By Ambassador Ryan Lindsay Bartz

My partner and I have just returned from a 15 month cycle tour around the world and have been reflecting on the trip. Of course this longing for the road turned us to flipping through our journals where we found addresses and notes detailing friends and hosts we’d met and stayed with along the way. Trying to stay in touch with everyone all the time in an insurmountable task. But little touches can make a big difference as I’ve noticed in my life receiving unexpected cards and letters from friends far off. 

Today we absorb digital media and messages at such an alarming rate it’s quite mind boggling to stop and think about it. And while I am thinking about it, I have to ask, has anyone else been (digitally) talking with a friend and then can’t remember whether the conversation happened on text, email, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, or that other account you rarely check?? Yeaaah. I’m not saying it isn’t awesome that we can connect with so many people, so quickly, and with such distance in a manner of seconds, (truly insane right?!), it’s just, A LOT. 

Introducing: the Letter. 

The letter is like the OG of simple, straight-forward, long distance communication. The touchstone of human connection of days gone past. And still today, it’s a way to truly feel “in-touch” with those we’ve met along our journey. It’s funny the nomenclature isn’t it? “Let’s stay “in-touch!” But it’s true, that with a letter, I feel like you really do. The physicality alone somehow makes letters more connected to the person who has sent it. Perhaps because they have in fact, well, touched it. Hands on paper, scribblings in margins, and a signature only their own.  

And while slow, I believe there’s something there in the physical. Yes, it’s true, the letter takes longer to communicate your message in all ways imaginable. Pen and paper, addresses and envelopes, stamps and delivery, oh my! And then…the waiting…. you must be quite patient for this physical thing to travel, and travel it will. 

I’m possibly just as impressed with mail as I am with technology: That this tiny slip of paper with my doodlings and thoughts can float it’s way around the globe and be delivered to an exact pinpoint destination at my request is freaking amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE technology, heck you probably wouldn’t be reading this post if it weren’t digital, and many of the friends we made during our trip came through online hosting sites like Warmshowers and emails sent amongst friends of friends. 

Seeking Connection

We traveled through 12 different countries on our cycle tour making friends from all over the world. Some of these friends hosted us for a few days or more introducing us to new cultures, new trails, new flavors, new fun. To say thanks for the incredible hospitality these rad folks showed us, we made it a point to send postcards to each and every one and help keep our connection a little more tactile. 

Even after various emails, texts, Instagram DMs et. al. between us and our new friends many have reached out saying how excited (!!) they were to receive “real mail” from us. I mean, who doesn’t like getting snail mail from a friend?! It may be old school, but it still feels special. So here’s to the letter, the paper and pen, and to our friends in far places who I’m betting we’ll see again.