In my opinion, letter-writing isn’t an optional activity for long-term travelers: it’s a necessity.
I used to be a digital girl. There was an interval of several years that I think I didn’t even touch a real pen or paper. I like the convenience and mobility of having everything digital – whether that was my work, my personal schedule, my journal, or my notes to friends.
Then, when I started traveling more and not being able to constantly open my computer to jot down my thoughts, I started to realize the importance and the different feel of actually putting pen to page (this was before my Bullet Journal obsession). At some point, before I went abroad, I posted on Facebook that I was planning to write real letters to people and did anyone want them? I was surprised by the response: I expected a few close friends to want to receive letters, but it ended up being close friends, not so close friends, and random Facebook friends.
I was excited: since I had just discovered how much I actually liked putting pen to paper for my own thoughts, I was stoked to be able to write letters to other people to help me connect with them and how I felt about them on a deeper level. And you know what? It totally did.
As a full-time traveler, I often spend a lot of time in my own mental world. Even when I’m out and about meeting people, I’m such an introvert that I need long periods of time to recharge alone. I realized, however, that being alone physically to help re-up my introvert side doesn’t mean I need to be “alone” mentally – in fact, writing letters to people I love and care about helps bring me back to a place of “home.”
This is why I think letter-writing is so important for travelers, in general. As we’re off exploring new cultures and meeting new people, it’s important to stay grounded. Writing letters – physically, pen-to-page – to people back home is a great way to do that!
I have a long list of people I want to send letters to and a long list of people who want to receive them, and so far, I’ve only written three. But the three letters I’ve been able to write have made me feel less alone on the road, more connected, and more in tune with how much I loved and cared about the people I was writing to. Typing is what I do for a living: I’m a lawyer, a writer, a blogger. My fingers are constantly flying over the keys without another thought – which can be good when you are trying to get work done efficiently, but is pretty terrible when you’re writing a hopefully-real letter to someone you really like! In that case, it’s so much nicer to let they thoughts slowly develop and roll off the pen carefully.
Writing real letters has made me realize that – just like everything else in the world – we don’t stop and slow ourselves down enough. Sure, it’s nice to send someone a funny ecard or a sweet email, telling them we appreciate them or thanking them for something, but there’s really nothing like sending an actual letter. Writing, on paper, the feels you feel about someone makes them more real, and makes you (or at least me) more likely to remember that I want to cherish and value those connections for a long time.
So here’s my challenge: write a letter this week. Even if you aren’t a traveler, pick someone you haven’t connected with in a long time, grab a notepad and a pen, sit down and write them a real letter. Let whatever comes into your brain flow onto the page.
And then, let me know how it goes. 🙂