Eight Endangered Travel Traditions

Slideshow  •  Lucy Corne  •  06.15.09 | 10:34 AM ET Photo 1 of 8

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1) The Postcard
Sure, if you're seeking a quick way to send news home, a Facebook status update or Tweet or an email will do the trick. But your grandma can't stick Facebook on her fridge and there's nothing quite like finding a card from a friend in faraway place in your mailbox.

Lucy Corne is a freelance writer based in Canada.

Frank Murray (3) | iStockphoto (3) | Reuters (2)

36 Comments for Eight Endangered Travel Traditions

Jake 06.15.09 | 11:28 AM ET

How old are you Lucy? I’ve not done any of the things on here! (outside of the hostel bit but i’ve never met anyone with their heads stuck in their phones in the hostel lobby) Telling the millennial generation to bust out journals and to ditch the iphone for a guidebook is like speaking French in China - it’s not going to get you very far!
As time progresses and generations emerge to forge new ways of traveling we will develop our own traditions and those are the ones that mean something to us as individuals.

Emma 06.15.09 | 11:57 AM ET

I would say yes, the mix tape and photo albums might be over, but I’m holding strong on the journal and the guidebooks, all is not lost.

Jeremy Head 06.15.09 | 12:36 PM ET

I’d add the foreign language dictionary too… just use your on-line translation tool or whatever other gismo… that is assuming no one speaks English… and these days it seems like most of the world does

Lindsay 06.15.09 | 1:04 PM ET

I have to say some of these I personally will not miss. Getting lost is in another land is not always a good thing. But I do like postcards :)

Lindsey 06.15.09 | 1:23 PM ET

Proud to say I’ve done all!
And that all are still possible!

Great ideas Lucy :)

Jenny 06.15.09 | 1:30 PM ET

Jake - you’ve never sent a postcard? Or used a guidebook? I find that tough to believe!

All hail the postcard! And viva the journal!!

Jake 06.15.09 | 1:35 PM ET

I’m not much for postcards (or birthday cards for that matter)!

Jenny 06.15.09 | 1:35 PM ET

Lucy - I LOVED this. Thank you. I am 53 and bring travel journals for all trips taken. I send postcards (even if it does feel anachronistic but I love getting country stamps for them - so beautiful), I do travel with an iPod now but remember, fondly, the mixed mini cassettes I used to travel with. And I take digital photos and print the ones I want for travel albums. Being the one to spark up conversations can get you some really great information that you might not find anywhere else. Travel guides and travel lit and maps are still a must for me. Even tho I still get lost from time to time :0)

Sophie 06.15.09 | 1:45 PM ET

Great slide show. But maybe there is hope for the guidebook—did you see Conde Nast’s traveler challenge? I read about it in my local newspaper yesterday:


The guidebook won, big time.

noguidebook 06.15.09 | 6:04 PM ET

yup, finally and end to the ^%& ‘guide books’ empire… the ‘lonely planet’ people are too rich as they are selling out-dated nonsense that leads you to dead-ends and long-gone shops.

Roaming Writer 06.16.09 | 5:00 PM ET

Wonderful post! Long live the TRAVEL GUIDE:

Scribbled notes. Curry-stained smears. Napkin bookmarks. Sand-grained spines…pebbles of proof that your adventure was lived, and loved. For travelers, the souvenir isn’t something bought, but something USED: in other words, The Guidebook.

Lonely Planet is notorious for being out-of-date. Lots of guidebooks depend on just a handful of writers. However, V!VA Travel Guides puts travelers in the writer’s seat, inviting them to not only read the guide, but help WRITE the guide. Anyone can sign up for free and write, rant, rave and review. Content is updated at simply the click of a mouse.

First comes the website, with its continual updates—then comes the guidebook. The Travel 2.0 ship has already sailed, and it’s about time other guidebooks hop on board. Luckily, V!VA Travel Guides is steering in the right direction.

