Day 7 — Travelling while maintaining correspondence

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. 19th Century Writing Slope

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.

travel correspondence kit 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

–Chattanooga, TN–

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)
  • Postcards
  • 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?

9 thoughts on “Day 7 — Travelling while maintaining correspondence”

  1. I got this postal-theme zipper pouch from (it’s made from recycled feed bags!) for carrying my basic mail-art supplies in: postcards, blank postcards, envelopes, scissors, gluestick, small rubber stamps, marker for inking rubber stamps, postage stamps, artistamps, finepoint marker, 2 filled-up fountain pens, etc. I also bring my leatherbound address book with me everywhere I go, plus an 8 1/2″ x 11″ pad for writing long letters.

    But I don’t have to be actually traveling to have a canvas bag with all that stuff in it: I carry it all (plus my journal, books, & iPad) to the corner coffee shop! =smile=

  2. I have been wanting something like your slope just for while sitting on my couch or something with my kids in the evening. I love it… and see how it may be impractical. I think I will also start adding where I am as I write… I will be going on a mini-roadtrip to Los Angeles tomorrow… planning to scout some mailboxes + it would be fun to write from spots around town there…

  3. I’ve always purchased lots of postcards while travelling and sent many of them. Whether for business or pleasure, I tried to send postcards to all my nieces or nephews. If the trip was short, it was more challenging and sometimes cards got sent when I was back home. I always take more writing supplies with me than I need when I’m out of town.

  4. love your inspiring post…
    I get excited hearing about how other people do the things I love. It gives me ideas for things I want to incorporate into my life.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I recently got a nice little postcard organizer, it’s like a larger version of a coupon file. I carry this with a variety of postcards and stamps so I can send out postcrossing requests any time, anywhere. I carry a seperate pouch with pens and a glue stick. I don’t currently carry stationary, but that could change as I acquire more pen pals…

  6. I have a zippered plastic pouch with some postcards, a few sheets of stationary (way too few for the trip I went on, luckily I was gifted more on the road), the letters I’m currently working on answers for, stamps and a pen. I have more pens in another pouch but at least one with the papers. It’s small enough to match my ipad in size, so it fits in my shoulder bag, for easy use during down time on the trip.

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