Why You Should Always Mail Yourself a Postcard When Traveling
I mail one to myself on every trip I take, and they're among my most treasured possessions.
To most, sending postcards is an old-fashioned, outdated way of keeping in touch — what’s the point when you can just post on Facebook and rake in the likes from everyone you know (and their mother)?
When I send a postcard to a loved one, their (texted) response is usually something along the lines of, “Wow, thanks! I haven’t gotten a postcard in forever!” And when I admit to others that I’m an avid postcard sender, people usually tilt their heads and ask, “They still sell postcards?”
But when I add that I also write a postcard to myself and mail it home from wherever I am in the world, as a way to record memories and experiences from my travels, their eyes light up — the most common response I get to that is, “Brilliant! Why have I never thought of that before?”
Below I’ll share why I always mail myself a postcard on my travels — and why you should adopt this trip ritual, too.
It’s an enriching travel experience you can do anywhere in the world.
Finding and mailing a postcard from anywhere I am in the world has led me on some interesting adventures and always provides a taste of the mundane (read: authentic) side of local life.
I’ve bought stamps from a newsstand in Hungary; begged our tour guide in Brazil to mail my postcard for me after I forgot to do so until the airport; ventured into post offices in Italy, Hong Kong, and South Korea looking confused enough to make the locals around me chuckle to themselves as I tried to figure out the proper line to stand in.
Postcards are an easy-to-find, super-cheap “souvenir” available pretty much everywhere around the world. You always learn a bit about the postal system in foreign countries, too, for better or worse — mailing postcards from around the world has certainly deepened my appreciation for the U.S. Postal Service.
It helps you remember special details of a trip in a tangible way.
In today’s digital world, having something you can hold in your hands imbues the object with meaning. That’s another reason why mailing postcards to myself has quickly become one of my favorite travel traditions — my husband and I have a postcard from our St. Lucia honeymoon in 2014 (though we sadly lost the camera memory card from our trip), lots of fun ones from our adventures backpacking Europe in 2015, and even a postcard from our first post-lockdown trip to St. Croix in June, already a watershed period of history.
You know that question about what you’d grab in a fire, if your house was burning down? Our collection of postcards mailed from around the world would be one of the first items in my arms.
Writing down fun trip snippets on a postcard helps you to remember where you went, when, and what you did there. My postcards always contain a few elements, for consistency: the location (usually incorporated into the design of the postcard), the dates I visited, and a few standout activities or experiences from the trip.
It’s a quick way to preserve memories from your trip.
While many recommend journaling throughout a trip, it can be time-consuming to sit down and recount the day’s happenings, and you definitely don’t want to turn down an opportunity to meet up with new friends or squeeze in another tour just to allow for enough time to jot down your thoughts and experiences while traveling.
Instead, sum it up on a tiny square and send it off — kinda like a Tweet, but no Wi-Fi required.
It’s the perfect collectible souvenir.
Knick-knacks like tchotchke magnets and T-shirts are cool, but they take up a lot of space and can’t really be considered timeless — they mostly just collect dust.
Instead, opt for a “collectible” souvenir that not only preserves your memories of a trip, but simultaneously captures a moment in history. Postcards you send home not only arrive with whatever you’ve written, but also cool stamps and postmarks from around the world, usually with the date included in the postmark, too.
You can pick a postcard design that captures the spirit of the location for you — and if that includes art by a local artist, even better.
Plus, postcards are always a fun surprise to find in your mailbox upon returning home — even if they take weeks to arrive. Yet, remarkably, every postcard I’ve mailed from overseas has eventually arrived to me (pro tip: don’t forget to add USA to the end of your address).
It’s easy to share with family and friends — and pass down as an heirloom.
One of the best parts of traveling is sharing your experiences with the ones you love — but as any serial traveler knows, people who weren’t there with you have a pretty limited attention span as you scroll through photo after photo in your camera roll.
Instead, put together a more engaging way to reminisce on your adventures: display your postcard collection from around the world in a photo album, which interested parties can page through at their leisure to get a more tangible peek at the places you’ve gone. It’s both a keepsake and a great conversation starter.
Best of all, this album becomes a time capsule of sorts, an heirloom to pass down. Imagine if your great-grandfather had a 100-year-old collection of postcards preserved from his adventures around the world, which you could now peruse — mementos from when Thailand was called Siam, or when West and East Germany had differing postmarks, or when Sikkim and Yugoslavia were countries.
Such a collection would be quite the family treasure — so why not start now on a gift like that for your own descendants?