Not quite backpacking, more like laptop- and garment-bagging
July 23, 2012 11:01 PM   Subscribe

I think I want to pull up stakes and wander around the world for a while. Mefites, advise me, please! (snowflake details follow)

I already travel a lot, often a weekend here and there, sometimes multiple weekends in a row, and sometimes (more often recently) on longer, multi-destination trips. This puts me away from home quite a bit, to the point that sometimes home feels like a very expensive, nicely appointed storage unit. With a bed and shower inside. So I've been thinking that I want to actually change that to an actual storage unit, one that's not so expensive.

Right now I'm in a good situation. I have an excellent job that pays well, is great about remote work, gives me a very flexible schedule, is engaging and personally rewarding, and encourages travel. I have a sizable personal network with friends and acquaintances in many locations who are happy to put me up, at least for a while, and that's likely to grow even larger. And as I said, I have some travel experience. I also have friends and coworkers in similar situations (at least as far as travel goes) whom I can go to for advice.

I also don't have that much stuff. I'm living in a furnished apartment right now, with the bulk of my possessions in the form of books and clothes. When I moved here ("here" being Philadelphia), I put everything in a 10' U-Haul truck that ended up being somewhere between one-third and -half full. I'm actively working on paring down some of those possessions even further, which is what my last question was about. (If you have anything specific to say for that topic, please leave an answer there.) But I'm not planning to minimize to the point that all my possessions fit in a single bag I carry around with me, so I'm trying to figure out where I want my "home base". I'm likely to get a storage unit no matter what, but do I also want a place of my own? Do I want to share a house with others? Do I want a room/bed/shower/closet that's mine?

If my "home base" is simply a storage unit, what do I do about a permanent address? I imagine this is necessary for establishing residency, since even if I truly wanted a fully nomadic lifestyle, various government entities and financial institutions would probably like to know where I actually live. What about physical mail, like letters and packages? Is Earth Class Mail the way to go?

What about luggage? Thanks to One Bag, I have a Red Oxx Air Boss that served me well for a while. I then moved to a garment-style bag, which lets me pack more, even overpack. I've since moved to checking my bag, and it's been quite pleasant in most respects except for the additional cost and the delayed arrival on a recent trip. Both of these bags are nice enough for travel, but they're not so good for living out of. The extended, multi-destination trips can be a pain, especially if I don't have a place to hang up my clothes while I'm not transporting them. I may need to learn to pack differently, or dress differently, or do something to make the travel life easier.

Also, my travel has all been within the US so far. I'm really looking forward to international travel, but I have no personal experience there. Again, I can talk with friends and coworkers, but what can you tell me? To continue working, I'd need internet availability, and cell phone coverage (data, text, voice) would be very helpful. My phone is Android, a direct-from-Google Galaxy Nexus. My computer is a MacBook Pro.

I'm planning on doing this sooner rather than later. Actually, to drive home the I-travel-a-lot-and-need-to-get-out-of-here point, let me say I'm going to be out of town in various places from the 8th of August to the 24th of September — call it a month and a half — with only a few days here in late August. I have two trusted friends who volunteered to handle the packing and moving to storage for me, for reasonable compensation that I'm happy to give, of course.

Feel free to point out all the previous questions like this that I missed in my search. I don't mind being told to RTFP.
posted by cardioid to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Save up, sell everything, get a PO BOX, get a hiking pack - but not too big, get over thinking that you need the internet like you need oxygen, get a passport, get by with being dirty some of the time -

and get the hell out of here, you crazy kid.

Make some truly bone-headed mistakes and have an adventure, already. But whatever you do, jump into it.
posted by alex_skazat at 11:36 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I keep as much as possible on a remote server so that when my shit fails, I can pick up where I left off on a replacement or back-up-use-only device (if first device is repairable) as necessary.

That said, you want to keep theft worthy items with you at ALL times while traveling, no checking baggage with tasty electronics and such.
posted by jbenben at 11:42 PM on July 23, 2012

If my "home base" is simply a storage unit, what do I do about a permanent address? I imagine this is necessary for establishing residency, since even if I truly wanted a fully nomadic lifestyle, various government entities and financial institutions would probably like to know where I actually live. What about physical mail, like letters and packages?

I confess to using my father's long established business address for credit cards, mail, and all of the above. That's where I "live" though I've been there for two weeks in January, 3 in May this year, fwiw. Helps with signing authorities and issues where the package or letter needs to be opened or sorted out.
posted by infini at 2:42 AM on July 24, 2012

I've not quite gone that far but for the last 7 months I put 80% of my stuff in Storage and lived with my girlfriend and others in Western Europe.

Regarding Addresses: I just switched all my UK Mail to an old friends house. He would email me if anything unusual arrived. that was for Taxes, Banks, Credit Cards, anything I could think of. At other times I've had all my mail forwarded (or changed my registered address) to my Parents house and they would then bundle it up and forward it on to whereever I happened to be.

