On you next trip, don’t forget to send a postcard...

In the age of FaceTime calls, emails and instant messaging, the humble postcard still deserves a place in your travelling life.

By Bloomberg Pursuits, July 18 2022
On you next trip, don’t forget to send a postcard...

Writing letters was a ritual drummed into me throughout childhood. Money, gifted for birthdays or Christmas, would be left on the piano, tantalizingly out of reach but within sight, until the last thank-you note was mailed. Birthday cards, dinner party thanks, thinking-of-yous – I still send them all by mail.

As a child, I remember yearning to receive letters; mail was something seemingly only addressed to grown-ups, who’d grumble as they opened yet another bill. But when something arrived for me, I felt important: treated more as a person than just a kid.

It’s a feeling I wanted to pass along when a friend asked me to stand godparent to her first child, a boy who lived in rural England at the time.

To nurture our relationship, I could write him letters from my home in New York, I reasoned, or better yet, send him postcards.

I’m lucky to travel constantly for work, so this seemed a fitting personal gesture: unexpected but consistent, a surprise that would be waiting at home at the end of the school day.

 It was also a chance, I hoped, to pass along my love of travel. I resolved to send a postcard to him from anywhere I spent the night, and to any subsequent godchildren I was lucky enough to land. I’d continue until their 18th birthday.

Since then, over almost two decades, I’ve learned a lot via that ritual.

Hotels in far-flung places will often produce their own cards, for example, stuffed into leather portfolios in a desk drawer.

Airports are often the best place to buy cards: from Morocco to Mendoza, Argentina, I’ve found dog-eared ones in the dusty corners of gift shops in the departure lounge.

And I’ve never missed a single destination, though I’ll admit to buying a few backups on Ebay in an emergency, most recently after a whistle-stop trip to Los Angeles.

I’ve adjusted some rules, too. I used to insist on mailing them in situ, until I spent an hour or so in a chaotic post office in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics.

I dutifully posted a trio of cards covered in local stamps; not one reached its recipient.

Now I often mail them from home, relying on the US Postal Service instead. It’s a shame, though, as stamps – such as the gorgeous, intricate postage I found in Botswana – can be as alluring as the cards themselves.

Today, I have three godchildren. The youngest, Evy, is just 7; I write her cards carefully, printing each letter so the words are easy to decipher. Her parents have used them to help her learn to read with her older brothers’ help.

The next, 14-year-old Otto, calls me CardMark, so synonymous was I with the mailings in his toddler mind that he merged the two.

The oldest, Arthur, just turned 17; his imagination was particularly piqued by the ritual. I recall visiting him when he was 8 or so.

He proudly asked me to retrieve an overstuffed shoebox from a shelf high in his room. It was safely stashed there, he explained, so there was no risk of a destructive friend, prone to wrecking whatever toy he touched, ever damaging its contents.

Arthur had filed the cards carefully, if idiosyncratically, arranging them in his own categories – some of the places he prioritized based on a desire to visit (Las Vegas, Istanbul), others that made him sad (Miami, India).

Then he showed me a fistful of cards from Paris, somewhere I’ve visited often.

“This is my No. 1, where I really want to go,” he said, earnestly.

After a little discussion with his folks, I surprised him with a trip for the two of us to the City of Light for his 10th birthday.

There he sat happily sketching in his book at a cafe in Montmartre before we wrote postcards, together, and mailed them back to his parents and sister.

Of course, I’ve only one more year of mailing cards to him to fulfill my pledge to halt at 18.

Yet I already feel a twinge of sadness at stopping, a sense that I don’t want to surrender the connection they offer me to those kids. So maybe I’ll tweak another rule and just keep sending them until he’s 21.

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 240

This is a great habit to get into, I always try to send some postcards when I am travelling for work. It's really relaxing to sit down and write them, either in the hotel lounge or a cafe somewhere. But it also makes you also realise how bad your handwriting has become! LOL

I also send postcards to my parents and my wife, it's a nice 'old school' touch. My tip is to post them at the airport, that way the postmark is usually from the airport itself.

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 156

I always send lots of postcards.  People love receiving them, and it's a good chance at the end of a day to reflect on where you are and what you've seen.  Also a great excuse to prop yourself up in the corner of a pub or cafe and people watch while scribbling.

They don't have to be amazing literary works - it's just about sticking something in the mail.  Sometimes they show nice scenic places, other times they can be amusingly kitsch or ugly.

Sadly, they're becoming harder to find in a lot of places.  On recent trips I've really had to hunt them down.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 418

Count me in the postcard club! When I mention to people that I send postcards the reaction I get is that everyone is surprised but right away they agree it's a good idea. My tips:

1. It can be harder to find postcards these days, your best bet is wherever they sell tourist souvenirs and claptrap! You will find plenty of postcards there. Or just try small newstands in the city's most popular locations for tourists.

2. Getting stamps is actually more of an issue. Some countries let newsagents etc sell stamps which is super convenient, otherwise you have to be able to get to a post office during business hours on a weekday AND make time to stand in line, a lot of us don't have that time.

Always ask your hotel front desk if they have stamps, some (many?) hotels do, which makes it much easier than tracking down and lining up at a post office.

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