Dan 06.16.09 | 6:43 PM ET

Three quick comments…

It’s true… travelers are sending fewer postcards, but I’d be surprised if they completely went away. As long as there is snail mail, there will likely be postcards to be sent. Maybe we could make our own postcards from the digital pictures we’ve taken, put a foreign stamp on them and send ‘em along. Now that would be cool, and totally personalized. Postcards are here as long as you want them.

I love reading the local paper while I travel, but the downside has always been understanding the language. I might still pick up Swedish papers in Stockholm, but there isn’t much I can read. On the web, there are English-language sites to give me the latest.

Finally, I’d skip the mix tapes and the iPod altogether while traveling. The local radio is much more interesting for music, and it’s often a good source of local news if it’s a language you understand. The radio is a terrific way to capture some of the flavor of your locale.

Lucy 06.17.09 | 11:14 AM ET

Just wanted to thank you for your comments (I’m the author of the piece). Roaming Writer - I totally agree with you re guidebooks - they make fab souvenirs, curry stains, ripped out maps and all. Have never used Viva’s guides though…

Keeping travelling (and sending postcards to you Gran!)


Rebeccah 06.18.09 | 5:43 AM ET

Oh my God, I miss mix tapes!  An Ipod is truly not the same thing.  Great list.  Basically, tactile things are still so important.

tahrey 06.18.09 | 6:26 AM ET

I still do mix tapes ... but only for my own car. The mp3 player (not an ipod!) has pride of place in my traveling pack simply because of the space saving - more than 3 or 4 cassettes get heavy and bulky quickly, and that mere 6 hours of music can start to grate after too many plays. That said, when I went away last year, the walkman came with as well, because the only guidebook-phrasebook I could find in the local library (doing it on the cheap!) came with tapes and I didn’t have the time to record them into mp3.

On that same trip, well… I did wish I had a GPS a couple times when out on a hire scooter, as the Sardinian road signing / numbering system makes very little sense and the local maps are rubbish, so I didn’t get to all my planned destinations just because of getting lost—- but I also ended up finding plenty of equally interesting (and free, and less tourist-infested) villages and other sights instead - including an inland reservoir with a beach and sunbathers, and a mysterious motorcross-track like set of dirt roads crisscrossing a forest a stone’s throw from the archaelogical site I was actually looking for - that I would never have gone near if I was on the right road.
(and, if I’d realised just how high and treacharous a particular mountain summit and the road to it were, I might never have attempted to surmount it. Which would have been a crying shame!)

I did make brief - and expensive - use of google maps on my phone just to clear up a couple of particularly sticky directional situations, and a pocket compass… blind luck didn’t always help (an abundance of cloverleaf and “trumpet” junctions on the few high-standard roads tended to mean you were headed counter to the way you expected after passing thru). The technology can be a godsend. On that note, the guidebooks were always good for suggesting plenty of interesting places to go and see, and giving you a vague idea of where they were - but really, they almost all seem to be more useful for making lists of trips to book via a local guide company, rather than going to see the sights yourself. The maps and driving/cycling/walking instructions are generally just too vague to get you that final mile in the right direction without having to stop and ask the way in broken native-tongue, or just bite the bullet and buy a coach tour ticket.

The local newspapers, and all the other foreign ones that were available, were also pretty fascinating, even with only a passing knowledge of italian (thank you, abortive latin lessons in high school…). Vive la strange cultural differences ;-)

However these days I tend to buy the postcards, scribble a simple message on them, and just give them to grandparents etc. They get home quicker that way, and cheaper, and the effect is the same. (my one and only attempt at an electronic postcard is still up on a geocities site somewhere, and looks awful)

Generational 06.18.09 | 7:41 AM ET

Jake, your post is quintessential for your generation, as you obviously see yourself as the spokes"person.” Get a job. And please have respect for all people, especially your elders.

Lindsay 06.18.09 | 12:33 PM ET

Wow, that was rude.

Love2SeeNewThings 06.20.09 | 9:02 PM ET

Yeah, Wow!

I’m in the “ipod” generation and have to say I’ve done some of the above.  Yes, even sent postcards to a teacher that wrote me the recommendation letter for my study abroad trip to England.  If you buy postcards in bulk they are cheaper!  So, Mom & Dad, 2 best friends, my sister’s hubby, & a teacher were well aware of my whereabouts through postcards.

