Some of you may be wondering about the logistics of taking a sabbatical, so we thought we’d start to share some of those details. If you are interested in this type of info, let us know in the comments.
Once we decided to move to France and give up a fixed address — at least for several months — we had to figure out how to deal with the physical mail that we would continue to receive given that we weren’t eligible to work in the EU and weren’t making a permanent move. We dealt with this in two ways:
- Eliminate Physical Mail – the obvious step was to elect to receive most mail electronically (financial statements, phone bills, etc.) We couldn’t go completely electronic though. There are several institutions — which we shall pass over in silence — that stubbornly insist on delivering our statements through the good, old USPS.
- Get a Virtual Mailbox. To handle all the remaining physical mail, we signed up for a virtual mailbox service called Traveling Mailbox.
Virtual Mailbox, Physical Mail
What’s a virtual mailbox? Well, first, we had no idea this concept existed prior to doing research for this sabbatical. But, it’s a service that gives each of its subscriptions a physical address to which mail can be delivered. We are guessing it’s essentially a box number at a large processing facility. Once our mail arrives at this facility, the front of each envelope is scanned, and this scanned image is uploaded to our online account. We get an email every time a new piece of snail mail has arrived. When we log in to our account we see the image of our newly delivered mail and can request to 1) scan the contents, 2) forward the mail to another address, or 3) shred it.
Check Yourself before you Wreck Yourself
One of our biggest concerns was how we would deposit checks (we had a couple of refunds coming back to us for various things). This is surprisingly easy if you also have a bank that allows you to deposit checks by uploading a picture of the check. The process to deposit a check goes something like this:
- Request Traveling Mailbox to scan the check and upload the image.
- Download the image and use the trackpad on our computer to sign the check.
- Upload the images to your bank’s website. Voilà.
One can also ask Traveling Mailbox to send the check directly to your bank for deposit, but for that service, one needs to pay postage as well as an additional fee (which we do not want to spend).
Show me the Money
Traveling Mailbox is fairly inexpensive for its entry level plan. For $15, you can receive up to 40 envelopes and scan 35 pages per month. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but they exclude junk mail, so for us, this is plenty. But even if we were say…inundated with loving hand-written letters from the states that exceeded our quota, we would just pay a marginal fee for each additional envelope received or page scanned. BTW, our junk mail is trashed automatically by Traveling Mailbox. We never see it or have it to deal with it. We love that. Honestly, we may keep this around even after we return to the motherland.
We think the concept is pretty cool. It was one of those things where you have a need and are delighted that someone already figured out how to solve it.