Help Make 2016 the Year of the Postcard

A year ago, I wrote a blog post about my longtime postcard obsession.

I asked our readers to join me in helping keep the iconic form of travel correspondence from going the way of the Mastodon with a call to action: Send us a postcard from wherever you are, at home or abroad, with a tip as to what makes that place special, and your card might be featured in Traveler magazine or online.

The amazing response has inspired me to add “continue sending more postcards” to my New Year’s resolution list for 2016.

If my calculations are correct, 357 postcards have arrived at our office so far, the last one just this week (from Hong Kong). We received a postcard made of birch, two made of Portuguese cork, and several created with the writer’s own photos or artwork. One day a glass postcard from Amy Whittingham of Devon, England, depicting a seascape of Plymouth showed up in my office mail slot protected in a small cardboard box!

The first female Maldivian seaplane pilot sent in a card, as did a tugboat captain in Florida. A tween wrote us. So did a nonagenarian.

We featured some of the postcards in the August/September 2015 issue of Traveler magazine. We also rounded up online some of the great travel tips you sent in, from Walla Walla, Washington, to Waregem, Belgium.

But some senders used the postcard’s pocket-sized blank space to celebrate what postcards meant to them personally.

I share some of these stories below:

“I am an American but have lived in Kyoto, Japan, for 35 years. I married a local girl, had three children who have all left home (my wife remains). Being bicultural and bilingual, I send postcards to my children a couple times a month, little language refreshers. My daughter often replies with a postcard; the boys not so much. I usually add my ‘stamp’ of my Japanese name so they know the card is really from Dad.” —Preston Houser, Kyoto, Japan

“I like to paint cards after I visit places, to capture a flower, or a place, or a food—something I loved.” —Alison LaBonte, Washington, D.C., USA

“Postcards are not my hobby, they are my passion. I have run Orphaned Postcard Project for seven years and send over 500 postcards a year from just that project. My stationery is never stationary.” —Bonnie Jeanne Tibbetts, Wexford, Pennsylvania, USA

“I began in the 1950s making natural color photographs and distributing them in all of South Carolina and parts of Georgia and North Carolina. [Later], selling postcards became my full time business, known as Photo Arts, Inc. I have watched and enjoyed the development of better quality cards throughout my life and hate to see them dying out along with myself, as I am in the 90 age bracket.” —Ernest P. Ferguson, Winnsboro, South Carolina, USA

“For the past 463 days, I have written a postcard every day but two (February 4 and March 20, 2015) to the wonderful people in my life. It started as a 2014 resolution to take time each day to celebrate and appreciate someone else [and] hopefully spread some love and joy. And, honestly, I couldn’t stop. I’ve reflected a lot on the habit and it is one of my favorite times of the day.” —Maisie Wright, Blytheville, Arkansas, USA

“I collect postcards from my travels—bring some home with me, then, at a later date (sometimes years) send them to my traveling companions with a ‘memory note.’ This reminds them of a moment in our travels together.” — Lin Clark, Denver, Colorado, USA

“I have been creating collaged postcards from old National Geographic magazines I’ve inherited, found at used bookstores or rescued from dingy thrift stores. The images shot with Kodachrome from [the] mid 1960s-70s are my personal favorites to work with.” —David Harding, Austin, Texas, USA

“I have a friend who travels extensively and sends postcards from distant places. I counter with almost daily postcards from tiny, mostly local places.” —Kathryn Kibbe, Harrison Valley, Pennsylvania, USA

“I work for the Belgium postal service. I sell stamps. We don’t see that many postcards anymore. We do our best to keep the postcard alive! It’s always nice to find [one] in the mailbox between the bills.” —Iris van den Berghe, Linden, Belgium

“I’m 25 and I live in Hong Kong. Someone once told me that postcards are windows to the world. I couldn’t agree more. For as long as I can remember I have collected [them]. This postcard is of the Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree, located just ten minutes from my village. To many, Hong Kong conjures up images of Victoria Harbour and cramped highrise skyscrapers; to me, this card is a throwback reminder of a cultural identity too easily buried under the concrete jungle. Traditionally, wishes and prayers, written on joss paper, are thrown onto the Wishing Tree. The higher the catching branch, the higher the chance of wishes coming true. Maybe I should start praying for the continued long life of postcards and snail mail.” —Adelia Lau, Hong Kong

“History will not be captured in emails dashed off and deleted. We must maintain records of the written word—thoughts and feelings.” —Katherine Robertson, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

“I am writing to you from cold (well, not so much) Russia [to say] that postcards are far from extinct. My mother, when she was a child, use to pen-pal with many kids from different Eastern bloc countries. Once, when I was sitting at home ill, I rediscovered her box of cards and thought to myself: why aren’t we doing that anymore? That rose instantly to the levels of a serious addiction. Together with my girlfriend we have no less than a dozen shoeboxes full of received cards. You can only guess how precious they will [be] in a couple of decades.” —Maxim Ktsendzov, Moscow, Russia

“In second grade, my teacher sent postcards from her travels to each of her students. Her goal was to visit all 50 states and seven continents. Today, I write to you from my third continent and have checked off a total of 49 states in pursuit of the same goal. I’d like to think I’ve left a pretty good paper trail of my life, and, no matter the destination, I still send a postcard her way!” —Susan

“I send vintage postcards that I buy from Ebay to a friend with cancer to brighten her day. I also send state and country cards whenever I travel to friends’ children to create an instant geography lesson. My fantastic husband puts up with me looking for postcards and mailboxes everywhere we travel.” —Susan Verell, Savannah, Georgia, USA

“I have been scanning my parents’ photos from their albums. The oldest pictures are from the early 1900s. In the album is a postcard [depicting] the Jurell family. I don’t know why this was saved or who the Jurells were. My mother’s family must have been friends with them back in the 1920s or 1930s (my mother was born in Manhattan in 1922). I searched on Ancestry and found a family tree with the Jurell family in Lititz, [Pennsylvania]. I wrote the owner of the tree and offered to share the [images]. She was very happy to receive copies of the postcard along with two other photos I had found. I guess it may have been common back then to have a family photograph printed on postcard stock. This one was never mailed, but it finally arrived to the family via email. I’m sure that was a concept they never would have imagined.” —Keith T. Nelson, Micco, Florida, USA

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And I especially like the sentiment on this postcard: “When you receive a postcard, it is one of those rare moments in life when the past meets the present again and whispers ‘Wish you were here.’” —Cindy Chin, New York, New York, USA

> Be a part of the #PostcardProject:

Mail us a postcard from your travels or even from your hometown for a chance to be featured in National Geographic Traveler magazine or online.

Include your name and where you live in your note, along with a short paragraph about what makes wherever you are unique. The more specific (and surprising), the better!

Finally, use hashtag #PostcardProject to spread the word or to share your postcard on Twitter and Instagram.

Send to:

National Geographic Traveler
c/o Amy Alipio
1145 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Amy Alipio is features editor at National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow her on Twitter @amytravels and on Instagram @amyalipio.

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