My Postcard Collection Isn't of Where I've Been, But Where I Want to Go

When you’re young, you build your world from scraps. At least, I did.

My collecting frenzy started with a Model U.N. trip to Washington, D.C. when I was 15—one of my first real forays out in the world, to a major city, without my parents. Trudging back up Connecticut Avenue to our hotel one day, I stopped into a shop called Claude Taylor Photography, (it has since closed, but the now-defunct URL,, still gives me a kick), and bought three paper-backed photographs that lit the match of my hoarding obsession: a soft-focus, black-and-white shot of an empty Red Square in Moscow; an impromptu portrait of a smiling woman in a lemon-yellow headscarf, taken in India; and a mural of a woman in bluish-purple tiles across a nondescript wall in Paris. Each one cost $20, an amount that was meant to last me at least two days, meals included. But they nurtured something else in me: they offered a hint of the places I wanted to see, and with that, the person I hoped I’d become.