Happy Exploring in 2020!

I love the French way of wishing people a Happy New Year all January long. It helps take the pressure off and I find it quite charming. And if you’re like me and not big on planning ahead, it gives you more time to get your holiday cards in the mail (all 100 of them!). This year became a bigger endeavor than when I first set out, but I thought it’d be fun to share a little “making of” post of how my 2020 holiday card came to be.

It’s been YEARS, and I mean years, since I put together a holiday card, let alone a physical one. I had a low key holiday this year, so I’d spend time doodling in cafés, which I loved. It was a way to look back, look forward, and disconnect. One day I decided I should make a holiday card. I didn’t know how it’d turn out when I put the pen to the page, but I just knew I wanted it to be a map and encourage exploration (my word of the year).

Before Christmas my friend Vahram and I were able to catch the map expo at the National Archives: Quand les artistes dessinaient les cartes. Seeing these maps dating back to the Middle Ages helped remind me of my love of maps (I still have my Skillshare map making class!), and sparked the rough idea for my card.

The day I decided to work on my card I went to the Café des 2 Moulins aka the “Amélie café” made famous by the movie Amélie which I’ve loved ever since I saw it when I came out when I studied abroad. (It’s also where I celebrated becoming French.) The day I went a customer when up to the piano and started playing the Waltz d’Amélie. I sat in the buzz of the café on a busy afternoon and different locations on my map emerged. I finished the map in one setting not knowing quite where it’d take me.


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The text and message was easy to overthink, but before friends came over for dinner one day, I made myself do it. I knew I wanted to say “Happy Exploring!” inspired by my 2020 word. The rest is imperfect and of course my best/original idea I’d forgotten came back to me too late. The typos aren’t a gimmick, they’re real, but I wanted to encourage people to think beyond perfectionism. It was more important for me to actually send the card and put it into the world than make it perfectly polished. It also was a bit of a test to see who looked closely.

In terms of printing, I decided to get it Riso printed. (It’s like a copy machine, but cooler, and with colored ink). I asked around and found Studio Fidèle who was able to help me out that day. I already had some green card stock lying around, so I decided to use that. It doesn’t always show up in photos, but its printed with forest green ink. And like magic I had my cards.

Originally I thought I’d get 50, but ended up with 100. Having not sent holiday cards in eons, I wanted to write a personal note to each recipient. It made me think of Adam Grant’s work and when he took the time to reach out to 100 people who had helped and supported him, and sent them notes of gratitude. I have to say, it was a pretty great exercise to start the year. Very therapeutic in its own way. I’d write 5-10 cards a day all month long.

As a bonus, I got to refine my penmanship as I addressed all the envelopes (went with simple kraft paper ones that felt very French and used a green Sharpie to write addresses). Getting enough envelopes and stamps was another challenge, but it all was worth it. I feel like I single handedly supported La Poste all month! Just a pity that there were no “pretty stamps” available. Rates just went up to 1,40€ for anywhere outside of France. Still, a worthy investment. LONG LIVE SNAIL MAIL!!! 🐌✉️

(Photo courtesy of Le Petit Guide)

One thing I didn’t see coming was how many people who would take the time to write me to thank me for the card and send pictures. Others shared it on their Instagram stories. I’ve been to friends apartments and seen it on their shelves, desks, and refrigerators, and others said they wanted to frame it. It was clear to me that people actually took time to look and study the map based on their short, but sweet notes. When was the last time you took the time to look closely at something? All in all, it all sparked joy for me in ways I didn’t see coming. ✨


P.S. One of the things I’ll be exploring this year are hosting/facilitating more workshops, both online and off, for schools, companies, and individuals/small groups. Sign up for my weekly newsletter 💌 to be the first to get those updates (and a dose of inspiration too!) and follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram and Twitter.

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