State of the postcard


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. πŸ™‚ 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

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28 thoughts on “State of the postcard

  1. What a wonderful idea. I have never heard of this before. I may have to join this site. Just to be able to touch people’s lives all over the world. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. ‘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 β€œhome” β€” back where I belong’ sounds like the start of a book I want to read! Dear postcard writer, if you are reading this, please continue your story!

  3. I know one or two other people who do this and it sounds really nice. I like it how with blogging I get to “meet” so many people from all over the world, but a postcard is just a little bit more personal.

  4. My Postcrossing mailbox is currently sad. I have not received postcards for the ones I have sent!! I send them out in batches, and last time I did it was before Christmas, so time seemed to speed by. When I come back to my apt in NY from visiting TN, I had all these postcards so it seemed much quicker!

  5. How wonderful that this project exists. It’s really something the way people will reach out and share pieces of their lives with others. It’s the same way with blogging and I think both make the world a brighter place. Thanks for sharing this today, Megan.

  6. Thank you for sharing this idea. I love it and I love the postcards you’ve received. I too want to know more about “Washington” and her long distance relationship. Do you ever write back to people who have sent you postcards?

    • “Washington” is fascinating, isn’t she?!

      I don’t write back to any of my postcard senders, sadly; Postcrossing has the system established so that your personal information remains private except to the one person actually sending a card to you. So I can’t see the address of the person that sent me the card — unless they wrote it on the card itself (and some do)!

      Some Postcrossing members are interested in “direct swaps,” whereby you contact one another and exchange postcards between the two of you. Otherwise, it’s all random — I send one to you; you send one to someone else. But if you wanted to find more of a penpal on Postcrossing, you could! πŸ™‚

  7. I feel so jealous after seeing the picture. I just love looking at written things so much, especially when it’s in other people’s hand writings.

  8. I participate in Postcrossings too & agree that it is amazing to go to your mailbox and get these little gems.
    Love & Hugs,
    Pam

  9. So how many different countries do you have cards from ? Here’s a project – try to get a postcard with a suitable photo of the country from every country (there are around 200) across our wonderful planet. PostCrossing must have given you a great start…

  10. Wow, I’m amazed at your post card stats! I’ve totally fallen off the Postcrossing horse since I started in the Fall, but need to get back on it. I loved receiving notes with little snippets of what life is like all over the world.

  11. I used to belong to a crafting/writing group that did a postcard swap. Receiving those postcards used to thrill me like no other mail. I’m definitely interested in joining PostCrossing! Thanks for the incentive.

  12. Pingback: Crossings. « Pagesofjulia's Blog

  13. After your recommendation, I joined Postcrossing about a month and a half ago…I love it! Having only received 7 postcards, I am definitely a newbie. It’s exciting to think about what might be headed my way πŸ™‚

  14. wow, this is fantastic!
    I absolutely love receiving post in my ACTUAL mailbox and love to send out postcards during my travels and I was already trying to fill my wall with postcards from all over the world. I’ve just signed up, perhaps I’ll fall onto your address one day! πŸ™‚

  15. I think this is such a great project! I have never heard of it before. I think you wrote it perfectly just how strong the written word can be… it means so much more getting a hand-written letter in the mail… versus a typed email. Keep it up!!
    Anna xo

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