Of the many challenges that a digital nomad faces when becoming location-independent, it’s the traditionally simple tasks that can cause the biggest headaches. Receiving mail is not something that many of us consider an issue in day-to-day life. However, when your location changes on a monthly or even a weekly basis, receiving letters in the mail can not only become confusing, but incredibly frustrating. Thankfully, there are a handful of different services and solutions available that digital nomads can use to receive mail when working remotely from wherever they find themselves in the world.
Cancel Your Subscriptions, Contracts, and Mail Updates
Prevention is almost always better than cure and minimizing the amount of mail making its way to your mailbox should be the first step for any digital nomad. With less stress on the mailbox, nomads will have fewer problems to solve when receiving mail whilst working remotely. By making a list of the subscriptions, contracts, and mail updates that are received monthly, digital nomads can gain an idea of exactly what mail they should expect. Once the list is complete it’s time to work through each of the items with the aim of canceling the associated mail service.
Go Paperless Where Possible
Although some documents and services do still require physical letters to be sent in the mail, more and more businesses are switching to offer a fully paperless service. Bank statements are a great example of paperless progression. Where once a statement would arrive once per month, most traditional banks now offer the option to choose online statements. Instead of a physical paper copy, digital nomads can instead view their bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, and more online or via their dedicated service mobile apps. Granted, this doesn’t work so well for the annual Christmas card, but the majority of your mail can simply be viewed online as opposed to sent out with the postal service. This is not only great for reducing the stress on your mailbox but your impact on the environment, too.
Forward Your Mail to Family and Friends
Many digital nomads simply choose to rely on their family and friends to look after their mail when they’re away on a remote working trip. By changing the mailing address for important services, family and friends can receive, open and relay your mail via your chosen medium. This can be a quick and easy way to view all of your mail as it arrives—avoiding missing out on any important letters. There are a couple of drawbacks to this solution, namely with privacy as the main issue. Any sensitive or private information is unfortunately shared with your friends and family as they open your mail to share their contents. Reliability is another potential problem with your mail directly outsourced to your loved ones. As much as we may trust them, your mail priorities may easily slip to the back of the mind. This may prove to be a problem if there’s an unexpected bill sitting in the kitchen drawer of your parent's home for months at a time.
Get a PO Box
A PO Box is a fantastic solution for those looking to live a location-independent lifestyle with the ability to receive both mail and packages to a dedicated post box. What happens after the delivery of your mail is down to the service chosen. Letters can either be stored in the PO Box until you or a friend is ready to collect or they can be forwarded to a different, predetermined address.
Although mail can be stored until a digital nomad can return to pick up their letters, there is no way of knowing whether or not an important letter has been received. Instead, all mail is simply stored until a recipient can collect and sort their letters and packages. The size of the PO Box should also be considered before heading to the next remote working location. A nomad receiving dozens of letters per day will require a larger PO Box than one expecting 10 letters per month. It’s vital to check the small print when signing up to avoid any fees and to invest in the best PO Box service.
Due to these constraints, if you’re planning to be away for several months at a time, a PO Box may not be the best possible solution.
Try a Virtual Mailbox
One of the top methods to receive mail used by digital nomads around the world is to use a virtual mailbox. Although similar to a PO Box, the two services differ slightly in their approach with the virtual mailbox offering much more flexibility in what it can offer. The main difference between the two services is the way that a virtual mailbox operates. When mail is received, users will receive an image of the envelope via an online portal with the mailbox requesting the next step of whether it should be opened, stored, or shredded.
When selecting the “open” option, users will then receive an image of the envelope contents, again uploaded to the virtual mailbox online portal. Users are then able to once again decide whether the mail should be stored, shredded, or forwarded to an additional address. These virtual mailbox services are incredibly secure and although an assistant is required to open mail, safety and security guarantees are offered with the top services. The service can be expensive with most virtual mailboxes priced at approximately $30 USD per month.
Summary: How to Receive Mail as a Digital Nomad
There’s a different solution to suit every digital nomad, from redirecting mail to friends and family to opting for a virtual mailbox service. To minimize the amount of mail that will be received on a trip, we would always recommend canceling all contracts, subscriptions, and mail updates. Additionally, opting for a paperless mail service when you can is not only great for reducing the envelope frequency but your impact on the environment, too. Prevention may be better than cure, but some mail is simply unavoidable. For those that slip through the net, it’s important to have a mailbox solution ready to catch them!
Adam Mace is Nurall's Lead Contributing Writer and a full-time digital nomad in search of the best hikes, unique stays, and local delicacies. When he’s not exploring far-flung places he can..
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