In years of receiving post cards--and sending all too few--I have developed strong ideas about what makes a good one.
My favorites are legible, personal and newsy. They are like insider comments friends share at a noisy party. They never waste space with "How are you?"--a query that can't be answered at a distance.
The best post cards don't say that the weather is fine, or not fine, since it will have changed by the time the card arrives. They do tell if a traveler has witnessed a volcanic eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii or has sailed safely into the harbor of Nagasaki just ahead of a hurricane that's in the headlines at home.
Sharing Witty Remarks
My favorites share witty remarks made, often unwittingly, by tour guides. They corroborate experiences I've had--from gasping at the thin air within the Great Pyramid at Giza, to gasping at the thin air on the trails above Katmandu.
I loved it when a friend wrote of celebrating his birthday in Beni Mellal in the Moroccan highlands between Fez and Marrakech. He did not know that I had spent a long and sunny lunch in that same Berber village. He also sent a card from the Auberge du Pere Bise in Talloires on the shore of Lake Annecy. I stayed there in the spring of 1967; a flood of memories welled up from a happy day in a leaky boat.
The best post cards are not crowded with words, as if there were a prize for most vowels per square inch. You can avoid quaint, unique and interesting and cover a lot in 20 words.
Never write that "the food here is delicious" or "the people are friendly." If the card is from a country inn where the food is delicious, tell me what to order.
An Unwelcome Puzzle
And don't sign a card with initials, unless that's an obvious code. I'm still puzzling over a scribbled message from H. and L. in Kenya. At least the card was from Kenya.
Post cards should not be a recital of the itinerary ahead, but a succinct report of impressions, incidents or shopping finds that remind you of your friend, the recipient.
Post cards should be written in ink.
If you find a post card you like, buy a fistful. So what if friends compare? It's the message that is individual.
Write and mail cards early. They probably won't beat you home, but you're on the record for being thoughtful.
Buy stamps when you buy cards--or as soon as you return to your hotel. And remember to mail them in the country that made the stamp.
If you can't be original, be consistent. My pal, the late, great Millie Considine, always bought one type of post card and repeated a signature message. Her friends received pictures of topless natives with the loving scrawl: "These foolish things remind me of you."