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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

It's Bond. Vaga Bond by Martha Reed

Over Christmas break, I told my friends and family about some recent lifestyle changes that I’ve made. Once they got over their shock, they said I should share my new rootless retirement lifestyle experience because other writers might be interested in hearing the details of what I’ve set up and in doing something similar.

So, here we go.

Vagabond: (n) A person who wanders from place to place without a permanent home. (adj) Having no settled home.

First off, I’ve already started living this way, so some of this narrative may be catch-up and backstory. I’ll keep that brief, but if you do have specific questions, leave them in the Comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them. I promise to share the things I uncover living this way, the good with the bad, and all in their unvarnished truth. With humor, of course. I must have my humor. It keeps me sane.

What am I doing?

On December 8, 2021, I sold my Crescent Heights, St. Petersburg FL home. On December 9th, I started living in short-term (7-14 day) VRBO and Airbnb rentals on a bi-monthly basis, living my life online, and digitally.

Why am I doing this?

When I retired in July 2020 after forty years in corporate world, I had promised myself that I would write full-time, which I am doing. That said, continuing to own a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house after retiring made zero financial sense. When I considered downsizing to a smaller condo unit, I followed that logic out until not owning anything at all seemed to be the brightest idea, so I’m giving it a try. Plus, I love travelling and exploring new locations. Living a vagabond retirement life gives me the freedom to do it.

How am I doing this?

It took some organizational effort, but it wasn’t impossible. After purging my “stuff” for my recent multiple moves, I’ve stored the little that’s left (e.g., mostly books) in a climate-controlled secure storage unit. I’ve organized the storage unit so that any writerly materials that I may need like my book inventory for hand sales at festivals and conventions are located near the front of the unit, easily accessed. The storage unit offers gated 24/7 access.

Any remaining personal accounts can be checked via apps on my phone. Any documents or statements that I might need (and there are few) are e-delivered to my Gmail account. USPS snail mail is forwarded to my new UPS mailbox which offers a street address to allow for Amazon package deliveries. Even with that, when a package arrives, I get a text message about it on my iPhone.

It’s been two months, and so far, it’s working. As a modern-day writer, I’ve realized that all I really need is my laptop, my iPhone, a WIFI connection, and my creativity. Because I’m a first-born Taurus, to be double-safe I’ve added a mobile WIFI hotspot to my phone service, just in case. I was a senior project manager. I can’t turn it off.

How does this tie into my writing life?

I’m thrilled that this digital lifestyle is letting me focus on my writing including improving my social media efforts and presence. It did take some time to wrap my head around the fact that I’m now free to write whatever I like whenever I like instead of whenever I could. I used to carve out sacred writing time every morning and on weekends and fit my projects around my corporate work schedule. With retirement, I’m clear of those constraints. I have even more time now without the household maintenance chores. It’s liberating.

With great freedom comes great responsibility. I’ve heard other writers talk about putting themselves in ‘book jail’ to finish a writing project when up against a deadline. Living my vagabond life is like being in book jail 24/7 where I’m not only the prisoner; I’m the warden, too. (Go figure. It’s a left brain/right brain thing.) But because my days are free to be filled now as I see fit, I need to discipline myself to keep doing the writing and not fritter away my free time. Fortunately, I love working with words so having more time to do that is an extra bonus.

Post your questions and comments. I’ll do my best to answer them.


Jim Jackson said...

Exciting times, Martha. When I first read the title, I assumed you would be traveling to different areas every other month or so, but with the storage unit as an anchor, I'm not sure that's accurate. Enquiring minds want to know the general locations of your upcoming VBROs.

Martha Reed said...

Hi Jim - Yes, I will be travelling to different areas as much as COVID travel allows. Part of the fun of this adventure is that it gives me the freedom to do exactly that!

Right now I'm staying near St. Pete because I made a slew of author appearance commitments through the end of February. After that, the constraints are off!

So far, I've stayed in Old Northeast, EDGE District (Central Ave), Sunset Beach, and St. Pete Beach. Next up is Gulfport. I'm very excited to explore their vibrant arts community and live music scene.

dru said...

how do you get mail?
do you have a post office box?
what do you for permanent address? (IRS, Driver's license, etc.)

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

congratulations! Once in a while, I meet someone who sells everything, rents a storage unit, buys an RV, and hits the road. I like your use of short-term rentals instead.

dru said...

I see that you answered the first two questions, which I wrote before reading this post. I actually had these questions when I first heard about your lifestyle.

KM Rockwood said...

What an adventure!

I'm not sure I would be as disciplined as you about writing--I find so much in one one little corner of the world that interests me I often find myself doing something other than writing when I had planned.

Martha Reed said...

To answer the permanent address/mail question: I rent a mail box from my local UPS store because it gives me an actual street address, not a PO Box number. I use the street address for any mail that I do still get - although I don't get much anymore, and Amazon ships any packages I do order to the UPS store. The neat trick there is that UPS gave me a key fob so I have 24/7 access to my mail box whenever I need it.

Martha Reed said...

I've had to discipline myself about my writing for another reason: Florida weather. It's so nice that I want to be out riding my bike or going for a walk versus getting the words on paper. I've wondered if that's why I traditionally wrote so much during the northern winters.

Martha Reed said...

And that's not to say this is a permanent lifestyle change or a commitment like buying an RV. I've given myself permission to buy a condo if I ever find one that tickles my fancy. Meanwhile, the adventure continues!

Kait said...

What a great plan! I’m a Cancer, so I need a home base, but the thought of frequent travel has its appeal. It would be great fun for a season. Keep us up to date on your adventures, Ms. Bond. Vaga Bond!

Martha Reed said...

I do like the plan as I continue to work my way along the Gulf Coast. Best of all are the people I'm meeting along the way. Most are so friendly and helpful it's restoring my faith in humanity. I almost don't want to say that - like I'll be jinxing myself.

Molly MacRae said...

Exciting! Keep us posted.

Nancy Nau Sullivan said...

What a great idea, Martha. I'm always running down to Florida from Indiana and now thinking of making it permanent. Maybe we'll meet along the way. I have a signing at the Read It Write It book fair Feb. 26 in Boynton Beach. See you there?

Martha Reed said...

Hi Nancy - The Read It Write It Book Fair sounds fun. Florida is a great venue for authors - it seems like we're having an author event every weekend. Be sure to check out Florida Sisters in Crime chapters if you make a permanent move. Come on down!

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Fascinating concept - so freeing. I think Sue Ann Jaffarian is beginning her first year of living and traveling in Novel (her small RV). Completely different lifestyle but one that gives you a chance to determine what you want whenever you want.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, it reminded me of what Sue Ann Jaffarian is doing, but she opted for an RV. She also selling subscriptions for her online experience. Me--so not me. I love my house/spouse. They do require my time, but then, they also give me things to write about.Good luck. Living out of a suitcase is hardcore!

Martha Reed said...

I'm finding new things to write about, too. In a surprising turn of events, living like a Vaga Bond has tripped me into writing non-fiction feature articles (e.g., Journalism) for a local paper. During my travels, I'm turning up new and curious items every day. Today's topic took me to the St. Pete Museum of History to research an antique dugout cypress canoe. Didn't see that one coming.

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