When we decided to sell all our worldly possessions to do something crazy like move onto a boat to go cruising, I prepared myself as much as possible for all the things I knew would change. Smaller spaces… no problem. One pot meals… got my The Boat Galley Cookbook right here! You get the idea.
Then there were things that I had to experience first-hand in order to really understand just how much my world was changing. I learned what it really meant to conserve water after I used 45 gallons in 3 days because I was washing dishes “the old way”.
I learned just how lucky I was in my former life, when all I had to do was push a little chrome lever to make my poop disappear instantly into the abyss that was the city sewer system, never to be dealt with again. And I learned firsthand that the U.S. Post Office discriminates against homeless people… including me.
Oh… you didn’t know I was homeless? Huh. Neither did I.
You see, at the time, we had been cruising for about 6 months when we pulled into Fort Lauderdale, which would be our haven for the winter. Chris had some freelance work there and we were excited to be somewhere warm for the winter, not to mention I had never been to South Florida before. The beaches were stunning, we found a great dock with a million dollar view, and we made some awesome friends shortly after our arrival here. Life was fantastic.
One of the things that had been difficult was getting our mail. We had a Post Office box back in Nashville where we had moved from, and every few weeks, one of my dear friends would check it for us and send our mail to whatever marina we were at during those first several months.
However, I hated asking her to drive out of her way to check our mail, and I really wanted to find a better solution. Because I knew we would be in Fort Lauderdale for several months, I decided to rent a PO Box locally so that I could get mail sent there without putting anybody out.
Not So Fast
I drove down to the closest Post Office branch – it was December and there was a pretty long line of holiday gift-givers, so I went to a wall where they had an array of forms available and picked out the one to fill out to apply for a PO Box. I got out my pen and filled out the form and hummed Christmas tunes as I waited in line for my turn. (Ok, I lie. I didn’t hum Christmas tunes while standing in line… I played Candy Crush on my phone.)
After about 20 minutes, I reached the front of the line and told the very jovial, older woman behind the counter what I was there for. She smiled and said, “Alright, honey – let me see your paperwork and we’ll get you all taken care of!” I handed her my form and she said, “Oh, you forgot to fill out your address – we just need your local address.”
I explained to her that I was in town temporarily and didn’t really have a local address and could I use my Nashville PO Box in the address spot? She explained very kindly that it needed to be an actual street address, “so you can just put the address of the place you’re staying… friend’s house, hotel, whatever, as long as it’s local.”
I didn’t know the address of the place we were docked at off-hand, so I said, “Well, I’m here on my boat. I live on my boat – I don’t have an address.” To which she laughed, rather heartily, and exclaimed, “Oh honey! According to the United States Post Office, you are homeless!” And she then explained that she couldn’t rent me a PO Box without an address.
Now, if I were smart, I would have just made up a damn address and gotten my PO Box, but I’m not able to think on my feet that quickly, and I’m too honest for my own good sometimes. So don’t ever ask me if your jeans make your ass look big, because I might accidentally-on-purpose say yes.
So here we have the US Post Office – who lost a record $16 Billion in 2012 – refusing my money because to them, I was homeless. How does that make sense?
Shortly after that, we discovered a mail service called St. Brendan’s Isle, based just outside of Jacksonville, FL. They cater to cruisers, RVers and people who live a mobile lifestyle, and they even have an optional service in which they’ll scan your mail so you can view your mail online. They’ll ship your mail as often as you want, anywhere you are. The best thing about it is that you can use it as your permanent mailing address, meaning you can establish residency in Florida, which would allow you to get a driver’s license, register to vote, renew your Coast Guard documentation, and yes, even get a Post Office box.
But I won’t be doing that anytime
Don’t tempt me by writing too many more stories about living on a boat… I plan on RVing it for a while after I retire in a couple of years. Not quite a boat, but a similar idea.
I love the boats though. I just don’t have a large enough one to live on…yet.
That’s awesome! RV-ing would be fun, too. It’s a great way to experience so many places in a way that you don’t get to by just going on vacation. Good luck with your new (future) life!!
We have been long-time cruisers and travelers (both at sea, and ashore.)
Here’s our “tip” about living in a mailbox:
We opened an account/box with the UPS Store in Coconut Grove. During the annual boat shows in Miami, we scoped-out the area near Dinner Key Marina to find the closest mailbox service. We indeed learned that an actual PO Box from the US Postal Service was essentially USELESS. You can’t really USE it for anything “important” (like banking, drivers licenses, etc.) But, the UPS Store (formerly Mailboxes Etc.) can INDEED be used for anything/everything. That little UPS Box in Coconut Grove has been our “official home address” for over a decade now! It’s on our checks, on our driver’s licenses, on our tax returns, etc.