Internet: In Europe in my experience there is always a cafe somewhere in the neighbourhood with free WIFI for customers. OR get a USB 3G Internet stick thing. When you rock-up in a new country just drop in somewhere and buy a local SIM for 3G Internet and you will be ready to go.

Using a Mobile is a bit of a pain as you really do need to get a new SIM for every new country to get cheap rates etc. There are traveller ones that cover lots of countries - but from what i've seen they are quite expensive.

If you only have a few boxes of stuff can't you stick it in a friends attic or something? Save on the Storage costs.
posted by mary8nne at 3:21 AM on July 24, 2012

You want a local sim for two reasons: cheaper rates and data tethering. It's so much cheaper than in the US it's not even funny, and then you can be sure of having a connection. I pay $15 for 5GB of data in Iceland, and another $7 for voice + texting. In Spain the prices were a little higher - 1 euro per day for unlimited data - but the speed was even faster. France was similar. And no one seems to restrict tethering.
posted by Nothing at 3:56 AM on July 24, 2012

By the way, I've pretty much done what you plan for the past 6 years. It's great. For mail, I forward things to my parents. For residency, that can actually depend on your state. for example, if you lived in Virginia and you leave the country, they would still consider you a Virginia resident until you established residency in another US state - and this has tax implications! I don't know the rules in Pennsylvania, but look into it.
posted by Nothing at 4:01 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you work out a deal with someone who has storage at their house and maybe a couch you could crash on once in awhile? I'm sure there are people out there who have attics or basements with some extra space that would be happy to get your mail and a little bit of extra cash for storing the few things you own. That way, their house is also your residence, for the short bits of time you're there.
posted by xingcat at 4:45 AM on July 24, 2012

Consider WorldSIM or OneSimCard.
posted by iviken at 5:55 AM on July 24, 2012

How much time are you going to need to be spending in your current city? If it's fairly frequent, or a few long stays per year, I'd suggest renting a very, very small -- the smallest you can find -- studio apartment. That gives you an address and a place to stay that's cheaper than a hotel and avoids imposing on friends, plus you don't need a storage container.

Address: if you aren't going to rent an apartment, and if you don't have friends or family who express great excitement and pleasure at the idea of being in charge of forwarding your mail, get a mailbox at one of those private companies, not the Post Office. The advantages are a) that they accept deliveries from everyone, including UPS etc; and b) they will hold your mail and forward it to you on demand. Also, depending on your individual tax situation and where your income is from, there can be great advantages to shifting your residence to a state with no income tax.

Storage: the less you can store, the happier you will be. It's genuinely disheartening to come back a year later and be faced with a storage container full of boxes and old furniture that you've been quite happily living without, barely remember, and didn't like all that much to start with.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on July 24, 2012

Seriously consider ditching everything that you are considering putting in storage. I was a military wife. I have had things in long term storage. I will never do that again. If you can live without it for months,on end, odds are high you can live without it entirely. And for what it costs to have storage month in and month out, you could replace a lot of stuff at yard sales and thrift stores. At a minimuj, stuff left in long term storage gets dusty and filled with mites. It can also end up molded and filled with bugs, especially if it becomes years instead of just months.

If you need a place to keep a few important papers and other valuables, get a safe deposit box instead.

Since you are doing remote work, you probably can dress however you like. Which means you probably can ditch a lot of the stuff you are carrying. I went homeless by choice at the start of this year. Unfortunately, I don't have well paid remote work. But I crossed the country on foot and catching rides, sometimes stayed in hotels, mostly have slept in a tent. The longer my sons and I have done this, the more we have worked at paring things down to a minimum. Carrying a bunch of stuff is a huge burden, both physically and psychologically. You can probably live with a lot less stuff than you think you can.
posted by Michele in California at 8:02 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

As Michele in California says, you don't want to leave anything in storage for too long.
It's all too true.

My recommendation is to find a friend in a state with no state or local taxes (so NOT PA.) TX, FL, NH, NV are states with no state income tax. Set up residency there with his/her address, get a license, register to vote. (This is what my parents did when they moved abroad with the miltary.)

Perhaps rent a room or a closet from your friend to store your few possessions. Now, you have an address, a human looking after your stuff and a place to crash upon occasion.

If you think you want a home base from which to travel, again, pick a state with no state income tax and a hub airport. Dallas for example. Las Vegas for another.

Find the cheapest little apartment you can get. Put your few possessions and bed in it. Now you have a place should you want a little home, a pit-stop on your journey.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:56 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe look into getting a mobile wifi hotspot with a tethering plan, so your phone can act as a wifi hotspot? This Computerworld article has some useful information on different plans.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:19 AM on July 24, 2012

Your Google galaxy phone is already unlocked for international sim cards using the GSM networks

Pack light, everywhere you go will have laundry facilities.
posted by kanemano at 1:51 PM on July 24, 2012

Checkout the Professional Hobo by Nora Dunn (not the Saturday Night Life one) for more tips about this stuff (location independent living). I haven't up & left yet but her posts are giving me ideas!
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 5:30 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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