Remember the last time you received something meaningful in the mail? Probably not.
Despite the marvel that is the modern postal system, we typically find a giant pile of crap in our mailbox every day.
But what if I told you that you could receive (or send) a meaningful piece of mail from Timbuktu while also providing some work to some unemployed tourist guides?
Yes. Timbuktu is, in fact, a real place. It is located in northern Mali, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. You may have heard about Timbuktu. Perhaps you heard about it when al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb occupied the city in 2012.
Whether Timbuktu is a far off imaginary place to you, or merely the subject of terrorism related news stories, you should know that it is also a charming city of sandy streets, deep history and a Sahelian mix of cultures.
So, how does this work?
1. Choose one of the postcard designs at the very bottom of this page. In addition to several images of Timbuktu, you can also pick a hand drawn postcard, designed by a student in Timbuktu, with additional proceeds going to their classroom. You can also upload your own image for a completely customized postcard.
2. Write a custom message. A passive aggressive note directed towards your roommate will carry a lot more weight if it comes all the way from Timbuktu. So will a reminder to keep attacking that New Year's resolution. How about this: convince a friend you are in Timbuktu, and tell them to go to your house to water your plants. Birthday notes? Love letters? Get well soon? All possible.
3. Enter the shipping address of the person who will receive the postcard and make the purchase for $10 (shipping is free).
4. Sit back and relax. Your postcard is coming. Its journey is long. It may take a couple weeks to get to you or to whom you sent it. The actual card is born at a Bamako print shop. From there, it travels north for 24 hours and arrives in Timbuktu, where an unemployed former tourist guide will write your custom message before taking it to the Timbuktu post office (see pic below). Then it's a long trip back to Bamako, to Mali's central post office, where your postcard will begin its international journey, which could be thousands of miles.
5. Feel good about yourself. You just sent a meaningful piece of mail. Everyone loves meaningful mail. You also put some money into the Timbuktu economy and provided some work to a former tourist guide (there hasn't been tourism in Timbuktu since January 2012 due to a rebellion and jihadist occupation, a French military intervention and now, lingering insecurity).