They say letter writing is a lost art. But before we bury it in the Graveyard of Forgotten Skills, next to tapestry weaving and butter churning, I’m cheering for one more revival.
After all, a letter is essentially a traveling story – and no one’s lamenting the end of travel, or the death of a good travel yarn. (Though actual yarn spinning has, alas, fallen to the wayside). Maybe all we’ve really lost is the patience to spend 45 minutes in a Post Office line, waiting to purchase a stamp.
So don’t draft an obituary for snail mail quite yet. These 11 excuses to write a travel letter are simple ideas that fit into a backpack, cost little, and will carry a world of meaning to post boxes everywhere.
When you feel artsy – Color your own travel postcards and stationary. Stay between the lines of an adult coloring book or sketch out a fresh design on blank paper – as long as you add a few sentences of thoughtful commentary, it’s a letter. A very pretty one.
When you feel crafty – Make your own postcard. Almost anything can turn into a paper snapshot of your travels: food packaging, subway poster, museum brochure, concert program, menu. Creativity limited only by a pair of scissors.
When you feel hungry – Send a recipe. What’s even better than a menu-made postcard? Writing out a recipe for that unusual/favorite meal, recently eaten and adored. Online cooking instructions may be easy to find, but this combines more than just flavors – it mixes the dining experience into the story.
When you feel social – Host or attend a letter writing party. Think Meetup group + community education course + roomful of ready pens. A local cafe works just as well as a hostel lounge for this type of gathering, as long as the paper’s free-flowing.
When you’re uninspired – Watch a letter writing-themed movie. Disclosure: love is a key plot ingredient in most of these films, but when it comes to mail motivation and transatlantic travel, is there really a better reason to write someone? Suggest a bag of popcorn and Letters to Juliet, P.S. I Love You, Letters from Baghdad, 84 Charing Cross Road or Il Postino.
When you want to reminisce – Mail an old postcard. If you’re like me, then somewhere in the closet is a box of postcards from previous trips. Frequently added to, never looked through. So how about pulling out a paper memory and sending the postcard to someone you were with when you bought it? “Found this old thing and thought of that time we…” #throwbackthursday in physical form.
When you just need to let it all out – Write a letter to yourself. Whether in a travel journal or a blank piece of paper, the message is more important than the document. Start with “Dear Me,” and capture the day’s emotions in a stream of conscious thought.
When you feel gracious – Send a thank you note. As the saying goes, “A wise person is one who says thank you.” And if you can afford the time and money to travel, you certainly have lots to be grateful for. Don’t limit that to a shout-out on social media – jot a note to the best hostel/host/guide and tell them just how much you appreciate their kindness.
When you feel magnanimous – Write to someone in need. Travel connects us to strangers in unexpected ways, and you can celebrate these moments by participating in the Postcard Happiness Project. The initiative invites everyone to share a little “postal kindness” with folks who can use a pick-me-up.
When an Instragram selfie just won’t cut it – Send a photograph. A printed photo (remember what those are?) pasted/stapled/taped to a cardboard square looks less narcissistic with a personal message on the back.
When you feel lost – Mail a map. No, it won’t help your sense of direction, but then again, maybe it will remind you that everyone feels untethered at times. And when you narrow down your horizons to something that fits inside an envelope, the world becomes a more navigable place.
And when you can’t write, read. Some of the most renowned travel writers were also prolific letter-senders. Take a literary trip following their long-distance relationships (and often, inner demons), as these famed authors document their way around the globe. Suggest a flip through the postal compilations of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Bruce Chatwin, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.