Earlier this week, a lady came in and inquired about shipping a laptop to an African country. I suggested that she also investigate the postal system in the country and customs or duty on an electronic device as some countries require an internal ministry / office to authorize the import of that item. Sadly, some counties, in all areas of the globe, make the receiver jump through hoops to receive the item, charging onerous duties, taxes and copies of visas or other documents exhausting the receiver who just gives up and abandons the item. Published rules are subject to change without notice.

Many times, we suggest that the sender just wire the money and let the receiver purchase the item locally. We also sometimes suggest that the sender visit the country and take the item as a personal possession leaving it with the host upon their departure.

The beauty of going to visit a friend in a remote country has many benefits: you spend time with someone you care about; you get to see firsthand how they live and work; you have a chance to see the local artist produce their craft and when you purchase that piece of art, you are giving money to the producer who then buys food and medicine for their family. And when you return, you have firsthand stories of your trip, your experience and the local craft. Travel is a wonderful way to share and build bridges. It deepens our understanding and compassion of the world.

While some shipments go smoothly, many times the well-intended gift gets lost or arrives with some items missing. It is beyond our control or ability to mitigate. Ship carefully and cautiously.