I travel a lot. I started off as a touring puppeteer in the days before the internet or cell phones when the only way to keep in touch with family was to write letters. I used to keep an address book and would rotate through the list, sending postcards at each stop. I often wound up repeating my stories, but you do that in real life too. Next to each name, I would write the dates I’d last written so I didn’t lose track.
Grandma Jackson — 2/5, 2/28, 3/7…
I still travel a lot, though these days it’s more for my work as an author or audiobook narrator. At conventions, I find that ending the day by writing a letter to my husband is very restful and helps us stay connected even when I’m away. In fact, I’m not at home right now. I’m at a writing retreat, trying to finish a novel, which I’ll grant was questionable timing given the Month of Letters.
The trick is figuring out how to travel with my letter writing supplies. Now, I own a writing slope from the 19th century. My dad gave it to me for my birthday last year and it is a thing of beauty. People used to travel with these as a matter of course. There are all sorts of compartments for papers, pens, stamps, and ink. It’s a delight.
It is also thoroughly impractical for hauling on an airplane or bus, though I’ve actually done it a time or two. I almost brought it on this trip, but it requires the big suitcase and I had too many transfers to want to mess about with that.
Instead, I go back to my roots as a touring puppeteer and use a kit that packs flat into my bag. There are more elegant solutions than this, but it works surprisingly well. It’s a simple folder with pockets. I use one that’s made of plastic, which is a little more durable and also provides a surface that I can write on in a pinch.
You’ll also note that there’s a drawing pad in there. I’ve found that small pads for charcoal work very, very well as stationary. They tend to be a nice laid paper. Since they are bound at the top, the pages are easy to keep track of, and it makes a good writing surface.
I keep my pens in a separate pouch.
In the pockets, I tuck supplies like stamps, blotting paper (yes, I still use it), return address labels and paper. On the left, I put the letters I need to answer and then I move them to the right side once I’ve answered them. I mail things from hotels, mailboxes on the street, or at the homes I’m visiting.
I’ve also found that having a couple of postcard stamps in my billfold means that when I’m at an attraction, I can grab a postcard, write it, and post it right then. Pretty much any place that sells postcards will put them in their outgoing mail for you.
I always put my home return address on the outside of the letters I send, but on the inside, under the date, I put my current location.
7 February 2013
When I was on tour, our manager would forward mail to us once a week, which was incredibly exciting. I did not wait for a reply before writing to people when they came up in the rotation again. Partly because there was a chance that their letter was lost in transit, but also because the purpose of writing was to tell them that I was thinking of them. These days, I pick up new letters when I’m home — so don’t be surprised if there’s a delay to my replies this year.
Here are the things I recommend packing.
- Stamps (letter, postcard, & international)
- Assorted letter paper and envelopes
- Blotting paper (if you use fountain pens)
- Return address labels
What about you? How do you handle writing when you are on the road?