🕔Dec 04, 2018

by Ruth Lloyd


How do you summarize a life-long relationship in 600 words?

Perhaps you don’t.

I have had an affection for postcards for most of my life: sending them, receiving them, looking at them posted on my fridge door, and even creating my own.

As a youth, long before I had travelled alone, I owned a series of books, the first of which was called Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence. It was a romance-slash-mystery-slash-graphic novel about the correspondence of two supposed strangers, illustrated with incredible art in the form of handmade postcards.

The series was a beloved gift, one I received in instalments, happily unwrapping the newest release over a sequence of Christmases. It was a magical tale, and while I always devoured the books immediately, I also returned to them again and again.

Thus sparked my love for postcards and the romance and mystery of slow correspondence.

On my first trip to Asia I travelled alone, and I sent plenty of postcards back home. It was long before Facebook and a time when even the internet was only sparsely available in internet cafés. Rows of desktop computers sat waiting for the traveller to put down some baht or rupees for a bit of “hi-speed” dial-up on Internet Explorer. Even email took time and effort and people weren’t likely to respond quickly.

Postcards were a nice way to send a note home, fill the silences of meals eaten alone, and while away some time on a beach or in a humid city hostel. They were also usually available in any tiny destination I found myself in.

Internet was not.

Writing postcards was a chance to truly savour the experience and to simultaneously feel more connected to the friends and family who weren’t there with me.

Not unlike Twitter, I had to try and say something worth saying in a small space. And like Twitter today, what I wrote wasn’t always worth saying.

But at least with postcards, the effort of sending it showed that I care—not necessarily so with Twitter.

Even choosing the postcards was fun, as there were so many tacky shots to wade through.

That was also a time before digital cameras, and when I had my film developed, I would sometimes opt for the small surcharge to have double prints made, using the second set to make my own personalized postcards.

I pictured my smiling image on a Vietnamese beach staring out at my relatives from under a fridge magnet.

Later in life, I moved to a place in northern BC where the first glimpse of the landscape stunned me with the beauty of it, and yet I could find no decent postcards.

So I found a way to print my own photos and had some made. Now I send postcards from my own town, sharing out images of the beautiful place I get to return to after my trips abroad.  

Yet, despite this lifelong love of postcards, I find myself sending fewer and fewer of them. Our relationship is perhaps in its twilight years. My time is so easily filled now with staring at screens that a piece of paper and a pen are hard to squeeze between them.

Instead, transit time consists of TripAdvisor and Airbnb for making the plans, reading reviews and narrowing down options. There is of course Google Maps for navigation and company websites for checking in and booking the tickets for the next event, transportation, or destination. Convenience can complicate things.

Not only am I on my screen when I travel for practical reasons, but how and why do I fit in postcards when there is the much broader reach of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and the like for keeping everyone abreast of our adventures? A screen is there to fill any empty space or vacant time with information, updates, messages, chats.

The selfie with the beach backdrop has the added bonus, of course, of instilling envy in a much broader audience than one postcard ever could. Is this more fulfilling?

It is instant gratification. You don’t have to find a stamp or a post box and the receiver doesn’t need to wait weeks for delivery.

But what does the slow-moving postcard have that social media does not?

It’s the personal touch.

And the staying power.

My parents still display in their guest bathroom one of the postcards I sent them. It reminds me of the trip each time I visit.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a postcard is worth ten times that.