Postcards. A timeless souvenir, with so little you can do so much. You can find them worldwide, a tangible memory of a trip, a memento to remind your friends and loved ones that you’re thinking of them. They come in all shapes and sizes (fun fact 4″x6″ is the standard size), paper memories of the cities you’ve visited, the art exhibit you loved, a favourite landmark, you can even collect used postcards from flea markets or antique shops. There is something beautiful and voyeuristic about reading a semi-private message that someone sent. But, it also illustrates how powerful these objects can be in your life or the person who receives them.
According to the Smithsonian Institute Archives, “Postcards, as we are familiar with them today, have taken a considerable amount of time to develop. First restricted by size, color, and other regulations, postcard production blossomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Postcards were popular because they were a quick and easy way for individuals to communicate with each other.” What I didn’t know was there is a word for the study and collection of postcards, deltiology.
However, pre-pandemic, the focus on digital and instant communication has pushed postcards and ‘snail mail’ to the sidelines. Yet, the past year-plus has grounded and isolated us all. Travel plans halted, tourism up-ended, and the future is still uncertain. The desire to travel is deep-seated for many who thrive on the exhilaration, perspective gained, and memories created from travel. Postcards act as a conduit for us to relive an experience and to communicate. The pandemic has shifted how we spend our time and the things we value. It’s been an opportunity to look inward and to discover opportunities to grow while rediscovering the ‘slow life.’
This slowing down presents an opportunity to reconnect with analog processes such as letter writing. I think the form, function, and design of postcards create an emotional connection to these objects. As we begin to see shifts in our global situation, I think people will be excited to embrace the kiosks and kitschy tourist shops (at home and abroad). And with it, the ritual of writing postcards to loved ones while sipping a cappuccino.
With this, I introduce I Miss Post. An online postcard writing/mail service created by a dear friend, Emily. Emily is a world traveller who grew up between France and Canada. She retains the elegance of the French culture, style, and way of life while layering it with her adopted culture’s west coast vibes.
Her business started from the love postcards purely as a personal love and evolved to its present form as it became clear that people were yearning for the good ol’ snail mail, something to send and receive. Her business allows you to choose a postcard and include a message that she handwrites herself. A local artist designs the postcards in Vancouver, and they can travel the world while we live vicariously through them. Below you will find our conversation about her business, love of post, and travel. I hope you enjoy it.
Your Personal History with Postcards
Tell me about the beginning of your postcard journey.
I grew up between Europe and North America, and I moved cities countless times. My 80’s childhood was when landlines still existed, and the internet did not. Calling overseas at that time was expensive. The best way to stay in touch with friends was, therefore, through the mail. This is where the love for finding the right postcard for a loved one began. Postcards were the perfect choice, as they had a wonderful visual component and a non-overwhelming amount of space for writing a message.
Tell me about the first time you bought a postcard. Where was it? How much did it cost? Why did you choose that one?
I don’t recall my first purchased postcard. However, it would have been bought in Cannes, France. It was most likely very cheesy with an 80’s overuse of neon graphics and bad photo layering.
Do you collect postcards for yourself or always send them to friends and family?
While travelling, one of the first things I search for is postcards. Most of these are then sent from my travel destination to friends and family, and a few are kept for my personal postcard collection for a later occasion. Which, over the years, has grown to be a collection of postcard treasures. I’ve always either had an old cigar box, small suitcase or drawer full of postcards that I’ve collected on my travels which I then post later.
Photo Credit: I Miss Post
Do you have a favourite style of a postcard?
I love every cheesy travel postcard with bad typography and scenic photographs or art postcards purchased from art gallery/museum gift shops. I enjoy the postcard visual front as a starting point to the back written message portion.
I Miss Post – Origin Story
Was this longstanding love of postcards an impetus to start I Miss Post? Yes, definitely. Having quit my job in 2016, I went travelling to reconnect with old friends. Upon our reunions after, at times over a decade of not having seen each other, a common thread arose. They all mentioned how much they had loved receiving postcards from me over the years and that they still had them all. In these conversations, I realized how much joy it had brought to them. However, most had mentioned they could never find the time and postcards to reciprocate this action. And so the seed was planted for creating a postcard writing service business as well as promoting artists. Because secretly everyone loves the idea of postcards, but as social media swept in, we lost the motivation to buy them, write them, and track down a local post office.
