without spending heaps of time reminiscing about what I was (or wasn’t!) missing.
We all like to keep a record of our round the world travels and with internet being so easy to find, blogs can provide that perfect opportunity.. But the problem comes when that blog takes over and updating daily becomes an addiction that you simply can’t live without. Who really wants to spend their precious time and money in a stuffy Internet café? By all means, write a blog…but why not just keep a diary crammed full of memories, innate scribblings from overnight buses and torn tickets from every site, every journey and every guesthouse? Then turn that scrapbook into a blog when you finally (if ever!) return home. What a great excuse to extend the experience and relive the memories!
So my advice? Read blogs with caution and use social media in just the best ways. To keep in contact with those fellow travellers you bonded with on the slow boat to Laos, to share photographs of bucket-fuelled antics on Koh Phangan or to make your friends stuck at home so jealous that they hop on a flight and join you… but remember, you are on the adventure of a lifetime! Make the bloody most of it…and send a postcard or two along the way! Trust me, it will be appreciated.