How many times have you rummaged through the postcard rack in some tourist town and thought, "My own pictures are better than these." And have you dropped into the post office in say, Cusco, and been flabbergasted at how much it costs to send off those postcards you just bought?
I've been testing out a pretty cool solution from Hazel Mail that brings postcard mailing into the digital age. Here's how it works: first, you log into their site and upload your photo. Hi-res ones straight from the camera are fine. Then you format the image, with the ability to stretch it, crop it, or put a border around it. Then you enter your message and the address, picking out a font that you like. You pay $1.50 per card to addresses in the U.S., $2 for those in Europe, varying rates elsewhere.
Then you go about your travels, knowing that even if your e-mails get filtered and nobody really looks at all those pics you painstakingly uploaded to your Facebook page, your friends and relatives will know you are thinking about them. After all, a piece of mail stands out far more these days than another few megabytes in the digital firehose we're all drinking from.
There are a few little quirks. The website is very coy about giving out any info when you visit. You actually have to go through the whole uploading process to find out anything about fees and payment methods. Then they send a confirmation after the order, which is nice, but in mine the graphics covered up all the text so it just looked like an ad in HTML mode. I assume they'll work out the glitches soon though and add more info for prospective users up front in time. Apart from that, the site is dead easy to use and once you've registered it's easy to send new cards in the future. It'll store the address of Mom and Sis, for instance, so you don't have to retype them later. You can even upload a whole bunch of addresses from a contact list or spreadsheet.
I sent one of the Mexico City postcards to my own house to test the outcome and the result was nice. The photo looked almost as good as what you would get from a photo processing place and it had a real canceled stamp on it. The printed message doesn't have quite the same charm as a scribbled note with road dirt and spilled coffee on it, but still more personal than an e-mail. All this and you can avoid paying rapacious international postage costs.
Several writers have wondered if the sending of postcards is a dying art, but Hazel Mail seems like a good compromise in keeping this more personal communication method alive. Highly recommended.