WHEN I was younger I started collecting holiday postcards sent to my family.
The first one that came through the letterbox, a small piece of card addressed to me, brought with it so much excitement and the photo was mesmerising.
It included a striking photo of Harminder Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, India shining bright in the middle of the lake with perfect reflections. This was an Instagram square way before it’s time. I couldn’t double-click to ‘like’ it, I couldn’t scroll down to read the caption but on the back was a short travel story.
The card had been sent by my mama (uncle) during his two-week trip to the Punjab. There wasn’t enough space for him to tell us much about his trip but he said it was hot, he was “having a great time” and was getting his plane home. In fact the card arrived a week after he had returned so I had already heard the stories first hand, but this little bit of post was still exciting.
I couldn’t have been more than 10-years-old and hadn’t visited India yet, but suddenly this magical building felt much closer. For months it was in my bedroom pinned to a notice board as a reminder I could one day go there too.
This was the early 1990s and I had only been on one or two holidays abroad. We had posted some postcards to other people but no-one had ever sent us one until now. As we started going on more family holidays I started making it a tradition to write postcards to select family and friends, and soon in return they did the same. Without mobile phones and social media at the time it was how we shared our holiday with them.
Over the years I gathered a good collection of postcards, both from around the UK and around the world. My mama carried on sending a very brief card from his travels for a few years, often posting them on his way to the airport to get a flight home. He always sounded so busy to go somewhere. “Sending this for good luck,” he would write. “Gotta go”.
The cards included beautiful sunsets from people’s holidays, the days before Photoshop and filters existed, and landscape shots of towns and villages from around the world, it was like I was there living it with them. It was exciting getting this colourful post and maybe it even fuelled my love of a good travel photo and dreaming of seeing all these places myself.
Social media changed traditions
During a clear out of my old bedroom at my parents’ house I recently came across all these postcards. Reading through them I laughed at the simple language used, the small details people picked out from their holidays and reminisced about some of my own trips having sent cards to my parents and siblings. But there’s a point around 2010 the postcards all stopped.
I can’t remember the last time I posted one or even received one and it’s a shame people don’t send as many postcards anymore. Along with letters and birthday cards they have been replaced by social media and instant messaging which can allow you to send a message and photos home within seconds. You can instantly share what you’ve been doing and document everything on a Facebook or Instagram post to keep people up-to-date on the amazing time you’re having.
In some ways postcards were no different to social media today. No-one wants to show the disappointing side to their holiday, or say they’re having a rubbish time, but it was the old school way of bragging about the fabulous week you’re having. Just like Instagram, they allowed you to share a photo of where you are and write a few words in a short space to describe the best parts of your holiday.
I think I just have a love of all things nostalgia and think it’s time we should all start posting postcards to each other again.