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?

21 thoughts on “[Wayback Repost] Why do letters seem more daunting than email?”

  1. Having been a letter writer for several years now, I don’t particularly find this challenge all that difficult, other than remembering to do it every day instead of when the whim takes me to write. And since I may not have a penpal’s letter to answer, then I need to think outside my normal circle of penpals and write to others. I saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with a few old penpals that had lapsed, family members that live outside of the city, friends I haven’t seen in a while, and strangers or persons of stature. I think it’s a great challenge and maybe it will even boost the joy of those who process all this mail and deliver it to us. 🙂

  2. I love your post. And I totally agree.

    Email, tweets n twitters, FB comments all have their place and moment in time where they are the appropriate way to respond.

    However, sending a letter, postcard, or notecard is the only way to connect with someone on a more personal, even intimate, level.

    The act of sending a missive does take time, but more importantly it takes thought. What paper will I use? What will I add (stickers, washi, etc.)? What will I say? Combined these choices will be a bright spot in someone’s day. Added bonus? It was created specifically for them.

  3. Great article on postcard apps but you should also take a look at Postsnap’s easy to use postcard app.
    The app offers a number of unique features compared to the other apps reviewed including:
    – Guest checkout with Apple Pay
    – Extensive personalization options including collage layouts, stylish borders which can be adjusted in size with a slider and the option to add editable text in a variety of font types and colors and position it anywhere on the cards
    – iPhone and iPad support
    – Apple Pencil support
    – Facebook and Instagram integration
    – US postal address verification and UK postcode lookup
    Cards are printed and posted in our facilities in the UK, USA and Australia on the same or next working day and so cards typically arrive quickly. Enjoy!
    Stephen Homer

  4. I have been writing letters for several years now. My go to paper is Rhodia Premium or Rhodia Ice pads. I also Life pads too. I like them because they are not quite as slick as the Rhodia.

  5. I love Tomoe River paper for letter writing. I buy 100 sheets at a time and print my own mermaid stationery. I found an envelope that I like and ordered a mermaid address stamp and finish it off with mermaid washi tape.

  6. I too love journals to pull apart for writing. For me the most important aspect of the paper is the pattern. I love to have some colour and some design on the paper. I’ve managed to find a number of nice colours and designs at one of my local “Home Sense” discount stores in the book section. Most of the small journals are a perfect size to fit in the envelopes I use. If not I just give one edge a bit of a trim (but sometimes I really like the ripped edge look too!) ;P

  7. Hi, Christmas cards & more recently a letter (a bill) from the UK to Australia have taken 3 weeks to arrive. The exterior of these envelopes were stamped with a mark such as this from the latest envelope:
    DLC 992-4
    The example quoted arrived at the Australian address on 28/07/2017, unfortunately it contained a bill dated 06/07/2017 which had to be paid within 14 days, by 20/07/2017.
    Why is the post so slow? What does the DLC 992-4 stamp signify? Would appreciate your feedback.

  8. My letter that I wrote was in September. The person who it was for still hasn’t gotten it and it’s now November….
    I don’t understand why it’s taking this long. I live in AZ and he lives in NY. I want answers.

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