Traveling Via Letters...
...Friends are the family you choose...Jess C. Scott
I have been wanting to devote a whole blog post on this particular topic ever since I started blogging. Being that today all those in the northern Kentucky and Cincinnati area are preparing for a short burst of Mother Nature's wrath, I am sitting all comfy cozy, in the warmth of my office and the sound of classical music going (my fave!) on my computer. My window forecast at the moment is spitting rain. Although, the overly paid and often incorrect weathermen have predicted the spit is to turn into icy freezing rain with temps dropping, all the rain will freeze and then we are to get snow. How much snow? Oh, you know...anywhere between 3 to 15 inches...Seriously? lol, I want their job! Just throw out a number or two, since the weather is so unpredictable your job is secure! Stay safe my local friends!
In 2014 I made a transition or "change" with my listing of New Year's Resolution. Like many, I would write out in my journal my resolutions for the upcoming year and then at the end of the year I would attempt to cross of at least ONE resolution I had adhered to...and laugh at the thought that I even THOUGHT to write down at least half of them let alone attempt to resolute any of them! So, that particular year I decided that instead of trying to lose weight (for the 30 something year in a row) or try to save money (again for the 30 something year in a row), I wanted to create a Encourage To Try list. And guess what...it worked so much better! Of course I gave myself only one thing to do and I felt that was a good way to start lol. 2014 was the year I wanted to start Pen Pal(ing).
And I am ever so thankful that I did. In a previous post I spoke of a pen pal I had when I was younger- Sofia Garcia Menedez. (I just love saying that name lol). I also had a classroom pen pal in 5th grade where our class wrote to another class in Fresno, California. It was pretty cool because we were given pen pals of the opposite sex and we took a class photo to send and they sent one back with names according to the way each student was sitting so we could see what our pen pal looked like. The pen pal relationship lasted all of our school year and then that was it. I have to say, I remember that I didn't really have much to say to my new guy friend in California so I'm sure he was just as bored with the whole thing as I was 😂.
I had many reasons for wanting to start a pen pal relationship. My main reason was to learn about people in other countries, specifically Europe (England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain). I wanted to learn their "ways", their traditions, their recipes/food, a little about their political views, and travel via letters. I had reached a point in my life where the kids were grown and doing their 'thing' and life for me, at the time, seemed to have slowed down just a little and I could travel via letter. God knows we can't afford to travel there and relax and learn these things for ourselves so what better way to learn it than to be taught by those living there?
But where does one begin? I have been asked this simple question, "where do you find a pen pal?" so many times and this is what I did. I did what I do for every question I find myself having. I Googled it. 😂 Life's questions are best answered by Google lol. What I found and didn't realize is that there are SEVERAL pen pal sites. There are sites if you want a national/international pen pal, a military pen pal, a prison pen pal 😳, classroom/teacher pen pals, a particular religion, and God only knows what else. I researched several different sites which took a majority of the first day. I finally narrowed my search down and decided to go with three different sites. Why three? Well, for me, I like options lol. There may be people out there that only go to one site and at least with three I have an opportunity to possibly see more people.
When you choose the site(s) you want, you then create a profile. It's similar to Facebook. You upload a pic of yourself and complete little "About you" questions. There is a section where you write about yourself. I, personally, feel it's extremely important here to list what you are looking for and what interests are the most important to you. BUT, and I say BUT pretty intensely...you do have to be careful. These sites aren't monitored like Facebook regarding protection, etc. You now are basically giving the WORLD the ability to read about you so it's extremely important to not put personal information down. My very first line in my profile is NO MEN! It literally says that: NO MEN! My second line is: "I'm a happily married mother of 3 married to my high school sweetheart". One would think that would be enough, but I will still occasionally get the message from some weirdo in a country I can't even pronounce or even knew existed. They want money or a relationship, etc. It's a simple click of the delete button and they don't bother me anymore. Once your profile is set up, you now have the ability to read other profiles. You can choose what country(s) you are interested in, male or female, age groups, and what type of pen pal you are looking for. Some people want email pen friends while some like myself, want snail mail (the hand written/typed letter). After you see someone you feel may potentially be someone you would like to get to know, you can private message them and ask them to take a look at your profile and if interested, would like to exchange mailing addresses, etc. And from there, you're all set to write your first letter.
I was completely excited to write my first letter. However, it was so incredibly strange to sit down and think about what you are going to say to a complete stranger without boring them with your life details, but at the same time maintain some sort of interest that would initiate a letter in return. Because I like to talk (yes, I firmly admit I'm a talker!) I took to typing my letters because I could get so much more said than if I hand wrote one! And as my loving husband will attest to, I LOVE decorating the envelopes! Seriously, have you ever received a card or letter from someone where the envelope was so adoringly decorated you almost didn't want to open it? Or better yet, you couldn't wait to open it and see what and how it was decorated? 😍 But, I will say, it was incredibly exciting getting a letter in the mail for the first time from a new friend. At the time I had 2 daughters still at home and right after dinner I would open the letters and read them aloud to everyone. Oh, I forgot to mention, in my first letter or even my private message, I did let the new friend know that I would be sharing the letters with my family. I didn't want anyone to be upset thinking I was breaking some confidentiality, etc. (and yes I did have one lady never write me again because I shared her letter with my family!)
That was 3 years ago. In three years time I have found and maintained the most incredible friendships ever. When I get a letter in the mail, I force myself to put it aside! It is so wonderful to go up to bed, have my mug of tea or coffee and prop myself up to read a personal note. I only have Bill to share it with now, but we both enjoy it! I have learned an extraordinarily amount of history, ways of life, political views, and the like. Our friendships have included celebrating birthdays, holidays, personal adventures, and life's milestones. We have exchanged gifts, some with the whole family! The gifts I have received are amazing and heartfelt and with such a personal touch. But the truest of all these gifts are the gifts of true friendship. I have unexpectedly learned how incredibly alike we all are. We all have the same issues in life with children, with finances, with politics, medical issues, romance...it's everywhere and it's all the same. I feel like I have known these ladies FOREVER. Pen friending has taught me to trust. Trust in a way that I'm not sure I ever had before. It has taught me to be a better friend because I am trusting them with my life's happenings both good and bad and am so honored to be given the same trust. I can't tell you how many times I (we) have laughed out loud reading the letters, or just shocked at our life happenings... And there is nothing like writing to a friend then hearing their voice on a video for the first time! Their accents!! 💕
My office is decorate with pictures of my friends, notes and gifts. The bookcase above has cute boxes full of letters, beautifully decorated and modeling their country's stamp. And yes, we have all "creatively found a way to send" food out of our respective country and sent them to each other so we can try things! 😉 FYI, our chocolate doesn't taste as creamy as theirs and our potato chips (aka crisps over there) are heavier. And for all those wondering, NO I haven't been able to meet one pen pal in person yet, but it's the number one spot on my bucket list. It will happen though, for that I'm sure, and when it does, bring the tissues! For me it's like seeing the sister you haven't seen in forever...
Have you ever wanted to travel to a certain country or maybe even State? Do you like to write or email? Are you just curious how the rest of the world lives? Find a pen pal site, create a profile, make a new friend. It has been an amazing experience for me. Here are my three sites: www.globalpenfriends.com, www.penpalworld.com, www.interpals.net
If finding a pen friend isn't your thing, then I hope you create an Encourage To Try list! This year Bill and I are doing the $5 challenge. Every time we come across a $5 bill, we are not allowed to spend it! We have to put it in a collection envelope until the end of the year! It's actually been kind of fun. I can't wait to see what we decide to buy me at the end of the year! ☺️