Postcards from the Edge

19 05 2008

Havana books

Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your postcards.

As a child, I ate a veritable forest’s worth of rice paper-wrapped chocolate cigarettes. I would saunter about with the imitation vice between my fingers, before downing it with one bite. It was initially an effort to emulate my favourite TV and movie smokers, but there was also something very cool about being able to eat paper without risking parental punishment. I was easily a one-pack-a-day guy and ate so many I actually assumed that the old adage that we all have one book in us was in fact a literal reference to my fibre intake, and not a literary one.


With age, I gave up the filthy habit and moved on to far more mature confectionary addictions, like snorting red licorice. Thanks to travel, however, I do now feel as though I have at least one book in me. This time, indeed of the literary variety.


Ever since my very first exotic wanderings, I have maintained a travel diary. They’re useful in identifying photographs when you get home, and are also a great way to unwind in the evening while sitting by the campfire, the pool or in the bar. You can make point-form notes in order to jog your memory when you get home, or be more detailed and write great long tracts. I have a whole slew of tattered and moth-eared notebooks that served as diaries during my various travels. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at them more than once – if at all, but they are nice to have. And, if ever Steven Spielberg decides to make a movie adaptation of my life and cast some precocious 8 year old to play me as an adult, I can assist with the specifics.


Postcards are another great way to record your travels. You obviously have to be far more concise on a postcard than in a diary, but combined with the image on the other side, you can paint a pretty good picture of your feelings and mood at the time. Instead of merely bringing home a couple of nice postcards as souvenirs, I started to actually mail one to myself when I travel. This is only partly to con the mailman into thinking that I have well-travelled friends…or friends at all, really. I try and be creative and humourous in my message aware that I’ll likely be depressed to be home again when I next see it, but invariably get no more original than “Wish I was still here”.


In all my travels, I have only had the postcards from one place completely fail to arrive at their destination. I have mailed them from small towns in the African bush and tiny villages in the Amazonian jungle; from the Australian outback, the Sahara and the extreme north of Iceland and Finland. Even from a Ukrainian research station in the Antarctic. But the only ones that failed to reach friends and family completely were mailed in Cuba.


Perhaps I shouldn’t have added the little stick drawing of Fidel munching on chocolate cigars?


Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008



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