what started as a childhood fascination for discovering the world outside my own backyard became a dogged and relentless pursuit for achieving my lifelong travel bucket list.
when you’re young, you build your world from scraps of adventure you see, hear, touch, smell and taste. at least i did.
a precocious little kid always running around my neighborhood without shoes (i really hated shoes), I built my limited view of the world from everything around me. walking through Marshes, petting rugged turtle shells, raising orphan kittens, sitting on civil war era cannons.
my trips were confined to places within the driving distance of our homes – Outside Charleston and washington, dc: a fieldtrip to the smithsonian, a weekend to the cape, a spring break to charleston. i can’t distinguish them now. they’re all just one flat, endless throttle down interstate 95 with pine trees, cracker barrels and 7-11’s sprinkled in between. for a while there, the world felt awfully small. i had lofty dreams, even at age 10, to see more. i needed a way to pin my dreams down, and I found them in the form of postcards.
i’ll never forget my first postcard experience. i was at a yard sale with my bargain-finding dad, and spotted the glossary cover of a 1979 national geographic magazine (what would become my fave) with a postcard adorning the cover. Begging and pleading that i’d take no allowance for the rest of eternity if i could have it, he bargained it for 25 cents. and the rest is history.
my travel education started right there with a yard sale, a quarter, and a postcard.
after that, i picked up a postcard everywhere i went: museums, second-hand shops, gas stations, visitor centers, you name it. whether the simple, lone cards showed scenes of a bustling cab-filled street in new york, the cobblestoned terraces of paris, or a bird’s eye view of australia’s great barrier reef, they captured everything i wanted to see and do. but they also nurtured something else in me other than FOMO: they offered me a way to become an explorer of other cultures, ethnicities, languages, art and communities.
From then on, buying postcards – even asking family and friends to send them to me – became standard lauren practice.
and it didn’t stop when i attended college. i taped them to the walls of my dorm at virginia commonwealth university, an indication to every new friend or classmate who walked through my door that i was a serious person.
my collection became an anchor for me through the tough times, and a celebration of all my fun times.
after graduation, my postcard ball-and-chain followed me. they came with me to my first job and apartment outside washington, dc and when i moved to san francisco on a whim for a job at Stanford. they were always present, a reminder of bigger, better things, new coasts yet discovered and new waters yet swam. but i realized something at 27: my postcards had come to reflect fewer and fewer places i wanted to see and more of the places i’d been. I had done it. I had made those dreams manifest.
today, 13 cities and many years later, postcards are still the fuel running through my veins. so far, I’ve collected 897 postcards from around the world from family, friends, colleagues, exes, collectors, shop owners, and more. take a peek below!