The 5,000 Club

My goal was to hit 5,000 postcards sent and 5,000 received by the end of the year. Yesterday I reached 5,000 on both!

Have you heard of Postcrossing? It’s an online project anyone can join, for sending and receiving postcards to and from places all around the world. These are physical postcards, not virtual ones, because we value that tangible piece of another place and culture and individual. I joined Postcrossing more than 10 years ago, and in that time have sent cards to or received cards from exactly 100 countries.

Here is how it works: You sign on for free as a member, and supply your mailing address, but the only people who can see it are those who receive your name to send you a postcard. You can also write a profile that talks about your home or your interests or your culture, or just what kinds of postcards you would most love to receive. Some people don’t express preferences. Others say something general, like, “I love cards that show the sights of your country.” And some have preferences that line up with their hobbies or passions, sometimes very specific ones; for example, “I would like to receive cards about Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones,” or “I own six puppies and am collecting cards with dogs on them, especially french bulldogs.” Sometimes they’re offbeat: “Send me the ugliest card in your collection,” or “I like cards that show yellow trucks.” You are always free to ignore those suggestions and send whatever you like.

Profiles might be just one line (or may say nothing at all) or they can be hundreds of words. Personally, I like the long ones that tell me a lot about a person, to give me a better idea of a card to send that would bring a smile to the recipient’s face.

When your profile is in place and you’re ready to get started, click on “Send a Postcard.” And the site gives you the profile and address of one of the nearly 800,000 Postcrossers anywhere in the world. (You can specify in your site preferences whether you want to receive recipient addresses for people in your own country, too.) You read the profile, choose a card from your stash (or go out to buy one) and then write the card. You can say whatever you want, but if you’re stumped, read the recipient’s profile to see if there are suggestions of what to say. (For example, “Tell me what book you are reading,” “Give me a movie recommendation,” or “If I were visiting your city, what sights should I plan to see?”)

If you’d like, you can scan and upload the card (picture side only, no addresses or messages) onto the site, to keep a visual record of cards you send. Then stamp and mail the card.

When the postcard arrives, the recipient registers it on the Postcrossing site, usually including a message for you, the sender. Then you receive notification that your postcard has reached its destination. If it has not been scanned and uploaded by the sender, the recipient can do it. And after your sent card is registered, your own profile is sent to another Postcrosser who clicks on “Send a Postcard.”

While Postcrossing is free to join, sending postcards is not a free hobby. Postcards usually cost money (though you can make your own if you’d like), and you’ll also have to budget for international postage for sending all those cards. But you decide when to request an address to send a card (with some limits on the number of cards you can have traveling at once). If you can’t afford to send a lot of cards, you can request addresses less frequently.

I joined Postcrossing 10 years ago, and I love both sending and receiving cards. There is something so satisfying about carefully choosing a card to please someone you’ve never met. And who doesn’t love receiving mail from all over the world? I feel that I’ve learned so much about people’s lives in countries far, far away. It’s fascinating to see the differences among other cultures, and sometimes even more fascinating to see which parts of our lives are the same worldwide. (Harry Potter, for instance, is popular pretty much everywhere.)

Here is a link to the Postcrossing site.

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