“I hope you know that I´m sending a postcard.
I don´t care who sees what I sent
Or if the whole world knows what´s in my head”
James Blunt´s song text summarizes well why I like postcards so much: they are an open love letter. In times when many of us barely make time to call a friend, taking the time to manually write something down to somebody, while you are on vacation, is a huge statement of affection. Yes, it is old school, nobody is denying that. But I find pretty amazing to open the mailbox and see something different than an Amazon box or bills to pay. Something that actually takes your mind off of the daily routine, bringing an unexpected love note that traveled for miles and miles.
Well, in our case, the love note is not THAT unexpected. Sending postcards became sort of a tradition between my in-laws and us. Wherever we go, no matter how tight the schedule, we always find time to sit down and write that special “thinking of you” message.
But, recently, with the inability to travel and send/receive this kind of post, I guess I got nostalgic. And together with this longing feeling, I remembered something that was well buried in a shoe box back at my parents´ apartment in Brazil: postcrossing.
Postcrossing is basically an online platform where you can create a profile to send and receive postcards from all over the world from random people. Russia, Panama, South Africa, you name it….once you are signed in, you never know what´s going to pop up in your mailbox!
I used to be a fan of the project, and kept all of my received postcards in a green shoe box. Little by little, the box got full and so did my schedule. Suddenly, I had no time nor space to write and receive from my fellow postcrossers….
I decided to change this this week. With the recent health situation that has affected us all, I decided to go back to the platform. I felt the urge to reach out to strangers again, tell them about me, and, especially, learn about them. If there´s one thing I remember about postcrossing, is that a few kind words from the other side of the world can do a lot of good to somebody´s routine.
Ok, Vivi, but how does this work? How much does it cost?
So, if you are interested in postcrossing, you have to go to the official website here and sign up. It´s free! You only pay for the stamp and the sending of your postcard. Once you have your e-mail confirmed and your profile created, you can start right away.
You will click on a button to request a random address to send a postcard to, and the system will show you one, together with a postcard ID. This ID is super important! You will have to write it somewhere on your postcard, in order for your receiver to register the number online on the platform once it arrives. This will let the system know you have indeed sent the postcard, and it will then allow you to send more.
You can have a maximum of 5 postcards traveling simultaneously, in the beginning. But as time goes on, this number will increase and increase. If you are not sure how this experience will go, send just one! No problem! I actually think I used to send about 3 at once – no more than that. I mean, I was excited, but not looking for a mailbox overflow. The rarity of it was what actually made it interesting and surprising for me.
When you receive a postcard, it´s your turn to register the ID of your sender. This person will then be allowed to send another postcard. It´s pretty simple!
If you have no idea about what to write to someone you have never seen or talked to, start with the simple stuff! You don´t have to tell about yourself, you can write a song or a poem, for example. I received many of these, and I loved it. Other people just wrote about the place they came from or how their day was going. You don´t have to overcomplicate things. I even received one written in Chinese once. I have no idea what was on it, but it looked nice!
Another idea is to write about something you have in common, considering the information the person has in his/her profile (the profile is shown to you at the same time you receive the address and postcard ID). This is the path I particularly like to take. My first postcard, for example, will travel to Monica, a lovely girl who lives in Italy. She shared she enjoys History, nature, and collects stadium postcards. Bingo! I will definitely be sending a postcard of the stadium near my house, and tell her a bit about it!
Is postcrossing safe?
Hmm, hard to say for sure, to be honest. You have to keep in mind that, indeed, you are allowing strangers to know where you live. In order to protect the members, the company lets you choose if you would like to receive postcards from people in the same country as you or not. Though I would actually like to, being a crime TV fan did have an impact on me. So, I decided to only receive postcards from people outside Germany, and I would advise you to do the same. It´s also your choice to allow direct swaps or not.
What to do with all the postcards I will receive?
You can store them in a box like I used to, put them in a photo album, do a postcard wall in your apartment, frame your favorites, do a scrapbook, use them as decoration under a glass table…the options are vast.
If you find the idea of postcrossing with strangers too awkward, why not postcross with your family and friends that live in other countries/cities? I find this a great option as well. We are actually building a postcard wall in our bedroom with those we receive from loved ones!
Ok, what if you do like the postcard idea, but are not keen on exchanging postcards with random people and, on top of that, you have no friends or family members interested in postcrossing with you? Simple: send a postcard to yourself. Yes, to yourself. As a matter of fact, I do encourage you to do this, even if you do have someone to send postcards to. Believe me, it´s pretty cool to arrive home from a vacation and later on get a postcard written by yourself talking about a special day or a funny episode, that maybe you had even already forgotten about. It´s like receiving a letter from your past self, who is still stuck on vacation…!
PS: Nowadays there are also apps/websites like MyPostcard, where you can actually fabricate a postcard with your own photos and send it! Prices start at $2,37. Though I haven´t used it so far, I feel like I will, pretty soon, for sending postcards to family and friends while on vacation. There´s something very special about sending your own vacay pictures instead of a standard one everybody else is using!