Picking Up Stakes And Pulling Up Roots: Mail And Email

Moving is never hassle-free, but quitting work, leaving home, and settling into an RV to travel the country presents unique challenges. Here’s how I’m dealing with regular mail and email.

PERSONAL EMAIL

I have had the same personal email address for 15 years, hosted by Comcast – the internet and cable service provider at The Atomic Abode. Cancelling Comcast at the sticks and bricks will obliterate the email address. Take my advice, whether you are planning to travel full-time or not – maintain a free email address, like Yahoo or Gmail, that is not part of a paid service, like Comcast or iCloud. When you cancel a service, you should not be at risk for cancelling your whole life.

Think of all the internet accounts that are linked to a single email. Have you ever forgotten your password for a site? It’s simple to have the password mailed to you, as long as you still have the email address tied to that account. I had a lot of work to do before cancelling Comcast.

In January I made a list of all the internet accounts I could recall which were associated with the email. I closed the accounts I no longer needed or wanted. I then created five new Gmail addresses and updated the contact information on each site; I updated over 50 accounts.

Why five new emails? Over the years I have learned that one email address for a life is not prudent. For example, sometimes after online shopping, the spam in my inbox increased. On a few occasions my email was hacked and messages were sent to my distribution list, prompting me to change my password.  I also wasn’t keen on giving my personal email address to the cross-section of humanity on community-based sharing sites, like Craig’s List. To diversify and to lessen the global impact in the event of a hiccup or catastrophe, I created: 1) a social address, for communicating with friends and family and for all social media accounts; 2) an internet shopping address; 3) a “personal business” address for things like banking and insurance; 4) an address for shopping and posting items on Craig’s List; and 5) an address for the “lawyer stuff” like LinkedIn, bar associations and professional organizations.

Updating over 50 accounts at once also gave me the opportunity to change all passwords to something more easily recalled. My passwords are all variations on a theme, but certainly not all the same, and not easily guessed. It is not wise to have one password for all accounts – don’t do it!

WORK EMAIL

It is simple to email friends, co-workers and colleagues about your new email address when you leave a job. The challenge with my work email was the Outlook calendar and contacts that were imbedded in it.

My Outlook contacts included personal friends and family, as well as the entire address book and directory of the law firm. I wanted to avoid a data dump of all Outlook contacts to my personal address book, as I would no longer utilize many of the work-related contacts. In January I began manually entering people into my Gmail address book, cross-referencing info from my phone, personal and work email, and a handwritten address book. On the day my work email was discontinued, I was confident that all my desired contacts were in the Gmail address book, and all contact information was up-to-date.

The Outlook calendar was my bible as a lawyer, and some friends have questioned why I want to keep a calendar at all since leaving the firm. Old habits die hard, and with medical appointments, contractors’ work on the house, and visits and meals and birthdays with friends and family, it is a necessity, at least for now. In January I began entering all personal appointments in both Gmail and Outlook. When Outlook was deleted, all the dates remained in Gmail.

“SNAIL MAIL”

When I decided to live in an RV, I researched mail services for full-time travelers. The services that are available depend upon the state of domicile.

Many full-timers change their domicile for income tax, sales tax, and personal property tax reasons, among others, but I decided to remain domiciled in the State of Washington.  I am already licensed as a motor vehicle driver and as an attorney in Washington, I am registered to vote in Washington, and the state has no income tax.

South Dakota, Florida and Texas are the most popular domiciles for full-time RVers, and there is a plethora of information online about the pluses and minuses of each state. RVers generally become domiciled in their chosen state by registering to vote, registering vehicles and vessels, and obtaining drivers’ licenses. In states with experience with full-timers, it is customary for the RVer to obtain a physical address from a mail receiving and forwarding agent, to use as a “residence” address.

Washington has less experience with full-time RVers, and I could not locate a mail agent who could provide an actual, physical address as part of its mail service. I asked a good friend to use his address as a permanent residence address for banking, voting, and motor vehicle registrations, and I rented a mailbox from Sip and Ship in Ballard for mail services while I am on the road. I have not yet moved out of the Atomic Abode, but I have already begun switching everything over to the permanent address or the mailing address.

I get a lot of catalogs and junk mail at the Atomic Abode. It never really bothered me until I entertained the idea of moving. I knew I would not file a change of address card with the United States Post Office, because there was plenty of junk that did not need to follow me, thankyouverymuch. However, I also did not want to saddle the new homeowners with my crap correspondence. Every day since January, upon receiving junk or a catalog, I call the number on the back and ask to be removed from the mailing list. I have done this literally hundreds of times in the last three months.

Once I am on the road, I have arranged for Sip and Ship to scan correspondence to my email. I will review the scanned envelopes and advise to open and scan/email to me; toss; shred; or hard mail to me at my current location. The cost of the box rental is $200 per year, and additional rates will apply for the other mail services at approximately $20 per month. To keep those costs at a minimum, I have switched to electronic billing and communications with every vendor, company and service provider possible. The less paper, the better for everyone.

In a future post I will discuss what I have learned about the cellular phone/internet provider issue for full-timers.  I am not ready to hit the road just yet, so I have time to do some more research.