Library Blog

Postcard Pen Pals: Traveling the World through Mail!

Postcards with stamps

There are few joys as simple or as satisfying as receiving mail – not bills or advertisements, of course, but something intentional and personal, like a card. Even as a child, I loved running to the mailbox every day, hoping there might be something for me. 

I still enjoy that thrill as an adult, and it’s good to know that I’m not alone! There are others like me all across the globe that enjoy sending and receiving postcards. There are lots of reasons to enjoy this hobby. 

Travel — sort of  

Perhaps the most obvious reason this hobby is fun is because it can help you explore the world without having to pack a suitcase, fork over a ton of money, or sit cramped in the middle seat of a twelve-hour red-eye flight. I’ve received postcards from many places I’ve never even heard of before. It’s a great way to learn about somewhere new to you.  Similarly, your postcard recipients will like to see where you’re from. I like to send Youngstown postcards that I’ve gotten from Mill Creek Park or the Butler Institute of American Art, but you can also get Ohio-themed postcards from the gas stations or gift shops at local rest areas if you need them. 

These are three examples of postcards I like to send. I got one from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one in the Port Clinton, OH airport, and the last one at a gas station!

Collection and Decoration 

If you are a collector of any kind, you can tell other postcard enthusiasts and most of them will be happy to send you postcards featuring your interests. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into fine art or kitschy cartoons; somewhere out there, there are dozens of postcards waiting to make their way to you. You can use the postcard you receive to decorate your space, like on a bulletin board in an office or a classroom. This is also a great hobby for philatelists, because every postcard will come with one or more stamps, which are little works of art in their own right. 

These stamps feature some of their nation’s proudest accomplishments. The Russian stamp is embossed, and the Chinese stamps are very beautiful, but my favorite is the stamp featuring Belgian (not French) fries!

Connection 

This is my favorite part of exchanging postcards. I love making personal connections, no matter how brief they are. Most people want to learn a little bit about you and where you live. Some people may even ask you to write the day’s weather forecast if you can (although most will prefer you use Celsius, since that’s more common than Fahrenheit!). It can be difficult to find something to say on a postcard – it’s a very limiting format, after all, and you don’t want to get too intimate on something that can be read by every postal carrier on its way to its destination – but it may also present some new opportunities. Try to write a biography in haiku, or write a sonnet about where you live, and send it onwards! 

These postcards are all from places very distant to Ohio – Latvia, Singapore, and South Africa.

If you’re interested in postcard exchanges, there are a few ways to get involved. Websites such as Postcrossing and Postcard Hub help facilitate one-time postcard exchanges in a safe way, but you can also find pen pals on your own using social media like Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Be safe, have fun, and happy postcard exchange!