About 6 months ago, I heard about the Letter Writers' Alliance from the Craftypod Podcast. The Alliance was formed to revive and promote contact through all forms of letter-writing. I was very excited and joined up straight away! I got my membership card and badge in the mail, and spent some time perusing the members-only section of the website. The cool retro stationery and the mail art, wow! But when it came to sending away for an actual penpal, I hesitated. The matching process didn't seem to be very detailed - you only had to supply your age and gender. I was worried that all sorts of things could go wrong. What if I didn't get along with my penpal? What if I couldn't think of anything to put and my letters were boring, or worse, short? (When I was a kid, short letters were the pits!) And worst of all - what if I got quickly bored with it as I have with so many other hobbies and projects in the past? (I have over 30 unfinished projects of all kinds, you know!) That would be really unfair on the other person and I would feel terrible. So I put the whole thing on the backburner.
Then last weekend, I was suddenly struck with sadness that I never use my fountain pens and other cool pens anymore. This must have coincided with one of those rare moods where I feel like reaching out to people, because I was suddenly struck with an urge to find myself a penpal! I looked up the Letter Writers' Alliance again which got me all excited again, but was still concerned about the lack of detailed matching information. After a bit of judicious googling, I found a couple of penpal-matching sites that didn't look too dodgy. Even still, all my fears about being a bad penpal remained. I'm just not ready to commit to that yet.
To cut a long and rambling story short, I joined Post Crossing! It's a site that co-ordinates members to send and receive postcards. It has hundreds and thousands of members from all over the world, and has lots of satisfying stats on no. of postcards sent/received, which countries, no. of kilometres travelled, etc.
I realised that postcards are perfect for me right now because: there's a limited amount of space on them so you don't have the pressure of having to write a lot; they come with pretty pictures that you can collect so there's motivation to keep sending more; you send/receive to different people each time, so you don't have the awkwardness of being 'stuck' with someone you may not get along with.
Initially, you can apply to send up to 5 postcards. ('Apply' makes it sound hard, but you just need to click the 'Send a Postcard' button!) I decided to send only 3, because the postage was a bit more than I thought it would be. You're then given an address and card ID number. I had to rush out and buy postcards and stamps at lunch time the next day so my buddies would get their postcards ASAP!
You send the card to the person, and when they receive it, they register the ID number. For every card received, you're put on the list to be sent a postcard. Once my cards are received and registered by the three recipients, then I'll be eligible to receive 3 postcards myself! I can't wait!
In the meantime I'll probably just peruse some of the letter-writing/mail art blogs I found when I was searching. I already have waaaaay too many blogs on my reader, but I just can't help myself!