I have always been bitten by the Travel Bug. If I could, I’d drop everything now, get to the airport and just travel somewhere. Alas, it is not possible. At least not right now. But who says you can’t add some destinations to your Bucket List? 🙂 Traveling to New Zealand all those years ago definitely fueled the fire, and to this day, Aotearoa is still high up on my list. There are still sooooo many places I yet have to see with my very own eyes … and the fact that I have a bit of a New Zealand library including magazines, calendars etc. sitting on my shelves tells you everything. Same for the Route 66 collection. Or my most recent acquisition – an illustrated book about Uzbekistan. Ever since I have seen pictures of the buildings in especially Buchara and Samarkand, I decided that Uzbekistan, a former Soviet Republic, is a dream destination, too. Same for Oman because for some reason, even though I don’t actually enjoy hot temperatures, I am fascinated with this place. (Throw in Morocco as well. Yeah, I guess I have a bit of a thing for the Orient!) But hey, a girl can always dream, right?
Berlin has been hosting the ITB, the world’s leading travel trade show, for several years now. Tourism. Far away places. All kinds of sustainable and eco friendly traveling. Adventure travel. LGBTQ+ travel options. You name it. I had also been interested in attending the ITB for some time, but I never got to go, for which reasons ever.
This year, of all the 194 (197, if we include Kosovo, Taiwan and Palestine, three countries that are not recognized by all UN members … /nerd ) official countries out there, the ITB’s partner country is … OMAN! Well, if that alone is not a reason … so I got me a lovely little ticket for the trade show in March (which was, on top of it, much cheaper than I expected it to be), and now I cannot WAIT to be going! Yes, the place will be buzzing with people. But I am willing to put myself out there because while I cannot travel in person, yet, I at least will be able to catch a glimpse on various countries and territories. Destinations that I could be interested in as well at some point. You never know. Traveling also means inspiration.
Which brings me to the image I have chosen for this post. It is a postcard I have received all the way from ST. PIERRE AND MIQUELON, a French overseas territory just a couple of kilometers off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. How, you’re wondering? Well, let’s take a stroll down the Memory Lane …
I have always loved postcards, from a very young age on. I’d purchase tons of postcards whenever I went on vacation somewhere, either to keep them for myself as memories of a trip, or to write and send them to friends and family. Likewise, I enjoy receiving postcards from others, as this, too, gives me a way to travel the world and see places I would love to go to.
Taken that into consideration, it should come as no surprise what happened when I heard about a website called “Postcrossing” a bit over a decade ago. Since I am curious, I hopped over there and thought I’d just arrived in Heaven, y’all. You sign up there, fill out a profile (including your address, obviously), write a bit about yourself (as in: who you are, what you like, which languages you speak …) and then get started. You’ll receive a random address from a random person somewhere in the world. At first, you only have I think 5 cards that can travel simultaneously, but the more cards you send and receive, the more you can also have traveling at the same time. And if you don’t feel like participating for a while or your life is getting in your way, you can simply set your account to “inactive”.
And as soon as the system has chosen the address/es you’re going to write to, the fun starts. At least for me. I love carefully reading the respective recipient’s profile, and then diving into this huuuuuge stack of postcards I have stored in a big box to find a nice card. (That being said, some Postcrossers leave their profile empty and that makes it really hard. Others will register your cards without a word of “thanks”, which is, imo, the least they could do. After all, you’ve spent some time and thought about the “perfect” card. I mean, I don’t expect a novel in return, but at least a simple “thank you” will suffice.)
Once your first card has been registered, your address goes into the pool and will be available for a random person elsewhere in the world.
NOTE: there are obviously a LOT of Postcrossers from Germany, China, Taiwan, The Netherlands, Finland, Russia, Belarus, and the USA, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring, because each card is going to be different. Of course, you will receive a postcard every once and a while where you aren’t sure what the sender was thinking when choosing this particular card (once I received a super kitschy Christmas card … in late May which was sent in May, too. Yeah. Well.), but the majority of cards are fun.
You never know beforehand where your next postcard will be coming from. It could be from a person in your own city (I once received a postcard from someone in Marburg/Lahn, where I went to school and university – and sent a card to someone in another town close to my actual hometown), it could be from a completely different part of the world, maybe even a place you’ve never been to but would love to. Or places you’ve never heard of before (like the aforementioned St. Pierre and Miquelon). I have received postcards from Suriname, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka. I have sent postcards to Puerto Rico, Morocco, Ethiopia and the British Virgin Islands.
Once I got an address in my beloved New Zealand, and the recipient wrote that, aside from map cards, she collects those elongated coins you can press in various cities. Coincidentally, I had one of those lying about and included it with the card and a little letter. It took a bit until it arrived in its destination, but a couple of weeks later, I found an envelope from New Zealand in my mailbox – it was from that very Postcrosser who was so happy about the little gift that she sent me four unwritten postcards of NZ and a little note back. (I had told her how much I love NZ, fyi.)
Anyway. For me, this is also a kind of therapy. It helps me to calm down. I am really immersed in the whole process. Searching a card. Writing the card. Maybe adding a bit of Washi tape or stickers. It’s fun. And it’s also a wonderful way to travel the world. It’s a beautiful hobby to have. Definitely. It opens your eyes to people of different cultures and their living circumstances. It makes you want to find out more about the country or place they are from. It can even teach you a thing or two. And you never know, maybe you can even build a friendship with someone just by sending that one postcard they were looking for.
And isn’t that an amazing thing?
(DISCLAIMER: I do NOT get paid by ITB or Postcrossing for this blog post!)