The Long Lost Art of Snail Mail

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Collection of my received letters in an year.

What is snail mail?

With the advent of social networks and ever quicker ways to communicate with each other, it’s not to be unexpected that the more old fashioned ways of contacting our friends that live far away are getting dispelled more and more. It’s the way it is – new technologies are bound to take over our lifestyles. Still we can find some rare individuals who don’t seem to be able to give up fully the old ways of communication, with one memorable example: snail mail, which is nothing but a cute name for the classic letter writing.

Am I being serious? Yes, there are still people who write letters – I would know, as I am one of them. Even if I am a proud millennial and therefore I have never had the actual need to hand-write letters in my whole life, a little over a year ago I discovered the beautiful hobby of writing to pen pals from around the world.

But why would one do such a thing?

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My own example of handwritten letter (from February 2015).

A relaxing and interesting hobby

There is no denying that grasping in your hands a carefully hand-written letter is simply much more charming than reading an email on your smartphone. Sure, you can keep it nice and simple and just use a regular envelope and white paper, but the possibilities for decorations are… endless. There are plenty of online or actual stores that sell beautiful stationery – stickers, coloured pens, washi tapes, literally countless kinds of paper sheets and adorable envelopes – and the internet bursts with suggestions and tutorials on how to make your own stylish snail mail.

If you like paper crafting, this is definitely something you should look into. But let’s not skip on the real essence of having a pen pal: sharing life stories, learning about different cultures (if you love traveling and getting to know about new things, this is a good compromise for when you cannot simply pause life and wander about the world to your heart’s pleasure), making real and lasting friendship and enjoying the simple pleasure of writing.

There is no rule about what you can and cannot talk about, and true bonds might blossom, giving you the chance for future real life encounters. Writing with someone about seemingly small and inconsequential everyday facts might make you discover realities about other people’s lives that you have never thought of. What about those little curiosities you’ve always wondered about regarding that small country that’s all the way around the world from you? Find someone from there and just… ask them. Who is going to know any better than a native?

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Outgoing letters (August 2015).

How do I start writing letters?

There are plenty of ways for you to find pen pals. You can simply register to websites like InterPenPals or PenPalWorld, visit communities like Snail Mail Ideas or, if you want it even easier, look for possible friends on Facebook groups created appositely for this.

Advices? Don’t be shy. You can look for someone whose presentation inspires you – you’ll usually find little bios including name, age, country of origin and a few interests – and just go ahead and ask if they’re interested in being your new friend. Yes, it’s just like kindergarten all over again. I won’t lie to you: the first letter is going to be a little awkward, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from starting a conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask question, it’s actually a great way to get a good flow going. Be nice, don’t be too slow to answer letters, and you’ll have yourself a new great hobby.

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Still not fully convinced? You might want to try something easier first…

If you’re not completely sure of being interested in committing to a pen pal (or several), but are still fascinated by the world of hand-written mail, there’s something else you might want to give a chance to: PostCrossing. This website is a nice way to enter the world of snail mail, because you don’t have regular friends to swap letters with. All you have to do is register and the site will give you some other random member’s address to write a postcard to, and you’ll get one in return from someone else entirely. There are members from all over the world and you can write them whatever you like – it’s quicker and shorter to do than actual letter-writing, but still a very nice hobby. Don’t you like the idea of unexpectedly finding a beautiful postcard of some exotic scenery in your mail box from a total stranger? The website also helpfully keeps stats on your sent and received postcards, so you’ll always know how far your post has traveled and if your postcards have been received and appreciated – of course you can register the ones you get in return! It’s all very easy and perfectly explained.

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Negative notes

As with everything, there are a few bad aspects to this hobby. Of course, while pretty cheap, it’s not free – stamps cost (the further away you send your letters, the more you’ll have to pay for it), as does stationery. Sadly, it’s not unheard of that people might ask you to write them first and never reply. It’s a risk you have to take, but I can promise you there’s plenty of nice pen pals out there who are quick and reliable. It’s also true that you might just not click with someone – but that also happens in real life and no one is going to force you to keep writing to someone you share no interests with or simply find boring.

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So what are you guys waiting for? Give snail mailing a try!

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2 thoughts on “The Long Lost Art of Snail Mail

  1. Idle Emma says:

    Nicely written! I’m so glad I discovered the world of snail mail, it’s really helped fill my time since I graduated from college. It also allows me to indulge in some paper crafts – I do love making an envelope pretty!

    Like

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