How did you land on the graphics for this first release of postcards?
Writing postcards now feels like a lost art in our technology-heavy instant-communication day and age. Therefore, I was thinking back to what components of life we may miss, and so began the “I miss …” postcard collection.
How did you find your graphic designer?
I have been fortunate in life to have been surrounded by extremely talented friends, and Ženija from “Say it with Sarcasm” was an ideal match for this project as her illustration talent was perfectly aligned with my vision for this first postcard collection.
In terms of business, how has the concept been received? Do you think people are finding solace in the act of sending mail, particularly during this unprecedented time?
It has been received with much positivity. Many people have commented how much they have enjoyed being able to have this personalized service while at the same time being able to keep up with their busy lives. For the customers who are purchasing the blank pack of eight postcards, I have heard the following; that the pandemic has allowed them, for a time, to slow down and therefore, they are going back to something that they haven’t done in years or decades: writing and sending postcards themselves.
What do you think resonates most with people when writing cards or mailing something?
Postcards are like a slow, meaningful text message. An easy way to break it down is with this question; Have you ever printed out a text sent to you and placed it on your fridge? Most likely not. Because it doesn’t feel as authentic as a postcard, postcards are a way to tell someone you’re genuinely thinking about them. It’s a tangible token of acknowledgement. There is something magical about knowing the piece of paper you hold in your hands has travelled a long distance and passed through the hands of many people to deliver to you the thoughts of another person that is thinking of you.
What role do you think postcards can play in our current global situation, specifically mental well-being, communication, and closeness?
Postcards, especially during these difficult times of solitude, create four essential components for well-being: mindfulness, time, love and joy.
- Mindfulness as you take the time to pause and be in the present moment with care and reflection on the other person.
- Time because the sender has taken time out of their busy lives to find the postcard, write the message, find your address, and send the postcard. All of which feel more limited in this current day and age.
- Love as in “I care for you,” specifically for you with a personalized message that someone is thinking of you and sending you their love.
- Joy because small gestures can make a significant impact on someone, and postcards are intrinsically delightful.
What Does Travel Mean to You?
What is your most memorable trip?
Any first time arriving in a new city or country that feeling of aw, gratitude and exhilaration for being alive.
What inspires you to travel?
Being of dual nationality from two different continents and cultures, travel is integral to my being. For it expands my mind and soul to wider perspectives and new horizons.
If you could go anywhere right now, where would you go?
The south of France.
How has travel shaped or changed your life?
It has provided me with some of my most memorable life moments.
When it comes to travel, how do you plan a trip?
First, I decide if it’s going to be a solo trip or one with company. From there, I make a wish list of what I’d like to do or see while on this trip.
How do you immerse yourself in local culture?
Trying to travel with friends from that region is my #1 way to get a first-hand immersive experience. If that’s not possible, renting a flat in a fun neighbourhood where I can ask the locals what they recommend to see and do.
What are your travel essentials?
Ideally, a small carry-on suitcase which fits all my essentials. Clothing can be layered easily to adapt to all sorts of temperatures, great walking shoes, cloth tote bags, and my favourite writing postcard pens!
Are you a planner or a wanderer?
Both. In advance, I like to do my research and plan out site visits, i.e. art galleries, museums, monuments, parks etc. Once there, I allow for spontaneity and wander the streets and ask locals for recommendations. I could walk for kilometres with no true plan and be at my happiest discovering the infinite small details of a place.
How many postcards do you send when you’re travelling?
On average, my core list sent to loved ones is between 20-30 postcards. Though, I have been known to send over 50 in less than ten days on certain vacations.
How do you think the future of travel will change post COVID19?
This pandemic has made us appreciate and discover our own cities and countries in a different and new way. Once we can broaden our travel again, I hope people will be more grateful for cultural exchanges and being present in the current moment.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A sea turtle