Didn’t take the ipod w/ me since everyone warned of the huge risk factor of it being lost or stolen.  Have to say that it made the walks through London’s parks a lot more enjoyable.

After London I had a pre-planned trip to Madrid, Spain.  On my way to Casa Botin I took a wrong turn and ended up walking in the wrong direction for maybe a mile…I guess being alone and being a girl made an old lady stop and ask if I was lost.  From her reaction I can only guess that I was not in a nice part of the neighborhood, but my Spanish was good enough to get me back on course.

Journal ~ yes.  BUT only because I love to write…I am one of those people that will not hand in an English Final until I have every word that I wanted placed where I want it!  Psychotic…mu ha ha!

Actual printed pictures…have to say yes to this too, but only because I took a semester of photography as well!

In short, maybe all the suggestions from above are not lost to my generation.  Maybe just to some people.

Elizabeth Keller 06.24.09 | 4:07 PM ET

Great list! 

My folks and I have been checking into some family history, and just today they found a postcard sent by my father’s father to his sweetheart and future wife, dated 10 July 1925.  In one small memento, there is family history, Buffalo history, former mailing addresses, old stamps… it’s fantastic!

The tradition is safe with us; my husband and I even write a postcard to ourselves when we’re traveling, filled with all the funny small moments that we might forget otherwise and, as you mentioned, to have those wonderful stamps. 

Also as a way to relive the best moments of a trip, I keep a journal.  It takes some effort to write as we travel, but the reward comes days, months or years later, when I randomly open to a page and am transported back to a time and place where I was completely happy.

Lastly, two things about the use of gps:
for married couples, it’s really good to have a third party to blame about directions;
and even with it, we seem to get lost plenty anyway - so I guess that would be the best of both worlds.

Mahmoud 04.02.10 | 3:52 PM ET

Interesting list. I’ve done all in the past except the mix tape. I wouldn’t travel without my iPod Touch now. It’s just brilliant having all your music with you. And as for postcards, I love getting them from far flung places and I love sending them even more. Postcards are like a little time capsule, a piece of history captured forever.  I kept all the postcards i’ve ever received and one day will enjoy going through them.

Roger 04.03.10 | 12:37 PM ET

I can’t believe no one has mentioned the mixed CD as a modern twist on the mixed cassette. I’ve traveled with the cassette, the CD and the mp3 player. I’ve done everything on the afor mentioned list. I started traveling abroad in 1984, well before there was any idea that online content would someday make life easier. I have to say I miss the sense of being away from home. There’s too many electronic methods of staying in touch with home these days. Distance isn’t what it used to be, in my opinion.

Austin Beeman 04.03.10 | 10:32 PM ET

On the flip side, one of the finest additions of Travel 2.0 is HD Video.  In the past, how many pounds of 8mm or 16mm film where we really going to put in our backpacks?  One pound of memory cards gives us hundreds of hours of HD video.  Or more specifically, hundreds of hours of memories, sights, sounds, people, colors, moments, impressions, etc.  I look forward to watching my travel videos when i’m 50 or more.  (i’m 31 now.)  Anyway great article.

Christy 04.03.10 | 10:40 PM ET

i loved the photographs in this piece….:-)

i also love local, international newspapers, need to go back to finding postcards but enjoy losing the weight of the guidebooks (even though they do indeed give you the feel of a “real” traveler and make good souvs)...!

great piece!

Cassidy 04.04.10 | 7:58 PM ET

I think as long as people continue travelling that some of these things will remain alive. I’m only 19, so I’m certainly part of the generation that would stay stuck in a laptop at a hostel or email more than write postcards, but I recently went backpacking Europe and I sent a postcard from every city I was in (over 40) to my mom, two sisters, and myself. Granted, I collect post cards and love the idea of sending myself postcards from overseas. I also have printed off more than 200 of my photos, and I think digital photos allow the option of printing the really nice ones. I took over 4000 pictures, I’m not going to print all of those! I LOVE socialising in hostels, and I kept a journal with an entry for almost every day of travel. So, while I think some people may be disregarding some the classic travel traditions, enough people aren’t that they won’t go the way of the Dodo bird.

