A surprise in your mailbox

Send a late night vibe in the mail this World Postcard Day

A surprise in your mailbox
Photo: Becky Phan

For the past few months, I’ve been sending postcards to strangers all over the world thanks to a little site called Postcrossing. Once you sign up, you can tell Postcrossing you want to send a postcard and it’ll spit out the address of another Postcrossing member. Send them a postcard and, once it’s received and registered, your address will be sent to a different member, and once you receive and register it, their address will be sent… and so on and so forth, a virtuous cycle that will continue for as long as there is mail. The site tries to maintain a one-to-one ratio of sent to received cards, so as long as you’re sending out postcards regularly, you should receive a steady stream in return.

I’ve sent 56 postcards—almost a quarter of them to Germany alone, which, I’ve come to discover, is a country full of secret postcard freaks—and received 51. Because every postcard is registered with Postcrossing, data starts to pile up along with your mail. My favorite stat is the average travel time to various countries. So far, China is the slowest—63 days for my postcards to arrive, 54 to receive—but most postcards get to their destination in one to three weeks.

In addition to an address, you also get a little profile of the person you’re mailing. Some people use the space to write a little about themselves—the live in a big city or a small town, they’re retirees or students, they’re new to Postcrossing or they’ve sent literally thousands of postcards. Others write long lists of what kind of postcards they like—airports, multiview, Disney characters, Queen Elizabeth II, cats—and what they don’t—spiders, cartoons, snakes, nudity, sharks.

Or they’ll say something like, “If you don’t know what to write, tell me in five words what you think about Hong Kong.” Or they’ll ask for a book recommendation, or a fun fact about your hometown, or a few sentences about something that happened to you today. I try to oblige, signing off each little missive with “Happy Postcrossing!”, a habit I picked up from other postcards.

In my profile, I ask people to send a late night vibe to the fine readers of Night Water. Of the 51 postcards I’ve received, 7 have sent vibes. I thought I’d share them here with you today, since the vibes are rightfully yours.

Photo of Pagsanjan Falls, in Laguna, Philippines, on a postcard.

Origin country: Philippines
Distance traveled: 8676 miles
Time traveled: 49 days

“Checked your website and got you a water-themed card hoping it matches the ‘quench your thirst’ vibe. As a morning person though, my ideal late night vibe is probably being in my pajamas in bed with a cuddle. A little boring but hey! You asked. :)”

Photo of water fountain lit up in rainbow colors with the title "Dancing Waters."

Origin country: Canada
Distance traveled: 1095 miles
Time traveled: 9 days


Illustration of city at night, with train in foreground. Postcrossing logo and caption "Belgrade, Serbian meetup, 17.6.2023"

Origin country: Serbia
Distance traveled: 4512 miles
Time traveled: 17 days

“Hello Adam, hello folks at Night Water. :) When it comes to music, late at night I listen to something light and calming, for example ‘Leads Me On’ by the band Orthodox Celts. However, most of the time I like to read (if I have any energy left). I’m currently reading The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.”

Older style illustration of a woman smoking a cigarette, with caption in foreign language.

Origin country: Netherlands
Distance traveled: 3690 miles
Time traveled: 26 days

“My ideal late night vibe is a glass filled with good (red) wine and a superhero movie.”

Photo of three 1970s looking guys in ties.

Origin country: Canada
Distance traveled: 405 miles
Time traveled: 12 days

“Night Water folks—my late night vibe is tucking in with a book and a blanket. Boring but satisfying.”

Photo of building with caption in foreign language.

Origin country: Czech Republic
Distance traveled: 4115 miles
Time traveled: 29 miles

“My ideal late night vibe? I return from good hockey match, my team is won! My favorite team—HC RYTÍŘÍ VLAŠIM, HC VERVA LITVÍNOV.”

Photo of a large mansion or castle-like building overlooking a lake.

Origin country: United Kingdom
Distance traveled: 3479 miles
Time traveled: 15 days

“Late night vibe… Finn Anderson, choral/classical, lo-fi/one of my son’s mixes, Einaudi/80s pop—eclectic!!”

Whether it’s from a friend on vacation, a stranger sending me a late night vibe, or just someone saying hello, I’m always happy to receive a postcard. Even though we’re connected in so many other, faster ways, there’s something nice about taking the time to pick out a postcard, write on it, buy and apply physical stamps, and drop it in a mailbox. Weeks later, it arrives, mixed in with bills and junk mail, a small, physical reminder that someone was thinking of you.

October 1—this coming Sunday!—is World Postcard Day. I encourage you to take advantage of the holiday to send a greeting to a friend or loved one, even if they live just around the block.

And if you end up opening your mailbox to a stream of postcards from German strangers—Happy Postcrossing!