Storage, or the bane of my existence as a digital nomad
I’m throwing an internal temper tantrum about having to be an adult today. This is one of those invisible costs of being a “digital nomad.” (Trust me, I hate the catchphrase more than you do, but it’s the best term I know of for my current lifestyle.)
There will be days when you’re sitting in an un-air-conditioned cafe in Lisbon, not sightseeing or even working, but calling UHaul and storage centers, sweating the dollars as well as the heat, cursing and grumbling under your breath at yourself.
Mondays are still Mondays on the road.
In June 2014, I moved out of my apartment in Brooklyn. I thought I’d move back that fall or perhaps the next spring, at the latest. So I got a nice $170/month Manhattan Mini Storage unit in lower Manhattan and filled it with my belongings, the few pieces of furniture that I owned, and gave away a few bags of clothing.
But then I just kept traveling. Months turned into a year. Oh!
And then I signed up for Remote Year. Add on another year, at least, of anticipated storage needs.
So in November 2015, I went back to NYC to move out of my storage unit, as $170/month feels like too much to pay for things you haven’t used in many months and won’t for at least another year.
Have you done the math yet? It hurts, especially when living off inconsistent freelance income.
A friend offered to let me store it in her basement, so I spent two days sorting through things, sold a few pieces of furniture, and paid movers to schlep it from Manhattan to Long Island.
All was well… for 8 months.
Then she moved in with her fiancé, and I’m thrilled for her and them because they’re a wonderful couple. But now my stuff is their annoyance as well as mine, so it’s got to go.
Back to calling storage facilities and doling out my email address for moving quotes. Every $ amount I hear is cringe inducing. C’est la vie.
Can’t you get rid of more stuff?
How much do you even have?
Can it possibly be worth this money?
Well, of course it isn’t. All in, I’ve already spent something in the vicinity of $3500 for this stuff that almost definitely worth less to replace. It could easily fit in a basement (remember, it did) but I don’t have a basement to put it in, anywhere in the country.
To keep anything I care about — my grandmother’s and mother’s antique sweaters, my beloved kitchenaid mixer and baking tools, my betting shirts won at college regattas, journals and photos from my teenage years — anything that I might want later (assuming I live somewhere again), I have to keep paying.
At each junction, I thought I was making a reasonable, cost-effective decision. I got rid of things, and yet now I’m looking at storage “solutions” again in the $130/month ballpark, for significantly less stuff than I had 8 months ago. Ironic, isn’t it?
For my 30th birthday present, my parents are helping me pay to store my stuff somewhere we haven’t seen in a warehouse on Long Island. It’s hard to keep up with my party girl lifestyle, I know.
It is, obviously, not the worst price to pay for the other freedoms this lifestyle entails. But it’s an annoyance and is what makes this “traveling the world while working” a reality and not a vacation, contrary to my instagram feed’s deceptions.
Word from the wise: if you think you might be traveling long-term, plan carefully, pare down early, and store cheaply.
Katherine is a digital nomad, working remotely while she travels the world — on the road since June 2014. She’s a member of Remote Year 2 Battuta, living around the world with 75 other digital nomads from February 2016 to January 2017.
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