Ever thought about treasure hunting? Here at International Living, we know a bunch of people who travel the globe and make a very good living as treasure-hunters. Although they’re not really Indiana Jones-type characters, they lead the kind of lives guaranteed to make the folks back home green with envy.
When it comes down to it, treasure hunting is what Import-Export is all about. Buying your treasures low, selling them high. It can be a fun way to fund your vacations...a part-time kitchen table enterprise...or a full-time business. (Go into it full-time and you can make all your travels tax-deductible.) The Import-Export business isn’t just an escape from the 9-to-5 routine—it’s a well-proven way to start a new and very rewarding life. Just imagine having the kind of dream job that pays you to explore Asia or Mexico...South America or Morocco.
An Import-Export business can provide you with a decent living—or an extremely handsome living. Some people operate their businesses from the U.S., others from overseas. Buy low, sell high. This is how Import-Export works. (In many instances, mark-ups can be even higher than 800%.) And it’s not a complicated business to get involved in. In a matter of months, you too could be tracking down treasures throughout the world...and reselling them back home for massive profits.
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See the articles below for more information on ways to earn a living in the Import-Export business.
While on our way to a serious shopping day at the infamous Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, a large, ceramic, intricately-painted fish in the window of a gallery caught my eye. I drew my two travel companions inside for a quick look. And thus we entered into one of those unexpected experiences you have in the import-export craft business.
When most people think of the fortune you can make importing, their mind goes to huge cargo ships docked in major ports…stacked sky-high with crates…and enormous cranes moving them from the ship to the dock. But, when I think of buying and selling online, I picture yoga mats, golf balls, and snorkeling gear.
When I tell people I import products from overseas and sell them back in the States for a profit, they immediately think one of two things…1. If they’re well-traveled, they think I’m going to places like Mexico and Ecuador and bringing back suitcases full of leather goods, handmade dolls, jewelry, and handicrafts.
For almost three years while teaching English abroad I also imported and exported goods between North America and Asia, mainly China and Thailand. It was the perfect supplement to my teaching income and a good way to enjoy some local travel. Here’s what I learned and how you can get started:
It’s possible to pursue your hobby and bring in some cash before and during retirement. These hobbies can help you to fund your life as a retiree overseas. If you’re dreaming of an apartment in Paris…a beach house in Ecuador…a farmhouse in Italy…and the only thing holding you back is lack of capital…then read on. Your interests can turn into a career that you love…
Ever since the nomadic Turks spilled off the Central Asian steppe and settled the lands of modern day Turkey their carpets have been more than just comfortable rugs on a tent floor.
Here’s a simple idea for making money. If you can buy something for 20 cents and sell it for $3 you can make a lot of cash.
Certainly you know that the bikinis you’ll see on the beach this summer—along with the sand buckets, shovels, beach rafts, towels and tank tops—
One look at Cotacachi, Ecuador’s famous leather street, and I knew—“I’m going to need a bigger closet…” Turns out I wasn’t far off the mark! The gorgeous, buttery leather handbags, wallets, backpacks, briefcases, and jackets were as inexpensive are they were irresistible. Heck, I almost bought a saddle…and I don’t even own a horse!
I’ll never forget the night I sat on my living room floor counting the proceeds from my very first day in business. $2,500. Not too shabby for my first attempt. It was downright exhilarating. A few weeks earlier I had made the last-minute decision to jump on a plane bound for Ecuador. Right from the moment I stepped off the plane, everything about the country appealed to me.
My teenage daughter, Sarah, and I were enjoying an afternoon at a beautiful spa near Cuenca after a full morning of shopping. Sinking into the warm mud, I couldn’t help thinking, “I’m getting paid to do this.” Perhaps I should back up. I began importing gorgeous, unique goods from Ecuador five years ago with no experience.
Ubud, on the Indonesian island of Bali, is a lovely place to spend time. Green rice paddies…mixed Balinese and Dutch colonial architecture…and a “big village” feel. Ubud has kept the artsy, Hindu feel that seems mostly missing from the modern beach fronts of Southern Bali.
Shortly after arriving in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I stepped into the home of a family of weavers. The room was swept and straw mats were spread over the meticulous dirt floor ready for the day’s work to get underway.
