Ever wonder how an itinerant backpacking family that is away for a year gets their letters while on safari in Tanzania? Ever thought about how various checks get deposited in our California bank while we are in the Bolivian Amazon? What about the occasional bills for which checks need to be written…do those pay themselves while we’re snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos? And how do we process all the paperwork for my son’s enrolment in high school while we are shopping in the souks of Morocco? The three-letter answer is a familiar one: Mom.
My mom swallowed hard when I told her we planned to take a year off, but -- as always -- she was ready to help in any way she could. The first thing we had to do was to set her up. We gave her our checkbooks, added her as a signatory on our checking accounts and gave her our sign-on and password codes. Once that was done we had to give her a technological makeover in order to make communication easier. We yanked out the dial-up modem cord and fired up a new cable broadband line. We got rid of her 5 year old desktop computer and installed a brand spanking new system complete with webcam to take advantage of Skype video call functionality. I brought over my Canon scanner and hooked it up to her system so she could make digital files of our snail mail.
With the technology in place and us on the road, Mom settled into her bi-monthly schedule. After scheduling a time with our tenants, she would drive over to our house to pick up our two-weeks-worth of mail. Bringing it back home, she would take a first pass through the pile, sending the mail order catalogs, flyers, discount coupons and junk mail to the shredder pile. Her eye became adept at finding the items that required immediate attention. A random sampling from her “mail report” from a few months back reveals several W-2 and 1099 tax forms, registration forms for the kids summer camps, a handwritten letter from the son of my pen pal of 30 years, a check from Hand/Eye magazine, few bank statements, a solicitation to join AARP (how do they know?) and a bill from our gardeners.
As if this weren’t enough, we crammed about 150 cubic feet of storage boxes and a Toyota minivan in her garage. Our silverware was stuffed under her bed, my wife's jewelry was tucked away in her bedroom and my large box of old photos was put in her closet. There are thousands of details to conquer when a family takes off and travels for a year. Fortunately we have the ultimate in logistical support.