Members of a female travel group on Facebook have set up a weekly postcard exchange to explore the world safely 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.
Over 1 million female travellers
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” says Haley Woods, founder of the 1.1-million-strong community.
In October 2020, Woods launched an app which offers subscribers travel tools including a currency converter, maps and translation, as well as travel tips and advice on the go.
From her hometown in South Carolina, Woods 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." Says Woods. "Members all around the world hover and wait on Mondays around midnight (EST) for me to post. Within 30 minutes of posting one 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 the exchange.
“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,” says Rebecca Whisenant from Kentucky, who sends up to 40 postcards every week in the exchange.
Whisenant 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 Southeast Asian heritage
A woman from Arizona is on the lookout for people writing from Vietnam, Thailand and Italy to tell her more about her heritage.
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 where her parents grew up.
"I don't know my parents well at all - haven't seen them for almost 10 years," she says. "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 says, "I joined GLT to find and surround myself with like-minded people. It's hard finding friends who understand the feeling of traveling."
Writers from exotic destinations are most popular
According to Woods, the more exotic their destination, the more popular those writers are. 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," says 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 tells 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," she adds.
Coconut shell mail
Kristine Hobson, who hails from the U.S. Virgin Islands, successfully sent some of her messages over 1,600 miles on a coconut to Pensacola in Florida. Hobson says the post office was taken aback at first by her request to send it by post.
"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,” Hobson tells us.
Hobson'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, Woods says "nothing really beats a handwritten card" (or coconut) and feeling the thrill of receiving something material which has flown across the world.
How are you keeping your love of travel alive during the pandemic? Tag us on Twitter @euronewstravel.