In a world of instant Facebook, texting, email and messaging, postcards stand out like a sore thumb of un-rapid transit. Being sent through the mail, from one country to another, can take up to several months of anticipation and usually when the postcard finally arrives, you’ve already seen the person, heard the stories, and seen the endless albums of unedited albums of blurry digital photos. So what is the future of the postcard trade or even snail mail?
When I travelled to Japan in the spring of 2009 I sent home 43 postcards (yes, 43. You can imagine the chunk that took out of my food budget…) to all across Canada. Japan is said to have the best regular mail service in the world, even better than US Postal Service in terms of efficiency and speed. Everything in Japan gets written down on paper or sent through physical mail services, or so we were told by our tour guide and fixer. So, to test this, I decided to write down the dates when I sent each postcard, and then when the person received it I’d write down that date and see how long it took to reach them. I was planning on allowing for a week in Japan, a week to get sorted in Canada, and then a week to travel across Canada to the final destination (Canada Post supposedly can deliver mail anywhere in Canada within 7 business days). Most of the 43 postcards went to BC or to Ontario, but a few went to more ‘exotic’ destinations like Nunavut or the Maritimes…
When I returned to the Great White North after nine days in the Far East…none of my postcards had arrived. No big surprise, I wasn’t worried. The first postcards arrived to recipients in BC about two weeks after I had sent them (I was decently impressed), the ones in the Maritimes arrived after about a month (ok, that’s to be expected), but the one sent to Nunavut took over 90 days! Three months after sending it I had practically forgotten who I sent it to, when I sent it, and where I sent it from!
So, returning to my first question: Why bother sending it through the mail in the first place? Well, for the postcard sent to Nunavut the reason would be that I have never been to Nunavut and I will perhaps never see that person again, so I wouldn’t be able to bother them with stories, give them a souvenir, or show them pictures in person. Sending a postcard is the best way to accomplish all those feats while also saying “I was thinking about you when on my trip, and I went out of my way to send you this.”
Had I not been in the geographically isolated situation of not being able to travel to Iqaluit, I might have added to the new trend of not mailing postcards, but rather bringing them back from traveling to give in person. As a postcard collector who coerces all of my less-eager friends and family travelling abroad to send me small piece of paper worth about one dollar including postage, it seems odd to me to bring that postcard home. Nonetheless, giving postcards has become the new norm in the world of paper correspondence and I have recently been given three postcards from around the world with no postage, no message, but often with a longer and more legible story about the postcard and the trip in general.
Barcelona came to me at summer camp after over a month of sitting with the messenger through travels in Europe and a summer of activities at home. The postcard, even without the message about her trip, came with a smile, a short story given in person, and a goodbye hug. Compared to waiting for postcards in the mail, getting a postcard hand delivered is an idea I am quickly warming to!
Currently in the Postcard World: waiting for postcards from my aunt and uncle’s American road trip!