Since joining Postcrossing, an international postcard-swapping project, my mailbox has been overflowing with love. Postcards in all shapes and sizes have found me at my desk in Maryland, where my coworker Kelly brings in the daily mail.
“Bam!” she shouts each morning, holding my coveted cards out to me. We read them together and admire the photos, often chatting about the differences in the cultures between the sender and myself, one American writer.
Since last August, when I sent my first postcard to Finland, I’ve sent 111 cards to Postcrossing members in 37 countries — and received more than 100 in return. They come from Turkey, South Korea, Ireland, Ukraine . . . and dozens of other places.
And each carries just a little piece of the sender. While I love the photos, what I love best is actually reading the words scrawled on each. The handwriting completely fascinates me: curly; somber; precise; delicate. I love learning about the lives of people in far-flung places — places I’ve never seen and may never see. Members usually have a short “about me” section on their profile, and I can’t count the number of times I read about someone else’s interests and think, “Hey! Me too!”
People are readers. And writers. They’re photographers and music lovers and daughters. They’re parents and boyfriends; travelers and dreamers. They have ambitions. And so many of them tell you about their dreams — things that might be easier to share with me, a stranger, than someone they love (see final message below).
There’s a sort of magic through the shared experience — through knowing that the card in my hand, bent at the corners, once sat on the table or desk or lap of someone in a foreign nation. Someone wrote it out, forming letters meant only for me. And these cards traversed the globe to land right in my hands in America.
Though the hobby isn’t exactly “cheap,” it’s brought me so much joy. The cost of a postcard and international stamp (98 cents) doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the idea of never seeing brightly-colored notes in my mailbox again.
Some recent postcard messages:
“Hi! I’m 15 years old student from Finland. I was surprised, because my interests are exactly the same as yours: I love cooking, photographing and reading! But now I haven’t taken many photos, because it’s sooo cold outside! (about -29 degrees C). I like to take pictures of animals, nature, flowers, butterflies, etc. Take care!” — Finland
“Czeso! Hello! My name’s [name], I’m 21 and I live in Poland. I’m a student of economic. I have an exam tomorrow so I should learn but you know . . . I’m too tired of all these exams. Fortunately, exams period finish in two weeks. I’d love to visit USA (esp. NYC) — It’s my biggest dream! And my favorite book’s Dear John by N. Sparks! Take care.” – Poland
“Hello Megan! I’m also a 25-years-old person! But I work as a geography teacher! I love traveling — have been to the U.S.A. one time — Hawaii! This postcard that I want to share with you is my working school! It’s issued by my school because of student’s graduation ceremony. I hope you will like the design. Have a nice day!” – Taiwan
“Dear Megan, Hello! Isn’t this road just amazing? Every time I look at this card I feel the urge to go there — to get in my car and drive — to escape . . . today more than most days. I’m a graduate student in year three of an endless (or so it seems) PhD program at [school]. I absolutely love it. The problem, you may ask? Well, I’m driving myself crazy with a long-distance relationship to a man I love more than my studies. So I want out. I can’t take it anymore. I need to leave [city] and get myself “home” — back where I belong. Why can’t life just be . . . easy?” – USA