Want to travel, but can’t afford to? Write and receive postcards from people abroad instead!

Postcrossing: a website that allows people to exchange postcards

Postcrossing is a community with over 800,000 active members sprawling across 205 countries, that allows people to exchange postcards with one another. 

“It’s an online platform that allows anyone to exchange postcards from all over the world, for free,” said computer systems engineer and creator of Postcrossing, Paulo Magalhães. 

He shared that the idea stemmed from wanting to connect people who love writing postcards. 

Inspired by the famous website BookCrossing, which serves as a platform to exchange books with random people, Postcrossing strives to do the same with postcards.  

While postcard exchanges might seem like a thing of the past, it is always nice to receive one in the mail. 

Soon after the project started, it gained immense popularity. The year 2008 marked a million postcards sent. 

It connected thousands of people across the world who aspire to travel but do not necessarily have the time, finances, or ability to do so. 

Every postcrosser has a profile, where they write about themselves and the kind of postcards they would like to receive. This gives the sender cues for what they can choose to write about. 

Beyond mailing postcards, the community has grown to organize meetups for postcard exchanges. There’s a forum where people connect their lived realities and blog to report the stories of postcrossers around the world. 

In the summer of 2020, I was working in a tourist shop in the Old Port of Quebec City. There barely were any tourists, because it was only the start of the pandemic. The few people that did visit were from the province, sometimes Ontario, and did not have much interest in buying souvenirs. 

One day scavenging through the stock, I found hundreds of different postcards, representing facets of the city. Surfing the web, looking for inspiration on what people did with postcards of their own city, I fell upon Postcrossing. At first, I did not understand the full extent of its brilliance. 

I have written letters to prisoners for over ten years. It started as an activity product of boredom as a young teenager and turned into opening my mind to carceral justice and abolition.

Traveling across the world, I met like-minded people, who did not believe in the concept of borders and shared my interest in writing. We soon decided to write letters to each other and forge contact living miles away. 

I wrote postcards when traveling to people I cared about but never had thought of sending them from my own city. Postcrossing made me see a world where people are eager to know about my own town. 

“Every member I meet is someone like me — just someone wanting to share some thoughts and experiences from their little corner of the globe,” says Emma Wayne, a postcrosser from Germany.  

I encountered only a few setbacks. Canada has some of the most expensive stamps in the world, one factor being that they are taxed. With $2.71 per international stamp, there are only so many postcards that can be sent a month, without it being a costly endeavor. 

I met a community of artists, people who make their own postcards, taken from their own photos, or some who paint on cardboard, collages, and drawings. 

All age ranges exist, from older retired folks to five-year-olds who are learning to write. Once, a young girl from California filled an envelope with sand and attached a note saying that it was so I could also feel like I was at the beach. 

“Postcrossers are people of all ages and backgrounds, connected by their love for postcards. Since postcards and stamps are available nearly everywhere around the world, Postcrossing can be enjoyed by anyone,” added Magalhães. 

Most people write in English, but you can write in any language the destinee reads. It can be a language practice exercise for some. I’ve had someone write to me in Georgian. 

Determined to understand its meaning, I spent over two hours deciphering it. I would have never turned to Georgian if it had not appeared to me so randomly. 

I have stayed in contact with several people from the platform, some of whom have even welcomed me to their home while traveling. 

Postcrossing is more than a simple platform, it’s a community of nomads, travellers, people passing their time exchanging souvenirs of their own towns to the world. 

It’s free, accessible, builds community, and sometimes gives you free housing when travelling! 

Graphic by: James Fay

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