Contest! Win a FREE Customized Postcard from ME!

A ByPost postcard I sent to my friend Billy in North Carolina, from my trip to Iceland.

I love getting things in the mail. What I don’t love however, is the process of sending mail. Post offices can also be a bit daunting while you’re abroad. I once sent twenty-seven postcards from a little town in Slovakia to my friends around the world. It took three hours because of language barriers, then I had to get cash because they didn’t take credit card and needed exact change, then we got in a fight because she overcharged some of the cards for no reason. Only half of the postcards actually made it to their destinations. The other half trickled in to their recipients between three to six months after my arrival back home (so much for the surprise…) AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FO’ DAT!

I’d given up on the postcard hobby until I came across this handy little phone app, ByPost. Read on about the app and then enter the contest below to experience it for yourself!

Perks of ByPost:

  • Send a postcard to anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world.  All you need is an internet connection on your phone, and you’re set!
  • Pay the same price, no matter where the recipient lives. Post a card for less than $2.  The more credits you buy, the less your postcards will cost. Upload your Paypal information for one-stop payment over a secure network.
  • Use your own photos. Everyone appreciates a cheesy stock image of the Eiffel Tower, but postcards get personal with ByPost. Take a photo of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower instead.
  • No more post office procrastination. Don’t have time to deal with the post office? Go through the motions, and your postcard is ready for production. Within a few days it will post to your recipient, typically received within two weeks’ time.
  • Stash addresses on the app so you never leave a friend out.
  • Have sloppy handwriting? No problem! ByPost’s typeface is easy to read and clear enough that any postal worker can get your card to where it needs to be.
Some examples of postcards I've send

Some examples of postcards I’ve sent

CONTEST TIME!

Win a FREE ByPost postcard from me! ByPost has donated some credits to my account and I want to share this awesome service with the world. I will customize each and every card so that the one you receive is totally unique. Who doesn’t love getting mail?

Rules are simple:

  • You MUST be following me on Twitter
  • “Like” my Facebook Page
  • Answer a question that can be found somewhere on my website
  • Tweet about the giveaway, add ByPost on Twitter and Facebook, and download the IPhone App for more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ve sent out a few cards to some lucky followers already, and they’ve been happy with the results. I love that I get to personalize my travels and the convenience is totally worth the price. The quality of the cards is fantastic – clear images and text, no weird image warping.

Bypost is currently available on the IPhone, and you can send a card to anyone in the world, no matter how large of a city or small of a village. ByPost is also developing an Ipad app which will be handy for those without Smartphone data plans.

This promotion was not solicited by ByPost, but is a personal reflection of good merchant service.

Travel Writing Exercise: Bicycling

Biking around in a costume is a great way to meet new people!

I love biking, locally and abroad. It is the most eco-friendly, convenient way to travel and you can really get a sense of place while biking on your own. If the terrain permits, I rent a bicycle to get me from place to place. It’s my first choice and sometimes I even get grumpy when I can’t use my bike (for example, Prague is a terrible place to rent a bike!).

Have you ever done a bike tour? Are you a cyclist? Ever been present for the Tour de France?

Write about travel and bicycling.

Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or advice you may have.  Feel free to leave your story in the comments section, or send me an email and maybe I’ll feature yours next week!

Travel Narrative Monday: Dr. Hayes

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The building where I saw Dr. Hayes, the Pantheon (which also happens to be the name of a gay club in Charleston, SC, where I went to college)

They say that if you are in a foreign country long enough, eventually, out of the blue, you will see someone you are acquainted with.

Pedro is giving us a talk in Rome, Italy, outside of the ancient Pantheon. We will soon to enter its age-old architecture and admire it for ourselves. Sometimes thought, I wonder if I have “Traveler’s ADD” – my eyes always seem to wander onto windows, take in food stalls, and people-watch crowds. The latter distraction is where I see Dr. Hayes. She is the Department Chair of the Anthropology program at my university.

If my eyes had glanced in that direction a moment before or after, I would have missed her. Natural energy turned my head in that direction, invisible forces pulled me to a space between two comrades. Fate guided me to receive good news; any other motion and my academic achievements would have been an afterthought.

I haven’t seen her in almost a year, but she looks the same. Her hair is long, bushy and flowing in the Roman breeze. A paisley shawl is wrapped around her thin shoulders and she is smiling next to a man in a gray fedora. They are walking in the direction of the Pantheon, where we are also going. I push through the crowd and meet them in front.

“Dr. Hayes!” I say, grinning. “It’s Katherine Lapelosa!”