You simply call them to tell them what to do with your mail. e.g. “hold” it, until your next port-of-call, etc. Or, forward it to you automatically weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. They will also prune-out things like “junk mail” for you, too.
We use that address to secure our cell phones, checking/banking accounts, etc. They have a “real” street address (just like an apartment or condo.) We have only visited their location maybe three times in 10-12 years now? We have lived coast-to-coast.
They can also accept/forward FedEx and UPS packages and such, too.
I wouldn’t necessarily consider their services to be “cheap.” But, it is VERY established and trustworthy!
To keep the mail-forwarding prices under control, you should minimize as much snail-mail as possible. Only give the address where absolutely necessary. e.g. Tell friends and family to EMAIL you, instead of snail-mailing you. If they want to gift you money, just give them your bank account number, and let them direct-deposit for you. Or, leverage a service like PayPal. Also, make sure you opt for paperless statements with ALL of your banks, utilities, cell phones, etc. Don’t subscribe to ANY magazines, etc. Maintain as low-profile snail-mail account as possible.
Be forewarned, however, that being non-homeless has its issues, too. e.g. Sure, you can indeed establish a “residency” in Florida via your UPS Store mailbox address. But, that ALSO starts to make you eligible for things like jury duty, too! Hint: Even if you aren’t a felon, when you get your FL driver’s license and they ask if you want to register to vote, say, “No thank you, I’m a felon.” Sure, that removes your right to vote. But, it ALSO gets you off the jury duty list!
The address of the UPS Store also SOUNDS very “formal.”
3109 Grand Avenue, #1234, Coconut Grove, FL 33133 (or)
3109 Grand Avenue, #9876, Miami, FL 33133
(you can interchangeably use either Miami, or Coconut Grove as the city — we always use Coconut Grove.)
When we are land-lubbers, and settled-in to a “normal” life — we have our mail-forwarded to us every Friday. (But, if there’s no mail to send, then nothing is sent.) I’d assume that we kinda average one delivery per month?
When we are on-the-road, or on the high-seas, we typically tell them to “hold” our mail, until we call to request it (e.g. monthly, or bi-monthly.)
Again, NONE of our bills are paper anymore. So, there is seldom anything we are really “waiting” for, or in “need” of. The “rare” occasion is that we order bulk meds from overseas (e.g. antibiotics, birth control, etc.) We can buy an entire year’s worth online in bulk (for sailing over the horizon.) Whereas, our local doctors will seldom issue a prescription for more than 90 days (because they want to nickel & dime you for the copays 4X yearly, instead of 1X yearly.)
Prepper tip: Fish antibiotics at the pet shops are usually THE SAME as the human versions!!! Do your homework first, to be SURE. But, it’s a cheap, non-prescription way to stock-up on antibiotics for your first aid kits, before you venture out.
Be safe, and, “Live life like a tourist!!!”
Great tips – thanks, Jack! Our mail service at St. Brendan’s Isle is similar to your UPS service – it may even be cheaper, but whatever gets the job done!! 🙂
Thanks so much for this! I wish we had known about this before getting our PO Box. It’s the same in Canada, and I’ve looked it up, UPS mailboxes are a thing here too thank goodness. We got our PO Box over a year ago and have been hating it so much, half the time we use my parents address because we can’t receive packages or important documents, and so many places simply won’t ship to a PO Box. This is going to change my life and I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it sooner!
Oh my, sounds so similar to our ordeal at usps to get a temporary box. My husband and I after raising 2 kids decided to sell pretty much everything we owned and move to Lake Tahoe as a home base… My 10 yr plan is to be doing what you 2 are doing and living on a boat, getting my captains license and take people on healing vacations where we cruise and iteach you how to cook healthy easy meals, yiga on the beach and making your own skincare. Anyway, we decided while we had 2 months till our daughter graduated and we looked for a small place in Tahoe we would move in with my parents. Weren’t to post office and they turned me away 3 times because i didn’t have a matching physical address that was in my driver’s license. After trying to be honest that we were living at my parents till we moved to Nevada, they said just have them write a note. So funny, i could of just walked outside, wrote a note myself… Diesnt seem too secure of a system. And what is the issue anyway, why do you need a physical address. I could see a back up address.
Side note, so happy to have found your blog today. Great tips, I have many little business I’m trying out in hopes I can quit my main business of 20 years that I’m just burnt out on someday, although with technology I can now really work from anywhere. I’ve also been encouaged to start blogging about our new lifes adventures so thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Yvonne – well at least I know it wasn’t just me! I’m glad you found the blog, too! Hopefully you can get some good info out of it! 🙂