I won’t deny that I have never made a mix-tape in my life, though. Mix CD, yes, mix-tape? No. I don’t think I’ve ever even owned a tape player, so it may just be inevitable that the mix-tape goes extinct.

Pia 04.05.10 | 2:09 PM ET

Now 36, I started travelling extensively at 16 and have done everything from backpacking through Europe and India, travelling alone to Australia, luxury tours to Egypt and India again twice…Central America, Canada, US, Mexico and more…

The times have certainly changed in the past 20 years…from the mixed tape, to the postcard, which I’m sure my mom and dad were direly waiting for whilst my travels through the Andaman Islands, where there was no phone connection to Europe in those days…we are talking 1996 here.

I still buy postcards, but mainly for myself, (and mom and dad), to put in my photo album, which I stopped doing after the digital camera came about, but discovered quickly that the nicest way to show your pictures to your friends is to have them in an album on your coffee table.
All this new technology is great, but unless you can get free Wi-Fi at your destination, I can assure you staying away from the 3G network provided by your wireless service provider is the best thing you can do unless you want to pay for your roaming charges still a year later (and I’m not talking US/Canada roaming here). So having some printed material to refer to is not that bad, and the journal comes handy to make notes, that you can later post on Facebook, once you have access to that free internet connection.

tekwriter 04.07.10 | 1:32 PM ET

One old-fashioned travel tradition that is more than endangered, but totally extinct, is to dress nicely when flying!  I still recall being dressed in my Sunday best, including hat and gloves, in the early sixties when my sister and I flew to visit relatives.  Of course, everything about flying was so much more civilised back in the day…

punguta 06.20.12 | 5:20 AM ET

It’s a very interesting guide about travelling. I am searching for ideas How to Travel Through Australia on a Budget. I never had the chance to see this country and I plan this summer to visit it. Because I have a strict budget I am asking everyone who knows how to travel low cost which are those ways.

Anonymous11 07.19.12 | 4:40 PM ET

India Trivia - Did You Know?  This is how I felt when I saw the slide show. The last picture is beautiful. I wish I could travel like you. India will be my first location to visit.

basak 07.24.12 | 4:43 PM ET

I wish I was in India.

woodyh 09.22.12 | 7:22 PM ET

LOL at above comment.

Find out more here

Find out more here 09.22.12 | 7:24 PM ET

LOL at second to above comment.

Visa USA Migration Expert 09.24.12 | 2:13 AM ET

I am still hooked on collecting pictures and put it on photo album because itís nice to compile images of your travel adventure, birthday and special occasions in a hard bound album with detailed design!
Visa USA Migration Expert

spencerid 09.28.12 | 5:10 PM ET

There is a solution for that too. If you don’t have time for post cards and things like that for older people, some online programs will do that for you. All you have to do is to fill some fields with information, choose what you want from some online items and somebody will write and send the card to your grandmother.

bus from lcct 10.03.12 | 4:58 AM ET

Sending a post card is one of the eight endangered travel tradition. Know more from this post

Crazy Travel Adventures by Debra 10.09.12 | 10:05 AM ET

So true.  And, what a shame.

I have thousands of travel photos displayed in albums which sit on a bookshelf in my guest room.  Some people make fun of me holding to this tradition given technology, but I love it.  I’ve been happily sharing a scene from an episode of Revolution on TV -  Poor woman from England’s only photos of her kids is on her iPhone.  When all power and tech goes out in the world, she has no photos. 

Post cards…remember how much fun it was to receive one from a traveling friend or relative :)

Rajat 10.23.12 | 9:28 AM ET

This is the side effect of technology, but we should not complain as it made so many things easier for us. GPS, Smart Phones, Kindle, Ipad’s are all our companions while we travel. Recently I visited Golden Triangle India cities and these gadgets helped me a lot.

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