Members of a female travel community on Facebook have been exploring the world through a postcard exchange during the covid-19 pandemic.
From beating the travel blues to discovering more about one's roots, thousands of postcards are flying across the borders each week as fellow travel lovers share a glimpse into each others' lives and cultures.
Since its creation in 2015, the Facebook group Girls LOVE Travel has been a platform for female travellers to empower each other by sharing news, tips, and advice. “As the covid-19 pandemic hit the world, we came to a full-blown travel halt and we were looking for feel-good things to keep the community connected” said Haley Woods, founder of the 1.1-million-strong community.
From her hometown in South Carolina, Haley initiates the postcard exchange every Monday by starting a thread in the Facebook group. Members write how many postcards they're willing to send and recipients comment to claim them.
"It’s been pretty wild." Said Haley. "Members all around the world hover and wait on Mondays around midnight (EST) for me to post. Within 30 minutes of posting last week, there were over 1,000 comments."
The number of members taking part has soared since the start of the pandemic and more people have joined the community after hearing about it.
“The excitement of opening the mailbox to find words of encouragement, fun facts, and greetings from ladies from all over the world has become one of my favourite parts of the day,” said Rebecca Whisenant from Kentucky, who sends up to 40 postcards every week in the exchange.
Rebecca now has regular pen-pals in Scotland, Australia, Japan, Las Vegas and Canada: "we exchange letters every week and it means the world to me when I receive them!"
'Discovering my roots in the postcard exchange'
A woman from Arizona is on the lookout for people writing from Vietnam, Thailand and Italy to tell her more about her roots.
Dominique Mustoe is half Italian and half Thai-Vietnamese and left her unhappy home in Arizona at the age of seventeen to join the Navy. She left knowing very little about the places her parents grew up in.
"I don't know my parents well at all - haven't seen them for almost 10 years," she told Euronews. "I took a DNA test and found out I am 52% Italian from my dad and my mom is half-Thai and half-Vietnamese. So I thought it would be interesting to find out about those cultures. I haven't had any luck yet."
But above all, she said, "I joined GLT to find and surround myself with like-minded people. It's hard finding friends who understand the feeling of traveling."
'A sense of travel whilst being stuck'
According to Haley, women posting cards from outside the USA are particularly popular. As people aren’t able to physically travel at the moment, the exchange provides an opportunity to explore the world and make human connections.
"We're like a family who've never met," said Corina Hibbard from Queensland, Australia. "I think the GLT community is coming together with this postcard exchange so that we can feel a sense of travel whilst being stuck.”
Likewise, Alai Chevelle from Amsterdam told Euronews: "I love sending cards and receiving them, it makes me feel like I'm traveling all over the world and getting a little piece of the countries I hope to visit in the future. I've received cards from the USA, Canada, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the UK and many more are on the way."
"I got a card from this girl in LA and she told me that she worked behind the scenes for television. The way she wrote and what she wrote gave me this tiny glimpse into her life"
One member of the group went a step further and posted her messages on a coconut shell
Kristine Hobson, who hails from the U.S. Virgin Islands, successfully sent her message on a coconut over 1,600 miles to Pensacola in Florida. Kristine said the post office was taken aback at first by her request to send the nut:
"The postal worker said, ‘you’re going to put that in a box, right?’ I said, 'nope that would ruin all the fun!' She replied ‘ok, let’s give it a shot’ and everyone in the post office got in the spirit and wished me luck.”
Kristine's inspiration for posting coconut messages came from seeing a young boy do it seventeen years ago in her hometown of St Croix, and the memory of this has always stayed with her.
Whilst it's easier to send e-cards and letters, Haley said "nothing really beats a handwritten card" (or coconut) and feeling the thrill of receiving something material which has flown across the world.
Haley and the other community leaders are now looking forward to the launch of the Girls LOVE Travel app which is due on October 10.