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A Home Decorating Tip to Keep Travel Memories Alive

How to Run a Successful International Penpal Exchange

Four framed photos from Ghana, now on my wall!

You’re back from traveling around the world. Your blog has over 400 articles documenting every single day of the journey. Now what?

There’s one tip for sure: print out those photos and plaster the walls of your new home with them to remember the loveliness of distant countries each and every day!

Now here’s the awesome part: it is CRAZY cheap to order and print digital photos with a click of your mouse! At the websites for both CVS and Walgreens, you can upload as many photos as you want (in my case, 450 photos of the 3,540 on this site), and order them printed within one hour to the CVS or Walgreens closest to your house (in my case, 1.5 blocks away).

Amazing! What’s even more amazing, however, is that there are so many online coupons floating around online for both of these stores’ photo services that the price you will pay for this printing service is likely to be less than a fancy sandwich. For example, by using the “New User” promotion code I saw on an ad banner, plus the “Fall Sale” code on the CVS homepage, I literally paid $8.53 (!) to print, I kid you not, a batch of 150 glossy 4×6 photos. What a bargain!

How to Run a Successful International Penpal Exchange

Photos of Spain, Portugal, and Ghana on magnetic fridge frames.

Now we get to the issue of framing. The woman whose lease I took over at this Boston apartment left behind a whole bunch of large frames with cardboard backings, into which I pasted country-specific photo collages pictured here!

It was a super-fun project that brought back wonderful memories. It was also messy and full of trial and error.

My resulting tips: Don’t use single sided tape for a photo collage because it looks bad. Don’t use rubber cement because it will make your photos crinkle, even though it says it won’t. DO use thin double-sided tape, because thin double-sided tape is awesome.

How to Run a Successful International Penpal Exchange

The collage I made of Vietnam Central Highland photos!

Following this arts and crafts bonanza, my mother kindly contributed a set of 12 cheap but fabulous magnetic fridge frames, which you can see in the photo above, brightening up my otherwise mundane kitchen.

I also got a bunch of cheap wooden IKEA frames which stink. Don’t get them; they’re too small for 4×6 photos, even though they’re supposedly made for them, and the wooden overlay not only splinters your tender fingers, but, even worse, it cuts off a good half-inch of your photo on all 4 sides!

At this point, I ran out of frames. What next? I had 310 photos left! On to Amazon.com I leapt and ordered a snazzy-looking wall hanging of photo sleeves which holds 20 photos like an open photo album on your wall. To be frank: it looked a lot classier on my computer screen than in person, which isn’t saying much. But for now it will do the trick, and it’s feather light, which is ideal for not damaging the walls.

Now this is where this gets really good. In my lust for additional frames, I moseyed to Craigslist to post that I was “Wanting to Buy” picture frames of all sizes, shapes, and types for my googobs of homeless photos.

The cheap Amazon.com photo sleeve wall hanging.

The cheap Amazon.com photo sleeve wall hanging.

Hoo man did I get some interesting responses!

My favorite exchange came from from an eccentric elderly man who essentially inadvertently wrote creepy avant garde poetry for all his emails. In bright blue.

Check out our correspondence:

Hello.

I have a bunch of brand new frames.

$25 for the entire lot.

Here is a Google Map of where I live and you will see where I am.

I am here all the time.

So.

Time is not important.

– Hank

My Laos and Bangkok photo collages above my wilting plant!

My Laos and Bangkok photo collages above my wilting plant!

Dear Hank,

Thanks for your response to my Craigslist ad!

Unfortunately, Roslindale is tough for me to get to without a car. Do you ever come into the city?

– Lillie

Hello.

I try to avoid downtown.

Parking and all that you know.

How does this sound??

You take the bus or train to Forest Hills.

(That is five minutes away from me.)

The framed Bangkok, Thailand Grand Palace photo collage. Pretty!

The framed Bangkok, Thailand Grand Palace photo collage. Pretty!

I can pick you up there and bring you back there.

Or if you buy enough stuff I could drive you all the way back to Dudley. So you would not be burdened on the public transportation.

Oh well. We can figure something out. Take your time.

Regards,

Hank

Hello Hank,

That is a very kind offer, but in fact that arrangement won’t work for me. Thanks anyway, and I hope you find a buyer for your frames!

– Lillie

Hello.

I guess you are not coming today then.

Are you still interested??

Those frames are all new. You know.

My Japan photo collage hanging jauntily on the wall.

My Japan photo collage hanging jauntily on the wall.

Did you receive the pictures of them I sent??

Sincerely,

Hank.

Dear Hank,

Thanks, but I’m going to pass!

– Lillie

Hello.

Hey.

Teacher???

Can you use

Loose leaf filler paper??

The inherited TV I've never turned on under 2 collages!

The inherited TV I’ve never turned on under 2 collages!

I sell that too.

– Hank

And that is where I politely yet firmly stopped writing back.

Awesome, huh?

Part of the joy of being an English teacher is you particularly relish encountering accidental poetry and literature-sized personalities.

So to summarize:

First, when you come back from extended travel, plaster your walls with your printed photos!

Second, it’s crazy cheap to print those photos using online services and coupons.

Third, get creative with frames, and experiment with arts and crafts-y ways of putting the photos out there. Embrace thin double-sided tape and avoid rubber cement… no matter how fun and squishy it may be!

Mmm... Thailand and Vietnam beach photos.

Mmm… Thailand and Vietnam beach photos.

And fourth… it’s probably not a good idea to get in a car with a stranger who writes bright blue accidental poetry about his piles and piles of $25 picture frames and secret stashes of loose leaf paper.

So happy decorating, fellow travelers and return home-ers!

May our apartments be beautiful, may our guests be inspired to converse about the scenes they see, and may our fantastic memories live long and inspire us to create many more!

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Brigid

Thursday 24th of July 2014

Love this idea and am definitely going to do this myself when I return to Australia. Have to say, am dreading a little bit the process of choosing the best photos from my last 2 years of travel through Latin America! Will just have to grab a bottle of wine and re-live all those crazy travel experiences :)

Lillie

Thursday 24th of July 2014

This might make picking easier: I just did a second round of this and ordered hundreds more pics for dollars using online coupons. Then you don't have to whittle down -- just use them ALL in lots of collages!

Michele

Thursday 2nd of January 2014

We found getting a large digital frame and then rotating through all of our favourite holiday photos kept us reminded of the good times especially when we were saving for our long term travelling :-)

Lillie

Thursday 2nd of January 2014

Love it!

Majida

Saturday 24th of August 2013

Lovely Idea, hv been searching for good ideas to enjoy my pictures and not make them sit only on some hard disk! Aldo thought of putting them up together as a collage on a big canvas for wall in my study and smaller ones in the working rooms! Thanx for Sharing!!

Lillie

Monday 26th of August 2013

Glad to help!

Sabrina Chung

Thursday 23rd of December 2010

Hey Ms. Marshall. This article reminded me of my room, because my room is COVERED in posters. Posters of who you might ask? Posters of Justin Bieber, Taylor Lautner and the Jonas Brothers. (: Yes, I do love them. But I also have a wall on my wall of pictures of me and friends. I liked this article, because it's very interesting and I like the pictures you posted. (:

Merav | AllWays Car Rental NZ

Tuesday 23rd of November 2010

What a great idea! I was looking for ways to decorate our office with some of our very own travel photos, to add a bit of personal touch to the commercial photos (not that those are not beautiful, but they are not personal). Apologising but have to admit to having a good laugh about your encounter with Hank...

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