Oh, to be a vagabond. To drop everything at a moment’s notice, set sails to catch the prevailing whims, off into adventure. A traveller’s life, that’s the life for me.
But travel costs money, and if you are not independently wealthy, how do you justify such footloose and fancy freeness? The obvious answer: make money as you travel.
My wife and I have a small antique/collectibles business, doing mainly shows, and listings on eBay when conditions are right (like free listing fees). I handle the eBay side, my wife almost everything else.
We’ve always known we could buy on the road, relying on my wife’s eagle eyes and consummate knowledge of all things antique and collectible. But could we sell? Could we keep the money rolling in as we rolled along?
Having recently returned from a 5,000-mile (8,047-kilometre) road trip, from Colorado to Key West and back, eBaying all the way, we might have found the answer.
Here’s what I did:
First, I convinced my wife that we could remove both middle-row seats from our Honda Odyssey, and replace them with four tubs of small, well packed collectibles. She raised a discerning eyebrow, but went along with me on this - a real trooper.
I wanted to take advantage of eBay’s 100 free listings per month deal. Also, I didn’t want to interrupt our sales flow as the holiday season approached. So, the tubs contained all 100 items I had either just listed or planned to list, as we travelled.
Among the items packed was a Nippon vase that had been bid on in an auction set to close on our third day out, so I knew I would have at least one sale as we travelled. The question: How would I handle this transaction, along with the many others I hoped would materialize? It turned out to be much easier than I had anticipated, although there were some hitches.
Let’s face it, we are a connected society. 3Gs, 4Gs, Gee Whiz – it’s all there at our thumb tips. In fact, we humans have already given in to the next level of evolution: compose-able thumbs. I still prefer to do my emailing with my laptop, however, and I use my phone for talking, not texting. I realize I will eventually have to up my game. But even with my Neanderthal approach, there was no problem keeping in touch.
Save one stop at a casino hotel, we had free Wi-Fi available at every night’s lodging throughout the trip. And anywhere you can find a public library you have most likely found free Wi-Fi, as we did in the Florida Keys. It was easy to keep track of the auctions and communicate with potential buyers who had questions, and the winners of the auctions to let them know the details of their shipments. Stopping at one McDonald’s for breakfast in Missouri, we found a pleasantly appointed separate Wi-Fi café set up for web surfers, complete with flat screen HD TVs. Do you think Ronald tweets?
Packaging items to be shipped was a bit of a challenge. I had brought along some bubble wrap and newsprint that came in handy. To save money, I typically take a box cutter to large boxes, turn them inside out, and whittle them down to size to match the requirements of the item to be shipped. With the proper amount of packing tape, also brought with me, they do just fine. However, finding enough working space in the typical motel room can be a challenge.
At one stop I will leave nameless, my box cutter cut through the box and newspaper underneath, almost scoring the desk below. There were clearly blade marks on the desk, and I blanched at the prospect of reimbursing the motel for my damage. It turned out, though, that I could fix the problem by rubbing a little baking soda paste on the scratches. After that, I was more careful with my box making.
I must also confess to one almost grand mistake, from which I was saved by, you guessed it, my wife. At one point, I plucked the wrong child’s dish from the tub for mailing. I was about to stuff it in a box when my wife spotted it as the wrong one, not the Haviland Limoges dish that was sold. Whew!
Mailing the packages was no problem at all. Post offices and Fed Ex providers were easy to find. And my little Garmin Nuvi made it all the easier.
We were able to list all 100 items we had brought with us as well as a few treasures my wife had found at thrift stores along the way. A white motel towel works fine as a visual backdrop for photos, making it easy to process the new items. All in all, we were able to handle 11 separate sales totalling $868. It didn’t cover all of our expenses, but wasn’t a bad take for doing it on the fly.
I mentioned my propensity for box surgery. Finding those boxes led to one memorable encounter, in Natchitoches, LA.
I was in need of a sturdy box to mail a fragile sugar and creamer. Where better to find a sturdy box than a hardware store, which accepts shipments of nuts and bolts all the time? With this in mind, I went into the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store, one of the oldest hardware stores in Louisiana, and asked a clerk if he had an empty box to spare.
“Does it need a lee-add?” he responded.
A lee-add? I puzzled to myself in uncomfortable silence. What on God’s green Earth, or at least in this Louisiana Parish, is a lee-add? What language was he speaking?
Thankfully, he then demonstrated an imaginary box formed by one hand and a closing lid (lee-add) with the other.
“Oh, yes, that would be great.”
I thanked the kind man profusely when he handed me the box and lid that was just the size I needed.
Travel is fun; you can never predict the small gems of interactions that make it so. And now that I know I can make money as I travel, I will be doing more of it. Will I ever become the out-and-out sashayer of my dreams? You can be assured I’ll look at my wife’s eyebrows first.
JUNE 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND