Postcards: New Rules & How to Build Yourself a Writing Kit

Fresh batch of cards went out yesterday! #postcard #travel #sailing

Joy. Absolute joy.

An object in the mail, there in your mailbox… Just because. Just a note of hello. And OH! To be the sender!!

When I talk to people who are also travelers, whether they’re cruisers or otherwise, they see me throwing a fist full of postcards into the mailbox and they intimate that they’ve always thought about sending some, but just don’t get around to it. When I dig more as to why, the following points come up and I’d like to address all of them and give some pointers for joy-slinging success.

You’ve already left the place where you bought the postcard. 

And you’re afraid that it’ll look like you were absent-minded and forgot to send it on time. On time? Hm. The other classic variation on this is that you’ll be home before the post card gets to its recipient. Question: Do YOU care? Like, have you ever checked the postmark on a piece of mail from a friend and scrutinized when it was sent? The answer is no, most likely. Heck, even if it was your birthday and you got a card a week later, you wouldn’t think anything bad of the friend who sent it, would you? I think that’s all a bit outdated now, for sure.

You never seem to have the right things on hand.

Set yourself up for success with a letter writing kit. If you’re the sort of person who really truly wants to send post cards, then here’s my method, the way I came to have a fairly good postcard practice. Firstly, addresses. Collect them. Think of five people who you know would adore getting a post card and ask them for their addresses. Get a notebook you’ll enjoy using, nothing fancy or particular like an address book unless that’s what you really want, and just start jotting them down. You’ll find you want more but my first few addresses were my grandmother’s, my parents of course, my penpal and soulmate Lori, my west coast Lori, my best friend Jo, and the list goes on. Once I started thinking of people with whom I had exchanged fun mail like valentines and stuff, it just kept rolling. I even send letters to the pubs I love.

Now that you have a list, get stamps. Now. Don’t wait to get cards. Postcard stamps are cheaper than regular stamps. Forever stamps are a good concept but who cares if the price goes up, now you can stamp on all kinds of neat tiny denomination stamps like this:

My latest batch of postcards going out.

Now you just need cards and words. When I get to my destination I look for cards that are either 4 for a buck or 3 for a buck, in that kind of price range. I also have blank note cards, just in case someone has a birthday. In the picture below, you can see that I found awesome vintage post cards. They were an unbelievable 25 cents a pop so I sent to my whole list and used them as Christmas cards. That was for about 50 recipients.

Found a treasure trove of vintage post cards, sending heaps of them out. #travel #watchout

Now that you’ve got your supplies, you might want to think about making them accessible so you can write on a whim. I have a little file-o-fax type box with sections and keep all my stuff in there. I have a section for stickers, note cards, stamps, envelopes, etc. I have a section for the cards I receive, and they serve as a reminder that I need to send a reply.

For on-the-go post card mailing, I also keep some stamps ready to go in my moleskine notebook that has a little pocket on the back cover.

But Anne, I really think I don’t have time to write cards.

Well, for this one, I’m going to have to say that you should just start by writing one or two at a time. When you start recounting your adventures via postcards, it becomes a really enjoyable activity and a meditation of sorts. In some towns, I only buy postcards that are really great or that specifically remind me of someone, so that cuts down how much I write sometimes. Plus, postcards have so little writing space that you can really only communicate a few little thoughts, so really, it’s not all that much of a time commitment. In the picture below, I’m stamping and writing while we were underway.

Stamping Post Cards While Under Way

Other Details

I like using sharpie extra fine tip markers instead of pens. They do well on both the papery and glossy backs of cards without smudging.

On the papery-type cards (not glossy), if you’re into doing water colors at all, consider not writing words but maybe just doing a nice painting in the writing space- maybe of a pelican or a monument that you liked or of a building you enjoyed. I’m not great with watercolors, so sometimes I just put hearts, trees, or pen drawings of the dog.

Traveling internationally? Consider buying just one post card and making the rest out of interesting paperboard packaging from things like cookies and snacks. You can trace the right size out, cut, and make something really interesting and cheap.

Interesting stamps: If you go to the post office and ask for stamps, start your inquiry by asking if they’ve got anything new and interesting in. Sometimes you can get really pretty stamps. In my opinion, getting the letter rate for a stamp is worth it even if you’re just sending the post card, the post office could use the extra 10 cents or so anyhow.

Stickers: I also keep, in my little writing-supply-file-thing, a section of stickers. Great for holidays, seasons, birthdays and congratulations, you can slap one of those on and it communicates extra words you can’t fit on a small post card.

If you’re on a long trip and intend to send cards in waves as you travel, consider putting the date and location where you’re writing the note. It gives some context to the writing. Like I said way at the beginning, don’t worry too much about sending it right away or about the date being a kind of expiration date. It’s just not true. Pop it in the mail when you can, and it’ll be loved all the same.

Well, that’s about it for now, I suppose. Have questions or ideas about this? Have other stumbling blocks or success stories? I’d love to hear about it!

6 thoughts on “Postcards: New Rules & How to Build Yourself a Writing Kit

  1. Amelia

    Instead of having a guest book at our wedding, the mister & I bought vintage Rhode Island (my home) and California (his home) postcards from a seller on Etsy, stamped them with lots of small-denomination stamps, addressed them to ourselves & scattered them all over the tables at the reception with some extra-fine-point Sharpies — then we mailed them (unread!) to ourselves post-wedding. It was SO fun coming home to a stack of well-wishing postcards from our beloved family & friends. I found photo albums that allowed me to display both sides — that way I can look at/giggle over them whenever I want to.

    I try to write lots of cards/postcards, but I’ve lagged recently — you are inspiring me to start up again! Will you send me your latest address, sweet friend?

  2. Laurie

    I love this. I love sending postcards and have a list of at least 10 folks who get them whenever we can send them (via an international PO or a friend returning to the US). I thought you might appreciate knowing that:

    – in Providencia, I bought postcards and then asked where the PO was; the answer was “we don’t have one”. Ummm, ok. Next port it was.

    – in Bocas del Toro, Panama, the PO didn’t have stamps and suggested I go to the next town to get them. Um, why don’t you go get them PO? Oh, right. Not a priority FOR YOU.

    Gotta love the islands.

  3. Breana

    Thanks for debunking the “can’t send it late” myth! You’ve inspired me to stock up on postcard stamps, already have card-boxes filled with postcards I bought but never sent. Love the “I draw the dog…” comment. Kisses to Miss May!


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