“I know you live out of a backpack and have to pretty much have all your stuff on you. But I also see that you often get new gear, gear that can only be purchased online or specialty, so it needs to be shipped from the US. Also I assume that you need to receive mail for important docs and credit cards etc. So, as a vagabond all these years, how do you receive mail and packages when you’re abroad all the time?” -Stephen T.
When I first started vagabonding, this was one of my main concerns, “How will I get new credit / debit cards when my old ones expire and how will I receive new gear and clothes shipped from the US?”
As it turns out, the most obvious answer was and still is the best way. To ship it to wherever I’m staying or will be staying – hotels, guest houses, hostels, friends’ places and whenever I get my own place (temporarily).
But the where is really not the problem, to me it was the reliability. Shipping mail from overseas as it switches hands, borders, customs and oceans presents a lot of potential for shipping errors. Especially staying in less developed parts of the world
After 6 years of world travel with around 50 or so pieces of mail being shipped out to me (mostly from the United States and Europe), only a single item was lost and a handful of delayed ones.
That’s extremely impressive, also considering that happened in Penang, Malaysia, where it’s very developed. Whereas the large chunk of my mail is sent to often obscure cities in South East Asia.
So I stopped worrying about receiving mail while traveling a long time ago. It’s just mail.
Mailing Abroad Pro Tips:
Avoid the often heavy taxes and fees of commercial packages by not using a product box and or not including a receipt or undervaluing the declared value.
Don’t bother paying (if it’s extra) for tracking if going through the local postal system, as tracking will cease after country arrival.
My preferred method is for mail to be sent to a local friend’s place, Airbnb or my own apartment. This is the most direct and second safest way. Ironically, it was this way that I lost that one package.
My most common method is to have it sent to the hotel or hostel I will be staying at. This is also very reliable, but you should contact them directly to confirm if they offer such a service, most do.
You can also have mail shipped to the local post office for you to pick it up later on. I haven’t done this myself, but I’ve heard quite a few stories about people losing their mail like this. Post offices are good at moving mail, not holding them.
The safest method is to have a 3rd party mailer (UPS, FedEx, DHL) have it shipped to their own branch abroad. While there are guarantees “regular mail” couldn’t possibly offer, it’s expensive and locations are limited to major cities, maybe.