Sending out the first Carrier Pigeon

Illustration by  Tania Rose Marg  of Ivoryisis on Etsy. 

Illustration by Tania Rose Marg of Ivoryisis on Etsy. 

Mail is really important to me.

Mail can mean a lot of things now. It can mean an email, or a voicemail, or an instant message, it can be sent through text, SMS, or whatsap... or it can be an envelope delivered to your house with the care and precision of human hands. 

Something I have noticed at work is that a lot of people born after 1990 aren't 100% sure how to send a letter with confidence. If you are one of the many adults who struggles with where to write the address, place the stamp, or how to craft a well-written letter - here we go - this is my basic introduction to the magic of mail! 

Step One: Write a letter important enough to be worth the wait. 

Think about what the person you are writing to might like to know, think about the letter as a time capsule. This is something they might come back to and read again in 5 years, or even 10. What has happened in your life recently that is worth documenting?  

Updates about school, your hobbies, or your family members? 

News about mutual friends? 

Any interesting news about your town or city? 

Holidays, birthdays, achievments?

Something new you have learned that may be ineresting, a funny joke, a movie you enjoyed or a new game you learned that they might like to play? 

A good place to start is to think about the last time you saw the person, and then consider what you would tell them if they were there in front of you. 

Don't forget to ask them what has happened in their life.

A good letter is equal parts invitation and request: An invitation into your life and a request to be a part of theirs. 

Step Two: Collect small treasures the reader will enjoy

This isn't 100% necessary, but I always enjoy a letter more when it comes with a few surprises. This is the joy of snail mail after all, it's not just words on a digital screen, it is a collection of tangible things you can hold in your hands.

I like to include local postcards or ads with interesting designs that remind me of the person I am writing to, or the things they are interested in. 

Sometimes I will send something from my region, like a dried flower,  or some seeds from my garden that can be planted and grown. 

Photographs are always a nice inclusion as they add to the time capsule value of a letter. You can write the date and location on the back of the image. 

Sometimes you can find free IOS AP cards that have the download link for a free Ap, those are always a neat addition. You could also make a playlist and send them the download link, or include a USB in the letter with your "modern mixtape".  

The possibilities are really endless. 

Step Three: Prepare your package 

Here's the part that has to be done right. I have had letters show up torn open, with key parts missing. I have also sent a whole parcel to a friend who had moved and it was lost forever. These are my main suggestions: 

Always check with the friend to make sure you have their most current address. People move a lot, and if they live overseas or in another city you might not know they have moved. 

Choose the right envelope with the right protection for your contents. You might want a bubble envelope if you have delicate pieces. 

For safety, write the words "Deliver to" above the address you want your letter to go to. In some countries the delivery address goes in the top left (where we Canadians write our return address). Once I had a letter come back to me, and the post office told me it was because they had an employee from another country who misunderstood which address they were to deliver it to. They told me to always use the words "deliver to" and "return address" above my two addresses. 

Get insurance if the contents are valuable (this comes from Canada Post when you send the package). 

Don't send cash 

Get a tracking number if you can. 

Step Four: Drop off at the post! 

The time has come to drop your package in the mail - stop at the post office so they can measure out the right postage for you and VOILA! Off it goes to its new home. 

It is important not to assume any stamp will work. A permanent stamp (marked with a "P" in the corner) is good for a normal envelope with a normal piece of paper inside it, within Canada. If you think your letter is a little heavier or your envelope is an odd size go get it weighed and measured so you can be confident it will arrive on time.

Unless you have a tight deadline for your letter to arrive, you can choose the cheapest option. It doesn't make it any less dependable. It will just take a little longer.  

Step Five: Be Patient

There is nothing worse than ruining the letter you just spent all that time putting together by calling the person and telling them all the news you just sent them in the mail! 

I promise it is worth the wait. 

If you haven't heard back from them in the next 2-4 weeks it's okay to check in and see if they received the letter. 

I was inspired to create this how-to when I recently got a long letter from a friend who lives overseas. She often surprises me with an update on her life, and she always drops in right when I have big news to share too. It always gives me such a lovely feeling to know that she has a life all the way around the globe that she wants to share with me, and that is why it's so important to remember once in a while to be the one who sends out the first carrier pigeon. It is one thing to diligently respond to the letters of others, but it is quite a bit more special to surprise them from time to time with the evidence of the time you spent thinking of them.

Good Luck!