Postcards aren’t passé

Taking a few minutes to make loved ones feel extra special while you’re away

Between Instagram, WhatsApp, and email, is there any reason to send postcards while traveling these days? Have you ever experienced that nagging feeling throughout your trip after buying a postcard for family or friends that you still hadn’t sent the darn thing? It may only take a few minutes to write, but is it worth the time? And if you wait too long, you may even be back home again seeing the recipient before the delivery arrives. Also, do people even check their mailboxes anymore?!

I had these thoughts several years ago and, wow, was I mistaken. When Sean and I had been dating for only a couple of months, he sent me a postcard from Australia. I couldn’t believe how unexpected its arrival was, how thoughtful the words were, and how personal it felt to receive a handwritten note stamped and sent from afar. Receiving this one made me realize how meaningful a piece of mail can be. Since then, I’ve sent postcards on almost every trip and have seen how much postcards can delight. A recent CityLab article takes you into the psychology behind why it’s so gratifying to send and receive mail as well as the history behind the postcard.

(Full disclosure: my brother works for the U.S. Postal Service as did my Dad before his retirement, so I suppose I learned the importance of sending mail from a young age.)

But writing postcards shouldn’t feel like another to-do. Here are my three tricks for simplifying the process into something fun:

  1. Write postcards at the beginning of your travels, even on the first day you arrive. This way, your recipients might receive them while you’re still away.
  2. Don’t just stand in line at a post office attempting to jot a few sentences. Take a couple of pens with you and go treat yourself to a drink, a cup of tea, or a dessert as you write a few.
  3. You’re not writing a novel. Limit yourself to a few minutes for each postcard. Instead of wasting time wondering what to write, these prompts might help you out: Choose a specific memory of your trip so far. Describe a scene or an experience that made you think of the recipient. If at a loss, even a simple “thinking of you from [LOCATION]” will do!

Then, buy postage for your destination, drop the postcard in a post box, and smile contentedly knowing you’re about to make someone’s day. Even a trip to your local post office can teach you a whole lot about where you are.

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