Do you remember the good old times when receiving a postcard in your mailbox was an everyday occurrence? For a huge number of people all around the globe it still is –– thanks to Postcrossing.
Sending a handwritten card is a wonderful way to connect with other people. The intention, the time it takes to sit down and connect the pen to paper and come out of it with a personal memento someone out there will be able to keep forever is a wholesome and personal experience that we desperately need in a world shaken by the isolation the pandemic has brought.
Postcards might seem like remnants from the past, but the tradition of snail mail is still going strong. Let us introduce you to one of the online spaces which keep it alive and thriving. After stumbling upon Postcrossing.com, you might just end up with a new hobby at the end of this article.
What Is Postcrossing?
Created in 2005 by Paulo Magalhães as a personal project, the website Postcrossing has been active for over 17 years. Having started initially as a hobby, this platform quickly grew international and became even more popular than anyone could have predicted.
The premise behind Magalhães’ idea was quite simple – he loved getting mail and wanted to find others who shared this interest with him. After only a couple of weeks of the website being active and a lot of word-of-mouth marketing, the initiative gained momentum. On April 11, 2008, Postcrossing reached its first million exchanged postcards, with the second one hitting less than a year later, in February of 2009.
Today, with more than 800 thousand members from 206 countries, and 66,311,964 postcards having made over 8 million laps around the world, this completely free snail mail service is getting bigger and bigger as we speak.
How to Get Started
Becoming a Postcrosser is really an easy task. All you need to do for your mailbox to turn into a box of surprises every month is simply sign up and start writing. For every card you send, you will receive at least one postcard from a member somewhere in the world.
Once you’re registered, the first step is to request an address. The website will randomly pick a member and provide you with the needed information. Once your card arrives at its destination, the Postcrosser will enter your card’s ID into the site and you’ll be eligible to receive and send another one.
The initial limit of traveling postcards is five cards at a time. However, the more active you are, the more slots will open up. For every 50 cards, you send your limit will rise, with 100 being the biggest number of cards you can have traveling at a given moment.
The Personal Touch
Aside from the heartwarming feeling, you’ll have once your mailbox starts filling up, the personal touch Postcrossing offers its users is a wonderful way to connect to their humanity and each other. There’s nothing lovelier than getting a vulnerable and honest handwritten note from someone you don’t know or get to know something more about a place or culture you haven’t been familiar with before.
Every member can personalize their own profile, sharing as much or as little information about themselves as they wish. Once you create a profile, you can even specify what kind of postcards you’d like to receive, whether it be landscapes, city views, or artistic images. You can be certain that the person at the other end of the screen will be more than happy to write you and, if possible, pick a card that will match your interests and your wishes.
The International Aspect
Even though the project initially started in Portugal, today its users reside on every continent of the globe. The countries with the biggest number of members are Russia, Taiwan, China, and The United States, with Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland being close follow-ups. Postcrossing is also very popular in Belarus, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic, with more than 20 thousand members in each country.
The system of the website allows for the same two users to exchange a set of postcards only once. This means that you will always be paired with someone you’ve never interacted with before unless you specify that you’re interested in direct swaps and would like to form a more lasting relationship with a specific user. The default setting is that you can’t exchange postcards with members from your own country, however, in case you’re open to it, you can always switch the settings and unlock this option for yourself as well.
Memorabilia, Meet-ups, and World Postcard Day
Due to the popularity of the service, the website launched its first set of themed stamps in 2011, released by the Dutch PostNL. After this, more than a dozen countries continued the trend, following suit with over 20 different variations of uniquely designed Postcrossing stamps.
In 2019, as a way to mark its 15th anniversary, Postcrossing organized a global campaign to raise even more awareness of this retroactivity. Thanks to the size of the snail mail community and many contacts with postal operators, museums, libraries, and other relevant organizations, October 1st has been finally named World Postcard Day. For the many postcard enthusiasts, the wish to connect in real life persevered, resulting in a huge number of official and unofficial Postcrossing meet-ups all around the world, often hosted during the newly official postal holiday.
So, are you ready to start your own Postcrossing journey? You certainly won’t regret it.
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