where to store your paperwork while traveling (1 Viewer)

ali

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Aug 9, 2020
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BC
I have been living out of a backpack for about 8 years. I'm not sleeping rough, i just move from place to place staying in short-term accommodation, either for a few days or a few years. Basically everything i own is phone, laptop, clothes, toiletries, a few books and some tools. I also have a sleeping bag and a bike that i bought in my current town, both of which i am unsure about keeping hold of because they seem like more trouble than they're worth on the road, especially if you mostly travel by bus and stay in paid accommodation.

Anyway, the biggest and heaviest thing in my pack is my stack of paperwork. Like, birth certificate, expired passports, tax forms going back years, police checks, education records, all that stuff. I keep that close because i have had to go through immigration several times before, and each time it's a huge hassle to gather all the required paperwork. Sometimes employers or landlords need it too, especially if you are a foreigner. But carrying all this stuff around is heavy as shit, and it makes me worried to ever sleep rough or leave my pack in my room.

My question is how and where do you store all your stuff when you are traveling light? Especially paperwork. I looked into safety deposit boxes, but they are more designed for very small, valuable items like jewellery - to get one the size of a stack of paper costs a lot of money. But even a 5x5 storage unit is far too big. And what would i do if i needed to get access to that paperwork? I don't really have any family left and i don't want to rely on friends to do this for me.

I do have a couple of boxes of old shit (mostly CDs or books i think) in an old friend's basement, but i feel guilty relying on her all the time. She already had to haul my shit to a whole different town when she moved a few years back, and she is my "on paper" home address for a few things.

Are there any other options for this where you can be more independent? Bear in mind i do not really have a home town or a home country, so nowhere that i would ever really have a reason to go back to.
 
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Matt Derrick

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So I'm guessing storing it with family members isn't a possibility? That's what I do...

Otherwise, I think a lot of that can be scanned and stored in cloud storage.
 

ali

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Unfortunately it's not an option for me. I don't have any family in North America, and i rarely speak to any of my family in the first place.

The advice to scan it all is a good one, i have heard that from a few people now. I think i will definitely be investing some time and money in that while i figure out what to do with the hard copy.
 
Joined
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Not really the answer you probably looking for but when I was packing it I just didn't. State driver's license and that was it, and I just made damn sure not to let the thing expire. If you do your taxes through a preparer like h&r block they're required to keep copies on file for 7(?) years and that saved my ass a few times. In the states a driver's licence, library card and piece of mail with your name and address is enough to set up most shit.
 

IanIam

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Ellensburg, WA
My advice would be the same as most folks I suppose, scan everything that is appropriate, store hardcopies in a safety deposit box in a town you like and wouldn't mind/would be easy to return to if necessary. I personally roll up my papers and slide it into a waxed paper towel roll. If it doesn't fit into one of those I store it in the box or scan it.
 

ali

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BC
Thanks for the advice everyone. Would y'all believe i have lived on 4 different continents but never once in that time i had an electronic copy of my documents?

Today i went to the local public library and they let me sit there for an hour scanning in 50 pages of crap - tax records, birth certificate, passport, diploma, all the important stuff. I'll go back next week to scan some of the less important stuff like proof of work in case any future employers need a copy. It is going to be so awesome to travel with just a passport, driver's license and vaccination certificate knowing the rest of my shit is all safe on the cloud.

My next problem is figuring out whether i should lean on a friend to look after my originals or get a deposit box or something.

This problem of picking a "home town" even though i don't really have one... that's more of an existential problem than a practical one. I suppose this town is as good as any.

Thanks again for the help, and if anyone else is in the same boat... public library you guys. Free scanning. Best.
 

ali

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Aug 9, 2020
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BC
So today i went to the local post office and also my local bank to look at options.

The post office has PO boxes for rent that would allow me to mail my stuff to myself and leave them there while i am out of town. They are very expensive, though, if you want a box that is big enough to fit sheets of paper unfolded. Presumably if you never shared your PO box with anyone, it would never get "full" so you could just pick your stuff up whenever, although the clerk advised me against that.

The post office also has general delivery, which means you can send stuff to the post office and they will hold on to it until you come back to pick it up. That's a free service. There is a time limit, though. Apparently there is no formal deadline but each post office decides for themselves, at this one they said a couple months would be the limit they'd hold on to stuff.

I asked at the bank about safety deposit box, and they said they have plenty (it's a large bank in a small town) and it'd be no problem to fit my documents. It's also much cheaper than a PO box. However, they are dead fucking serious about nobody else getting access to this. They said the only people they allow into the safety deposit room are people who you pre-approved when you signed up for the box. And the bank staff themselves are not allowed to do it. That means if you're halfway across the country and realize you need a document to show for seasonal work or immigration, tough shit, you need to go all the way back to where you started to open your box and get the document out. This really sucks. It's not like a PO box where you could potentially send your key to someone in town and get them to open it for you.

