The use of writing letters to yourself

writing letters to yourself

No matter where American travel writer Kassondra Cloos goes or how busy she gets, she always makes time to sit down at a nice café to write a letter to herself and mail it home. She finds that writing forces her to slow down when she’s on the road.

I find a clarity while in another country, trying on another reality. It’s easier to understand what matters most to me and what I can do without. It’s somehow easier for me to write a letter to myself and send it off than it is to capture everything in a journal. My journal is a disorganized stream of consciousness, where I dump feelings, fears, accomplishments and dreams. There, I write for that moment, getting things down on paper that I need to sort through.

My letters are often written as if my near-future self is another person, someone who hasn’t seen the same sunsets and beaches I have. I do occasionally flip through old journals years later to see how I’ve changed. But it feels quite different when a letter arrives in the mail. Instead of writing for my far-off future self, I’m writing for the self I’ll become in just a couple of weeks or months. I want to show that person the world I’m living in at the moment I’m writing from, to bring her back to a moment of happiness I never want to forget.

Not long ago, I looked through an old journal of mine and found a quote I had copied from an article about traveling by one of my favorite writers, American journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner. ‘The gift of travel is to think about your life,’ she wrote in an article for Afar in 2016. ‘The prison of travel is that your thoughts about your life remain in the country where you had them.’ I want to catch that clarity and keep it, so I can look back at it when I need it.

In a letter I recently wrote from a desert-island beach in Baja California, Mexico, I described the deep sapphire and teal shades of the ocean, the pelicans that dive-bombed a school of sardines a few hundred meters from shore, and the feeling of being totally still, content to stare at nature without feeling the need to do anything. I was at peace. My hope is that I’ll receive this letter when I most need it.

I’m often anxious about deadlines, to-do lists, upcoming projects and a lack of time, and I know this letter will be calming to read. In a letter I mailed in late February from Hokkaido, Japan, I wrote of the contentment I found soaking in silence in a hot spring spa in the Shiretoko Peninsula. I loved kneeling in the hot water of the outdoor bath while breathing in frigid air, overlooking magnificent piles of drift ice floating in from Siberia, colliding with the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk. I thanked myself for finally learning how to turn off work while traveling. I ended the letter with an open-ended goal: ‘Do less so you can be more.’

  • Read the full story ‘Why I write letters to myself’ in Issue 33.

Text Kassondra Cloos  Illustration Yelena Bryksenkova