As many of us sit around this week, literally waiting for snow to melt, stir craziness is bound to set in. You’ve watched all the Netflix your eyes can handle, you’ve Insta-stalked everyone on your regular round-up. What next, technology gods? Here’s one idea I’m pretty into lately: Wayfare. The recently launched app lets users talk with random people from around the world for free. It’s like having virtual pen pals, without having to worry about finding paper or buying stamps.
All you have to do is sign in and hit embark. You’ll be paired with a stranger from either a random country or one of your own choosing and, once you’re matched, you have the chance to talk to your “guide” for seven days, sharing pictures and “moments” along the way.
Better yet, it keeps your conversations on record, so if you realize halfway through your partner’s ten paragraph response that you have no idea what they’re talking about, you can refer back to your message and decode whatever inside joke they’re referencing. Then, when your time is up, you can “Leave the Country” and move on to somewhere new. (An archive keeps all of your previous conversations active, though, in case you want to keep in touch with the person you were talking with before.)
If you’re thinking, “But like, what about the language barrier?”—Wayfare already has that covered. If you’re talking with someone in China, for example, you can click on their message and translate it into a language of your choice. You may not get the most accurate translation (if you used their translate function for your Spanish class, you’d probably get a C), but it’s good enough to maintain a conversation.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses. The app is so new, the number of participants is pretty limited, so it’s not uncommon to get an unresponsive guide or one that keeps sending you winky face emojis. And while the app tries to recreate certain aspects of the original pen pal system (you have to wait 20 minutes after your first message to send another message to your guide, simulating that whole “wait 3 weeks for a response” thing, but on a smaller scale), it still loses some of the charm of physically writing letters and seeing your partner’s handwriting etched into the paper. But that seems like a small price to pay to talk to someone from another country and make friends around the world.
Someday, when I have the patience to actually maintain a pen pal relationship (I tried it once again a few years ago and failed miserably), I will gladly pick up my pen and write out eighteen pages, front and back, about my life and my interests, but for now, I’ll stick with my digital writing buddies.
Featured image via InventorSpot.com.