Receiving mail and official documents
Many of society’s institutions expect you to have a permanent home and mailing address. Even though you may feel right at home in your van, you are “homeless” in most people’s eyes without a permanent address, and everybody loves to hate the homeless! To stay legitimate in the eyes of the world, you need some kind of address.
Some reasons you may need a mailing address:
- To get, maintain, and renew your driver’s license, registration, and insurance.
- To open accounts and receive bank statements and bills.
- To receive correspondence related to your business or employment.
- To verify your identity for many public and private services.
Friends and relatives
The first option to try, if it is available to you, is to ask someone you know if they would be willing to let you use their address for important mail and other documents. Obvious possibilities include parents/relatives, friends, or other acquaintances you trust and with whom you have a close relationship. If you go this route, be sure to maintain those relationships. (You should do this anyway.) They will understandably feel weird about getting mail for someone they haven’t heard from in months.
For a monthly fee, there are private mailbox companies that will give you a mailing address. In some cases, these companies (usually aimed at serving small businesses) may even offer services like scaning your mail to make it viewable online, which can be useful when you’re on the road a thousand miles away. Although the private mailbox option will be more expensive than a PO box, the address will typically look like a physical home/business address.
Service providers to consider:
- The US Postal Service offers General Delivery service “for transients and customers not permanently located.”
- If you already have dealings with a lawyer or an accountant, they may be willing/able to act as your “registered agent” and receive mail on your behalf – for a price, of course.
- Traveling Mailbox. This is the company that will scan your mail.
- Postal Annex. Has locations in 22 US states.
- Postal Express. Serves areas in Washington and Oregon, and has begun to expand into Idaho.
Get some land
If you’re able to live frugally and save up some cash, don’t overlook the entirely valid option of buying yourself a plot of vacant land somewhere. Even if you never plan to live there, you can apply with the county to use it as your address. Owning property where you’re always free to retreat can bring some peace of mind.
Be sure to research the laws restricting how you can use your land. Unfortunately, if you buy a plot within city limits, it’s likely that local ordinances forbid you from “camping” in your vehicle on your own land. The farther you get from population centers, the more likely it is that you can use your land however you please.
More in this series:
- Which vehicles are most suitable for living
- Finding overnight parking anywhere
- Cooling off in the summer
- Warming up in the winter
- Insulating your vehicle from heat and cold
- Effective habits for safe van dwelling
- Getting a restful night of sleep
- Earning income as a van dweller
- Maintaining connectivity anywhere
- Preparing for the move
- Preparing meals on the road
- Staying clean when water is scarce
- Supplying electricity to your dwelling
- Receiving mail and official documents
- Essential maintenance for your vehicle
- Adding your personal touch