About five years ago I heard about a course running in Ecuador that could show me how to make money from travel. I didn’t know anything about Ecuador but was intrigued by the idea. The more I read about it, the more excited I got. The course was about import/export and it was about to show me how I could travel to exotic spots, shop for beautiful, unique artisan-made goods, and turn a profit…
When my wife and I operated a Thai restaurant near San Francisco, we decorated it by putting Thai artwork on the walls. It was beautiful, and added to the ambiance of the restaurant. Then we had an idea. We started putting a few discreet signs up that the artwork was for sale—and people started snapping it up. Our extra business became very profitable. We already traveled to Thailand…
If Ecuador isn’t on your short list of places to travel, add it. Ecuador has mountain towns…tropical coast…the Amazon basin…and it’s also home to the Galapagos Islands. But I won’t dwell on any of that right now; just suffice it to say that if you go, you’ll want to go back.
Buy low in one place, sell high in another. That’s what import-export means. But you don’t need thousands of dollars to get started—you can turn a profit from what we call “suitcase shopping.” That’s how many people make money in the business. Even if you don’t turn it into a full-time career, it’s a great way to fund your travels. Whether it’s on eBay, at a street market or to work colleagues, you can resell almost anything.
I was in Mexico’s Colonial Highlands recently, strolling through a handicrafts fair, when I saw a display of little mirror-compacts with casings made from decorated, beaten tin. I thought they’d make perfect little gifts for girlfriends—a useful item they could toss in their handbags.
Some years back, while shopping in Ecuador, my friend and I visited the sprawling market in Otavalo. It’s home to a huge collection of indigenous South American crafts. Music pulsed and the enticing aromas from outdoor grills filled the air. The plaza and surrounding streets were filled with vendors offering everything imaginable. Handbags, antique bowls, jewelry…there was something for everyone.
“What do I wear in bed?” mused Marilyn Monroe. “Why, Chanel No. 5, of course!” Perched in the hills above the Côte d’Azur in France, Grasse has been the world’s perfume capital since the 17th century. The countryside around this Provencal town is where the jasmine and roses that go into the country’s famed luxury fragrances are grown and harvested.
Carol Romano owns an online business and a store in Mexico’s San Miguel famed for its eclectic vibe and its unusual, one-of-a-kind merchandise. But the story of how she came to own her own business started a decade earlier…with a trip to Morocco.
I knew the basics…importing means bringing items from one country in to another and exporting, conversely, involves sending products from one country back to another. Mostly I was just eager for an adventure, and I was taking a leap of faith. At the time, I had no idea how profitable it can be— and how much fun it is.
Not everything is yet labeled “Made in China.” Throughout the world, artisans still produce handcrafted objects of desire that carry serious mark-ups when resold in North America and Europe. And if you like something, chances are other people will like it too.
With little more than a few hundred bucks and some determination Reece decided to give the import-export world a try. Now he has a nationwide business.
I arrived on vacation to Buenos Aires, Argentina and was seduced into staying. You see, I figured out how to hemisphere-hop for free. This way I get two summers a year plus the snowy New England Christmas I couldn’t give up. I’m not a true expat. I’m a cheater. At first I lived off savings, and then pieced together an income from freelance writing and editing.
A fun way to fund your vacations is by having an import-export business—it’s not as complicated as it might sound. It could be simply buying local products in Mexico, like handicrafts, and selling them back home when you return. Mexico makes so many handicrafts that you have plenty of options, from Mexican rugs to silver to pottery and more. Several regions of Mexico are particularly known for their handicrafts.
When Cheryl Finnegan lost her job, she considered putting up a fight. She could stay in San Francisco—maybe get back into another firm with another position in corporate marketing. Or she could do something else with her life. At the age of 39, in the middle of a divorce and with a generous severance package from her former employer, Levi Strauss, Cheryl did just that.
To evaluate our seven countries for our Business Index 2011 we consulted seasoned entrepreneurs who’ve made the move and learned the ropes, as well as worked through in-country attorneys. We asked them about visa requirements, ﬁnancing, and how easy it was to set up a bank account. They told us about local taxes, business expenses, infrastructure and the local culture for doing business, Here is what they had to say…
Reece Guth stepped off the bus at a sleepy town two miles from Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast. He was armed with two things—a vague business idea and a money belt filled with $50 notes shoved down his pants.
In Mexico, we buy pottery, baskets, and silver. In Jamaica, we went to the source and had baskets made for us. In Guatemala we bought scarves directly from the weavers. In Honduras we purchased sea glass jewelry, dolls, bark art, and baskets. With our Import-Export business, our working year ends in December and doesn’t kick into gear again until March.
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