Expatn "Mules" are an expat's best friend.

Published on February 11th, 2016


Kindly Mules – an Expat’s Best Friend

There are few thrills more dear to an expat’s heart (especially one that lives in a country with astronomical import tax on electronics) than the thought of coveting a new techno gadget:


Yup, I just this moment clicked the Amazon “Buy” button on this sweet little Sony RX M2 camera!  And while I was at it, I dropped a few accessories into my basket – a couple of extra batteries plus charger of course, along with a nifty filter adapter and polarizing filter, and an extra techno-treat – a remote control so that I can now try my hand at “star trails” pics and those glorious time-lapse videos of clouds rolling in over these majestic Andean mountains.

But the truth is (much like the dearth of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in many corners of the globe), scenes like this – of joyfully shopping on Amazon and such simply aren’t in the cards when you live in some far-flung land with serious import taxes and a postal system that’s iffy at best. Not in the cards that is – unless you happen to have a kindly “mule” to hand-carry the goodies in for you.

Oh those blessed “mules”

Yup, a “mule”. A chum (or sometimes even a near-stranger in your expat Facebook group) that’s planning on heading down here beneath the Equator, and  kindly agrees to receive your Amazon shipment and tote it down in their baggage. Shoot, now there’s even a slew of “crowdshipping” websites (Packmule, Airmule, PiggyBeeFillUpMyLuggage that have sprung up offering a win-win match-up of expats desperate for a dozen Tim Horton donuts or a Victoria’s Secret hoodie or a bag of Japanese bubble gum, who are only too happy to pay a “mule” fee to travelers coming their way.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are an expat's best friend

Oh my yes, who would like to smuggle me in a bag of these elusive honeys?

Electronics especially seem to be in great demand on all these sites, and I too, recently had a Facebook “friend” mule me in the 17″ Lenovo laptop I’m presently pecking on. Even when I lived in my native land though, I’ve never been much of a shopper. So I generally don’t cling to pining for the common brands in my native land (well o.k. save for the Reese’s), and instead try my best to find substitutes whenever possible in my new adopted home.

But hey – a good friend is coming to visit me soon, so of course sugarplums of techno toys immediately started dancing in my head.  And thus… my rare retail therapy spree in the Amazon sandbox.

Needless to say, while I’m greatly looking forward to my friend’s visit and showing him around my new home here in Ecuador – I’m fairly GIDDY with anticipation of getting my hands on that sweet new camera!

And speaking of “cameras”, this would seem a good place to plop a most fascinating quickie video that I coincidentally stumbled across mere moments after I clicked that “Buy” button today. A 5 minute history of how photography “developed”:


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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

5 Responses to Kindly Mules – an Expat’s Best Friend

  1. Have you retired your prior camera or did it die? The Sony RX100 would be my first choice for a pocket sized camera if my current one died. A friend from California arrives in 3 weeks bearing 3 photo filters and some step-up rings for me. I must remember not to call him a mule.

    This is the first I’ve heard of crowdshipping. Thanks for the tip. Neat idea, though I wouldn’t risk carrying contraband. I’m sure they’ve thought of that, so I need to read.

    • Dyanne says:

      Nope (amazingly) my beloved Panasonic ZS3 is still going strong, FLN, but it’s pretty battered from its trip around the world these past many adventures. My friend in Seattle recommended the RX 100 series and once I researched them, I was SOLD. That 1″ sensor, along with having *ALL.MANUAL* controls again verily makes me giddy!

      He’s muling in a tripod too and I can hardly wait to try some time-lapse photography here amid these glorious Andean mountains.

      And yes, I believe those crowdshipping sites have the contraband thing covered. As I understand it, generally the “mule” buys whatever the expat requests, then is reimbursed for the cost plus a mule fee. So it’s not as if the mule is picking up a stray backpack from an airport locker. 😉

      Apparently the sites also require that the payment to the mule be put in “escrow” so the mule can be assured of getting reimbursed when the goods are delivered. Sounds like a win-win to me.

      • Four Letter Nerd says:

        Also sounds like a win-win to me. Might be safer or more reliable than my friendly mule, uh, friend 🙂

  2. Burt says:

    Great camera! Most of my non-parade photos on my blog were shot with that exact model camera. As it happens, I lost mine in Salinas over New Year’s weekend… 🙁 I replaced it with a RX100 MK 4 — which, yep, was muled down for me 2 weeks ago! 🙂

    Probably too late for you now, but when on Amazon, check out the ‘used’ items too. The new M4 was $900, but I got a used unit in like-new condition for $700. Very happy with it.
    Burt kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Carnaval Orquídea ParadeMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Sorry about your M2 loss, Burt, but a good excuse to upgrade! 😉

      And yes, I always look at the used and/or refurbished when I shop for electronics, thanks.

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