The Joy of Penpals – Hannah’s Story

Letters from Hannah's penpalsThe joy of letterwriting is something I speak of often and always, to anyone who listens. However, today, I wanted to feature someone else and get their take on it. I’m very pleased to welcome Hannah from Han Plans to the blog. I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting Hannah in person, through the planner community (why yes, there is a community). Not only is she a kind and amazing lady, she’s also an avid planner, crafter and – you guessed it – letterwriter.

So without further ado, let’s hand over to Hannah and hear her story!

Like most people I had my first penpal when I was at school as some kind of English project. I vaguely remember that my penpal went to one of the schools in a village near Hitchin. I think we’d all been paired up in a sort of “exchange student” kind of way. Now, I have no idea where I’d start but I’d love to track down my penpal. One day I might need to see if any of my letters are still with all my school work in my Mum and Dad’s attic.

I’ve always loved keeping a journal (online or notebook), loved card making and scrapbooking. I will often send postcards when I’m away on holiday. As I write this I’m on a train to Birmingham – I’m wondering if I’d have time to send Jaxon a postcard while I’m away. It seems silly as I’m away less than 24 hours but I think he’d appreciate getting his own post for once.

Anyway, so back in 2007, I graduated from university, I had a temporary job while I found something a bit more permanent. Around this time I stumbled upon Swap-Bot. I signed up for small swaps and joined in. One of my longest penpals is Bob, he’s based in Kansas in the USA. He’s an artist and nearly always (no actually make that always) decorates the outside of the envelope. I think I have kept nearly all the envelopes because they are works of art in their own right.

Hannah spotting a letter from one of her penpals

Now it’s almost 12 years later and I’ve had some penpals that have lasted 2 or 3 letters and then fizzled out or other penpals that keep writing. I’ve learnt about life in Australia, USA, Denmark, Hungary and Norway amongst other places. I’ve told my penpals about life here in the UK and taken them on adventures with me too. I think I posted a couple of letters from Paris before we went to Disneyland Paris back in May 2018.

Most of my letters are in English but I’ve attempted to write the odd things in other languages depending on whom I’m writing to. I’ve wished my German friend Frohe Weihnachten and my friend in Denmark Godt Nytår. Sometimes I’m worried I’ll get it wrong and call someone’s Mum a goat or something like that. But, I hope that my penpals know that it’s me trying to make an effort rather than intentionally insulting them!

Letters from Hannah's penpalsSo in such a technological time when it’s so easy to open an email and fire off a few sentences, what is it I like about handwritten penpal letters that is so important.

Well, to me it’s the time it takes. It’s the thought that goes into the letter. You sit down with a pen and paper and you write (in your best attempt at neat handwriting) a letter that you hope will bring someone some sunshine. I love those days when I’m having a terrible day and then a penpal letter arrives. Clearly, when the person wrote it they had no idea that I was going to have a bad day and yet that moment it arrived, I needed to see it.

Then it’s the topics, do I write about what’s going on around me or do I write about something specific? Maybe I have something going on and need to talk about it. When my grandmother had a stroke back in 2008 and passed away the same day, I wrote to my penpals. I poured a lot of grief into my letters. But also when I found out I was pregnant and then when Jaxon arrived in the world I celebrate with my penpals too. I’m friends with a few of my penpals on social media so we sort of touch base between letters but there’s something about those letters charting our friendship.

Letters from Hannah's penpalsPenmanship and writing letters is a dying art, our banks and mobile networks give us discount for paperless billing, less people are sending Christmas cards because of the cost to the buy the card and then the cost of the stamps. It’s easier just to post on social media and move on with life. But in a time when we are more connected by technology than ever before, more of us are feeling lonely. Maybe writing penpal letters is the way to shrink that loneliness.

What better way to end this month’s focus then with a personal story from a friend. I’m thrilled to be able to share her experience of letterwriting and the penpals she has made through it. Hannah’s story has definitely made me want to write more letters and get some more penpals.

I really love the creativity that goes into letterwriting. Some people choose to express themselves through words, other choose to draw or decorate them. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about connecting people together and I really love the freedom it gives people.

Follow Hannah over on her blog, Han Plans. She’s also active on social media and has a lovely Instagram, full of stationery and crafts!