The art of travel is being able to create memories. But how can we relive the experiences and relationships of an exciting or romantic or never-again adventure? Think outside the camera–the right postcard can be more of a memory-maker than all those digital photos that never leave the device.

Travel + Postcards

When I was younger and couldn’t afford to take alot of pictures I found myself traveling through Europe on a student budget. It was the era of 35mm cameras  and the cost to develop pictures was out of my reach. I began buying postcards instead, not to mail, but to keep as souvenirs.

The postcards were easy to share and display. The collection grew. I often rifle through the cards and they never fail to do what a good souvenir does–bring back memories.

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Buying Tips

People have asked about my postcard purchases and so without further ado, the three most important tips for collecting the art of travel:

  1. Only buy a postcard from a place you’ve actually been. It’s tempting to buy a beautiful scene or a painting and heck, it’s only a dollar, right? But when you get home you won’t have any association with it. So don’t bother. Stay authentic to your experience.
  2. Go beyond the ordinary color photo postcard and go with a theme. Collect map postcards. Drawings. Vintage scenes. Hunting a postcard that corresponds to the theme of your collection can liven up a trip.
  3. Look for postcards in quirky places. Museums and souvenir shops are the expected places but churches, antique malls, university bookstores, and art galleries are also good places to check, especially if you collect a theme.

The Gallery

To get your imagination going, here are some of mine and the stories they tell:

A British Library postcard of a page of Lewis Carroll’s handwritten and illustrated manuscript of Alice in Wonderland.  This was my first trip to London as an adult, when I went to the British Library and Sir John Soanes’ Museum and was a hopeless Anglophile for a week.

This postcard of Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises was purchased during a student trip to Amsterdam. My roommate and I rode the train from Paris and met up with a motley group of foreign students with whom we went to the Van Gogh Museum. This painting, with its thickly daubed paint and eye-popping colors fascinated me. I could have stared at it all day.

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This postcard is a double art bonus: it shows both sides of the Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam but also reflects the colors and layout of the flag of the Netherlands.

This postcard of the medieval walled village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany will always bring forth the memory of a trip through Germany and Austria with my mother. Rothenburg was the scene of a particularly funny beer drinking event during which my mother did herself proud at 11:00 am.

The Ritz Hotel has been mentioned in many books and always seemed the epitome of high society. I crossed it off my bucket list several years ago when I had brunch there (coffee and toast that cost as much as my first car) and picked up this postcard from the lounge on my way out.

Australian artist Colin Colahan painted “Ballet of Wind and Rain” in 1945 as an official artist with Australian forces in the UK during WWII. I purchased the postcard at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, one of the most moving tributes to fallen soldiers I’ve ever seen.

This is a photo of image of the Madonna imprinted on a cloth garment (the famous tilma of San Juan Diego) which now hangs in the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  I got it at the  Basilica gift shop. The postcard is simply a photo with “Expression de los ojos de la Virgen” stamped on the back and space for postage and the recipient’s address.

This is an oversized postcard for an oversized item, namely the Viking ship or “Oseberg-stavnen” in the Viking ship museum in Oslo, Norway. On the same trip I went to the Fram Museum, the final home of the ship that took Roald Amundsen to Antarctica. I doubt the Viking tradition will ever die out in Norway.

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2 Comments

  1. pov53

    I love this idea – I always take pictures when I travel, but somehow the pictures don’t capture the feeling of the trip for me (they often look like, well, bad postcards). I think truly memorable postcards would bring back the moment more for me. BTW, you must be an expert packer – how do you pack for all your far-flung adventures?

    • Carmen

      I’m sure your photography is better than that! Re packing tips, the biggest travel lifesaver I’ve found is a Kipling brand carry-on bag with a computer pocket that slides over the extended handle of a rolling suitcase. I bought it in the Vienna airport when my old heavy carry-on broke a strap. Kipling makes other bags with this feature as well as simple and lightweight backpacks. The best travel brand for my money.

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