Before I set out on my travels during the 2009 - 2010 year, I decided that I was going to commemorate my journeys by writing to myself as soon as interesting travel experiences occurred. This meant that I either had to carry around a large journal everywhere I went (far too heavy with the other assorted daily things one travels with: SLR camera, water, snacks, purse, reading book, etc), or find another way to document my thoughts, ideas and inspiration while out every day observing and absorbing all that passed around me.
My brain stumbled upon a brilliant solution. I tend to purchase post cards at most places I visit as a professional picture or snapshot of a particular piece in an exhibit is a fantastic memento, but once purchased I would tuck these postcards into a drawer or a photo album without every being properly used. This time around I decided I was going to mail the postcards to myself.
This way I would be collecting visuals, written memories, stamps, postage and date stamps in various languages, and immediate documentation of my impressions and ideas. In the end all I had to do was carry around a few pieces of rectangular paper, a pen, and find a convenient locale at which to purchase stamps. Most travel books I used provided excellent details as to where to locate stamps, post offices, post boxes, and postcards are everywhere. In the end, during my eight month travel excursion I acquired just over 50 postcards and after I returned from each mini-excursion, I had several, inexpensive, wonderful gifts waiting in London from me to me.
While writing this post I have been re-reading through some of the postcards and I have already forgotten some of the experiences I had, or the details have faded and my documentation has helped my brain rediscover what I loved or found interesting during my travels around Europe and Egypt.
Here are some of my mental meanderings over the course of the eight months after having traveled through nine countries:
Musée National de la Marine, Paris, France
"The skies are what drew you to this painter (Joseph Vernet). The colours, swirls, chaos in the air. Not necessarily wanting to go to a Maritime Museum, but it proved interesting. Remember, even the prisoners made minute, magnificent models of miniature ships while in captivity. Captivity still provides choices."
Rijks Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
"A biblical figure who had dedicated her life to God by sitting in a synagogue, reading the Torah. Interesting use of a life. Is that not what this is all about? The use of my life?...She is old, her hands are wrinkled, she is lovely. Her hand is magnificent and the light focuses on it and the page she is reading. Mmmmm."
National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom
"Live it your way. No regrets. Quote from the Gay Icon exhibit: 'Find a place where you are appreciated for all of you - serve that organization for the greater good.' - Margarethe Cammermeyer."
Musée de Tapisserie de Bayeux, Bayeux, France
"Today you got your 7.80 Euro's worth walking by a tapestry 3 times, and listening to the commentary twice. At first you were unimpressed, and then upon closer examination the colours were rich, the details as accurate as possible, the workmanship and focus astute. And you are related to William the Conquerer, the subject of the tapestry."
Ben Nevis Pub, Fort William, Inverness-shire, United Kingdom
Or should I say 'hiya' which is what everyone says here as a greeting. Right now there are four Scottish women talking next to you as you eat at the Ben Nevis Pub. They just said 'creeeamy' like the old commercial, and the woman at the museum said 'booook' five times yesterday. Woot! Just waiting for someone to say 'buuuutcher', although one person just said 'day oot' which was equally cool! That train ride and this city are beautiful. Fort William is as stunning as Banff."
Local Market, Amsterdam, Netherlands
"I bought this 1980's postcard specimen at a market in the 'Dam. Turns out Dam is a square on water called Amster. See where this is going?"
Jungfrau Region, Switzerland
(Postcard picture: gigantic cow sitting on the ground with the Swiss Alps behind.)
"Sometimes people are cows. Sometimes life is full of their shit. Thank goodness you can pick yourself up, spray yourself off, tell them to f**k off, and live your life. No cows. No shit!"
Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat, Barcelona, Spain
"Today seeing the Roman ruins, the depth at which they were found, the large vats to make Garram sauce, the place to dye fabrics (with blue stain still on the stone), learning that urine was used to clean clothes, and that all people were equal in Roman society while using the baths. All incredible! There were even wheel ruts from old carts still in a portion of the ground. The Modernist sculpture you saw in the morning was equally grand and through provoking."
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands
"You went to Anne Frank's House as a teenager and returned as an adult...I teared up and was moved beyond my understanding. What other beauty and knowledge was lost in this war? What societal influences did we lose because of mass murder? One voice of a young woman has been passed down and the good she has encouraged is most likely immeasurable, but how many other lost talents? Wonderful to have returned."
The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland
"Luoban are Buddhist disciples who have attained wisdom but who remain on earth to help others gain enlightenment. He sits in serene contemplation, cross-legged, with hands folded in his lap. There are 16 - 18 of these in China and 1 here in Glasgow. Wisdom and enlightenment. Wisdom takes time and experience, and time moves faster with each decade. What are you going to do with the next decade?"
Museo Picasso, Barcelona, Spain
"How did Picasso go from Impressionist paintings to crazy shapes and forms in 1957? Part of his life was skipped at his own museum...I did not like his later works and his ceramics were crap. His pin-up girls were hilarious!"
Anish Kapoor Exhibit, Royal Academy of the Arts, London, United Kingdom
"No thing, person, structure, belief system, country, way of life is perfect. This art deceives just as the 'green grass on the other side' does. Truly it extends backwards, in a concave, yellow, shape. But stared at long enough it flips and becomes convex to the eye, bulging towards you. Always luminous, constantly a vibrant yellow, it does not change, those who perceive change. To see the good in the bad, the forest and the trees. To enjoy the forest and the trees is my goal. The environment is as important as the title and they pay cheque."
Considering I wrote some of these quickly, on trains, while walking, enjoying a hot beverage and pondering the words, and on the top of a post boxes right before mailed, I did a job of which I am proud. I shall treasure them for many years to come. One couple with whom I shared my postcard idea decided to do it as well, another man said to me, 'that is so sad...that you have to mail postcards to yourself.' Not so sad. Quite a collection of my travel experiences.