When my kids were little, we used to make sure we sent postcards to their grandparents whenever we went away somewhere. Even if we only went to the coast for a weekend, we would make a point of finding, buying, writing and sending a postcard if at all possible. It was a way of occupying the kids for a while, as well as trying to reinforce for them the concept of staying in touch with family. The favourite postcard to send was always the aerial shot of the caravan park, to which we would add a circle in red to mark the spot where we were camping.
Later, my neighbours and I would exchange postcards whenever we went on holidays. Usually we looked after their dog and yard when they were away and vice versa so it just evolved naturally that we would also send postcards. When I was leaving to go on a family trip to Tasmania a few years ago, my neighbour jokingly told me he expected a postcard every day – so I did! For the 7 days that we were away I sent a postcard each day, marked with the date and the all important day number. They arrived back in Sydney out of order and one of them (Day 5 from memory) didn’t arrive until we had been home for a couple of weeks.
Now I’ve joined postcrossing and have rediscovered sending and receiving postcards. It’s a pretty simple concept – you set up a profile, request an address and send a postcard. When you request the address you are given a postcard ID that you must write onto the card when you send it. Once your postcard ID is registered as received, your details go to the top of the list for the next person who requests an address. At least I think that’s how it works. For security/privacy reasons there are limits on the number of addresses you can request at any one time. The more postcards you send (and are registered as received) the more you can have travelling at the same time. I guess this helps sort out those who are genuinely interested in sending and receiving postcards from trolls.
I’m enjoying it – I jump into Google Earth to look up the location of my postcard recipient so I can see where my card is going. Likewise, when I receive a postcard and register it online, I get to see who sent it to me and can look up where they are from. So far I’ve sent postcards to the USA, China, Russia, Italy, The Netherlands and Germany. I’ve received them from China, Lithuania, Russia, USA and Poland. The language of postcrossing is English, but you can indicate other languages and set up direct swaps with individuals so there is some scope for doing this in different languages. You can scan and upload an image of the card when you send it, or when you receive it if the sender didn’t upload one. All the images in this post are cards I have either sent or received.
It’s not a free hobby, but as hobbies go it’s not terribly expensive either. A postcard costs anywhere from $1 to $3, depending on what you buy (and where!) and from Australia, postage is $1.60. There’s also the issue of postcard-miles and burning fossil fuels in order to deliver these postcards. Using the principle of trip combining however, I’m not so worried about that as the postcards utilise an existing set of postal services that would be travelling to and from these places regardless of whether my postcard was in the mail bag or not. Following concerns raised by some of the postcrossing community, it is an issue that postcrossing have addressed to some extent on their website with suggestions for making the hobby a bit greener.
The big problem I’m having is actually finding postcards. They are not that easy to buy anymore, I guess we upload photos and write about our experiences on social media (myself included) so postcards are now a bit of a niche activity. However, by getting out and about as I have been doing in the past few months I’ve been able to collect postcards as I visit places – I just have to remember to stock up a bit when I find myself somewhere that sells them.