The problem is, if i need to pre-approve someone to get into a safety deposit box, then what's the point of the safety deposit box? If i trust them enough to go to the bank for me, then i could just leave my shit at their house in the first place. On the other hand, it is very appealing to have a relatively cheap and secure storage locker that i know will still be here whenever i pass through town again.

The third thing i have looked at is these virtual address places for digital nomads. They also accept your mail, and they even do the service of scanning and sending it out to you if/when you want, but getting them to hold on to your mail for more than a month or so is very expensive. I'm also not sure how trustworthy some of these places are. Some of them seem like pretty shady operations primarily designed to allow foreign retailers to fake having a local address. I think they might be more useful if you really need an address in a particular location as your "formal" address while actually you are living/traveling somewhere else. Not sure if it'd work for driver's license and health card, though, which is the main reason to keep an address in Canada.
 

SleeplessWaif

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Jul 16, 2021
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New Mexico
So today i went to the local post office and also my local bank to look at options.

The post office has PO boxes for rent that would allow me to mail my stuff to myself and leave them there while i am out of town. They are very expensive, though, if you want a box that is big enough to fit sheets of paper unfolded. Presumably if you never shared your PO box with anyone, it would never get "full" so you could just pick your stuff up whenever, although the clerk advised me against that.

The post office also has general delivery, which means you can send stuff to the post office and they will hold on to it until you come back to pick it up. That's a free service. There is a time limit, though. Apparently there is no formal deadline but each post office decides for themselves, at this one they said a couple months would be the limit they'd hold on to stuff.

I asked at the bank about safety deposit box, and they said they have plenty (it's a large bank in a small town) and it'd be no problem to fit my documents. It's also much cheaper than a PO box. However, they are dead fucking serious about nobody else getting access to this. They said the only people they allow into the safety deposit room are people who you pre-approved when you signed up for the box. And the bank staff themselves are not allowed to do it. That means if you're halfway across the country and realize you need a document to show for seasonal work or immigration, tough shit, you need to go all the way back to where you started to open your box and get the document out. This really sucks. It's not like a PO box where you could potentially send your key to someone in town and get them to open it for you.

The problem is, if i need to pre-approve someone to get into a safety deposit box, then what's the point of the safety deposit box? If i trust them enough to go to the bank for me, then i could just leave my shit at their house in the first place. On the other hand, it is very appealing to have a relatively cheap and secure storage locker that i know will still be here whenever i pass through town again.

The third thing i have looked at is these virtual address places for digital nomads. They also accept your mail, and they even do the service of scanning and sending it out to you if/when you want, but getting them to hold on to your mail for more than a month or so is very expensive. I'm also not sure how trustworthy some of these places are. Some of them seem like pretty shady operations primarily designed to allow foreign retailers to fake having a local address. I think they might be more useful if you really need an address in a particular location as your "formal" address while actually you are living/traveling somewhere else. Not sure if it'd work for driver's license and health card, though, which is the main reason to keep an address in Canada.
PO boxes are so expensive, but the UPS equivalent, in America, is significantly cheaper. The sizes (for the cost) aren't too bad either!
 

rivervictor

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Nov 1, 2020
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www.listeningtothenoiseuntilitmakessense.com
I enjoyed reading about your issue. I have a good friend who was a van dweller in the US and used one of those services where someone has a regular house and lets people use it as their address. she needed that home base home address for some reason I can't recall. a friend or comrade you trust who's stationary seems like a good idea. but I can see it would take years probably to trust someone. maybe you could do a work trade. where someone held onto your paperwork, and you did something valuable for them also. you could bury it in a very safe box, in a very secret place, and then leave a key buried somewhere else.... so like making your own safe deposit box. hmm I kinda like that idea. good luck to your travels and plans!
 

Scat

Pilgrim
Joined
Nov 17, 2017
Messages
17
Location
Near Santa Fe, NM
Website
roaddogs.cfw.me
I take photos or scan everything I can to keep in cloud storage. Then for the tangible documents, and this is a bit unorthodox, I fold them to fit into a doubled up ziplock baggy which I hide in the spot I think is least likely to get stolen or lost or wet... that just so happens to be in my dog's backpack. She's well-behaved, not likely to jump into a stream, and would run if anyone tried to grab her. I reckon this wouldn't be a solution for most but sometimes you have to think outside the box. xD

I have a PO box from a private company that gives you a street address that looks like it could be residential. It cost a pretty penny to pay for a decent size box for a year (like $300ish for a large), but it's my pretend address too. They also do digital mail services, which I would completely trust if I had it. They wouldn't let me have a tangible box and digital services though - it was one or the other. They do mail forwarding at any time so if you were out of town and needed your documents that you mailed to yourself prior, they'd be able to send it along down the line, at which point you could utilize general delivery to receive it. I definitely recommend a private company over the actual post office.
 

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