Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Postcrossing: World Peace Through Postcards

When I was a child, I was a major geek, except back then, "geek" meant something very different than it does now. It was not a compliment. What it meant was that I spent a lot of time alone, pouring into my various hobbies. Two of my favourites were collecting stamps and postcards. Indeed, it didn't get geekier than that.

As various other interests took over, my binders full of stamps and postcards were relegated to a shelf in my closet. I still enjoyed coming across an interesting piece of ephemera from time to time, but I stopped actively collecting.

recently, I was inspired to delve into stamps and postcards again. I discovered a website called Postcrossing You sign up and when you decide you want to send a card to someone, the system randomly assigns you an address. You write a code on the postcard, and when the other person receives it, they register the card at the site. The number of cards you are allowed to have on the go at once depends on how many of yours have been received. Once your card(s) are received, then your address will come up for some random person. Postcrossing is free to use, with the only financial investment being the purchasing of postcards and postage.

Thus far, I have sent postcards to Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Australia, China, Ukraine, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Postcrossing also lists the travel distances of the cards. This week, Postcrossing celebrated its ten millionth postcard being registered. That is a lot of kilometres of snail mail.

Yesterday, I was excited to receive my first postcard. It came from Clearwater Beach, Florida. Not as faraway or exotic a locale as some of the places I have sent them to, but it was great to actually hold a card in my hand that someone took the time and cost to send. As much as I love using email and social media, there are some sensory and tactile experiences technology cannot replace.

As for world peace - well, maybe I was just exaggerating slightly. But seriously, the opportunity to make connections around the world in far-off lands can lead to new understandings and a global world view.

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