She returns my smile. “Oh yes, how are you?” she seems surprised, but glad to see me.

“What are you doing here?” I stupidly ask.

“Well, we are on vacation,” she replies. “My husband and I are going to Senegal, and we stopped over here. We’re just visiting.”

She introduces me to her husband. He seems like a nice man. I imagine them doing archaeological work in the villages of Senegal, looking for primitive art surrounded by a jungle filled with poisonous snakes and other wild animals. Dr. Hayes is just so cool.

“So you are studying abroad, right?” she asks me.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I finished a few days ago actually. I’m on a tour of Europe right now.”

“And this was your last semester, right?”

I nod. “Yup. What a way to go out, huh?”

She thinks a moment. “So you are graduating. What is today, Sunday?” she ponders. “I think winter semester graduation in Charleston is today!”

I think about the day as well. “Yes, I do believe it is!”

“Oh, well, congratulations on your achievement!” she shakes my hand.

We part ways and Dr. Hayes melts into a crowd of blacks, browns, grays and olive greens.

I return to my group, beaming. It’s one thing to encounter an acquaintance in a completely foreign city, by chance. It’s another to receive the best of news from them.

“What are you so chipper about?” Pedro asks.

“I just found out I graduated college!” I exclaim.

“Did you think you weren’t gonna?” he retorts.

“Huh? Of course not. I actually graduated early.” On a sunny, Sunday afternoon in the center of the antiquated world, I am an official college graduate.

What a way to go out.

Huh.

#FriFotos: Celebrate

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©KatkaTravels

We leave Ghana in one week.

I’ve been here for almost three months. This volunteer trip did not pan out at all like I’d expected, although I am surprisingly grateful for the result. It’s a lesson in expectations; don’t have any before you leave, and your trip will be better than you thought.

And now, it’s time to celebrate. Although the celebration is somewhat ambiguous to me; our volunteer assignment was to teach women’s micro-enterprise to a village in the Volta region, but it seemed the jewelry and soap-making business for the women of Atabu is already set up and working quite nicely by the time we arrive. So the long, hot days are spent working side-by-side with these women, not so much “teaching” them micro-enterprise but engaging in a wonderful exchange of ideas and cross-cultural comparisons.

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©KatkaTravels

I think Ghanaians just like to party in general. Sombre events in the United States are totally reversed in Ghana. Catholic mass is a celebration of Christ with loud music, dancing, singing and colorful outfits. Even funerals are more of a celebration of life than they are of death; the community wears black and red to represent the deceased and escort the body through the connecting villages in a tricked-out van. I almost took it for a holiday parade, based on the elaborate costumes, painted vehicle and processional singing that went along with it.

So today, we are celebrating women. Feminism and the working female is still a distant concept for many in Ghana, but progress is definitely evident. We have spent three months side-by-side with the women of Atabu and it will be hard to leave our friends behind, these women who are so incredibly strong and smart and able, much more than our American laziness can compare to. These women need not worry about “empowerment” for much longer – they are more powerful than they know.

Read This Now: Rion Harmon – What It’s Like To Be In A Tao Lin Novel

tao lin

I thought this essay was intriguing because writers (and I think I can speak for several writers) tend to incorporate their own lives into so much of their work, lending authenticity to their pieces.

Personally, I enjoy putting people I know into my work.  As a writer, it is easy to get caught up in the EGO of your work since it comes from you, your mind, your creativity…placing a person you know within your work encapsulates them in time, tells their story, makes them a character people can grow to love, or hate.  It’s a tribute to a person, their lives written down and their participation in your life set in stone for eternity.

Okay sorry, that was a heavily perfumed version of Rion Harmon’s essay, but the idea is there.

I sat in the chair in my living room and started to read. Then it happened. Around page 23. I appeared in the novel. I was in Tao’s book. A part of me transcribed, novelized, recreated in the minds of everyone who will ever read it. I grinned, and said, “Oh shit,” out loud so my roommate could hear but really just because that was the only reaction I was capable of, “I’m in the book.”

It’s very hard for me to come up with fictitious people because you need to have a back story for every one.  Basing my characters on people I know is enjoyable because it’s like a tribute to their lives.  You can elaborate on their eccentricities.  You can downplay their weaknesses.  But most of all, you discover how unique and amazing the people in your life can be, and how they’ve helped you create a kick-ass story people will remember.

Read it here:

What It’s Like To Be In A Tao Lin Novel – Rion Harmon for Thought Catalog