This summer I tried something a little different, something that some of you will be familiar with but most of you won't have ever done. As part of My Grand Tour of Europe from Greece to UK, itself a fairly retro form of international travel. I decided to reevaluate another old-world holiday habit, postcards.
A few months ago my students did very well in their exams, I could have facebooked their success or tweeted it for all to see but I chose not to. I'm very mindful of how I use my social media, I do not 'friend' my students, I do not post my kids' faces and I even ask my wife's permission to post a photo that she's in. My social media is my social word, an adult world where I communicate my thoughts to people I know and I know all my friends. So, I sent them greetings cards, a Hallmark moment in their postboxes. The reaction was incredible. The mums told me of the glow as the kids opened the postbox to find an envelope for them, "Is it for me, mummy?" Another nailed it, "It's such a shame that few will ever experience this."
It was then that I decided to make a change. At each of the cities we stayed at I bought a brace of cards and stamps. I spent a little time composing a brief but personal message to each child ending with the words "Can you guess where your next card will be from?" Then popped them in a postbox. Simple.
We all love to share our holidays with friends and family. Part of the joy of travelling is telling others about the things you've done and seen. We post pictures of ourselves drinking cocktails on the beach, standing, smiling in front of exotic landmarks and telling everyone that we are having the time of our lives. But I didn't want to advertise the fact that our house was empty and ripe for picking.
When we returned and I met up with my kids, they were curious about where I had been and what I had seen. They appreciated that there were little pieces of shared joy in their postboxes and their parents described the excitement and anticipation of opening them to find or not find another card. One was away at camp but phoned almost daily to enquire about any new arrivals.
Smartphones and social media has made sharing our experiences so much easier but in that convenience has gone a little of the effort that makes something special. The joy of waiting, the uncertainty of delivery and the contact of something that went from your hand to another's without being digitised.
Please share your postcard experiences and let me know I'm not the only one.