Expat Imports began life as EIFTA (Extraordinary Information For The Americas). The first offering was an ITMB map of Panama, which impressed the owners with its accuracy, level of detail, and quality. Printed on the same kind of plastic paper as Canadian money, the maps are waterproof, and don’t easily crack on the creases after use.
EIFTA remains the parent company, but Maps of Central America quickly followed, wholesaling the finest maps and guides of Central and South America available anywhere.
People loved the products. So it wasn’t long before Mikkel Moller and Tim Rhodes realized that travelers and expats would be better served if they helped them buy retail. Then they saw the need to expand the product line to include more items. And so we phased into Expat Imports and began offering other handy items – usually things that were incredibly useful to travelers and expats, but often difficult to source.
We hope you enjoy the website, the photo galleries and especially, the products. We welcome your comments, so drop us a line, anytime. Thanks!
Our first encounter with using an ITMB map was in 2013 when we were touring Panama. It was the rainy season; the sky was dark and snapping with thunder and lightning. Every piece of paper we had was damp from the humidity as well as our brief direct contact with the storm that began raging as we ran from the restaurant. Our money was damp. Our passports were damp. Our guidebook pages stuck together and our GPS device was telling us we were in the middle of the jungle, when we were obviously in David. It was depressing.
I turned to my wife, Connie and asked her to check if our rental car was still on the road to Playa Barqueta.
Without taking a breath, she whipped out our ITMB map of Panama and shook it open. Because the paper from which it was made is “plastic” – in fact the same plastic paper Canadian money is made from – the map was crisp and dry. I mark that as the day I fell in love with the ITMB Panama map. And the more I used ITMB maps, the better I liked them.
I was impressed by the level of detail and accuracy of these maps when our Garmin said the road was 300 meters to the left of the road that we were driving on. ITMB actually confirms that the roads on their maps actually exist by using people to check each and every road. And I just plain enjoy studying them, checking out alternate back country roads that no GPS system has even thought of including. They are singularly easy to read and use, they fold easily and all are a uniform size, each map is scaled to fit the size of the plastic paper used by ITMB. I even subscribed to the ITMB monthly newsletter, written by Jack, owner of ITMB, which includes not only news of new maps, but interesting stories about Jack’s adventures as a map maker (Cartographer) and tidbits from around the world. It was another 2 years before I decided that not only should everyone have the opportunity to enjoy these maps, there was a real need. I had been replying to the monthly newsletters with comments about what I did or did not like; Jack wrote back and said that they did not have a distributor for Panama, would I be interested. I immediately said, “Yes, but could I have all of Central America?” We agreed on terms and I made the decision to begin selling them.
Growing up in remote Idaho, with back country camping, backpacking, and week-long horse-pack trips as regular activities, having a map in my hand seemed natural to me at an early age. In fact it was easy to get into trouble if you did not know where you were at all times.
In my late teens, I( took a backpacking trip to Europe and, man, was a map important there! Later, when I joined the US Coast Guard, accurate navigation and radio compass coordinates meant the lives of those in trouble out on the ocean. Still later, as a fire department rescue/medic, knowing how to read a map and orient myself quickly was vital when a person in pain was screaming into the phone for help at 2 am.
So, on my Central American adventure with only a poor quality map – I was lost. To me, a good map meant you stayed alive. I was feeling vulnerable to say the least.
It was a while before I met him, but fortunately for me, a new friend shared his treasured travel map. I could not get him to give it to me, but he told me how to find my own and I discovered one of the most respected cartographers in the world. Based in Canada, ITMB produces more than 500 maps for countries all over the world. When I was offered big time bribes from other troubled travelers who saw my map, I became convinced I needed to make them readily available to those in need. So I joined with Mikkel Moller and ExpatImports was born.
Although as wife and supporter of my husband’s business, I joined the team of EIFTA and ExpatImports.com about 1 year after the company was founded, becoming the webmaster and CFO to assist both Mikkel and Tim with the online business and accounting, freeing them up for product developing, distribution, and sales. My background was in education and retail sales, but as an educational administrator and teacher, I worked with budgets, purchasing, and inventory, much of which required computer skills and software knowledge. My part-time experience in retail sales also included inventory, ordering, and customer service. As an employee with an electronics retail company in the U.S., I was given extensive training that has been very valuable to me now since much of my work is on the computer. So it was only natural to take responsibility for the website and finances.
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