Shipping your car to America

On Tuesday, we were overjoyed to finally pick up the Defender from Newark Port! It had been a long wait, so we were relieved when we finally saw it in the flesh and it was all in one piece!


2015 is the last year that Land Rover will be producing Defenders, and so this trip is a tribute to the car that has probably done the most exploring of any motor vehicle. This post may not interest a lot of our readers, but for anyone who is thinking about importing a Land Rover (or any other car) into the USA, we wanted to document the process.

Although it is not an extremely complicated process to get the car into the USA, it did take us a great deal of research and a lot of waiting for answers. So, for anyone who is interested, here are the steps we went through and what we learned along the way…

1) Import Category: There are several categories of import for cars the USA. The one we used, which would be suitable for most travellers like us, is temporary import as a non-resident. This is “Code O” on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) import form. This allows you import a car for up to one year, as a non resident if the car is for personal use. You are not allowed to leave the country until the car is re-exported. (see note 1 below)

2) EPA Exemption: Since our car is non-conforming to USA safety standards (steering wheel is on the wrong side!) we had to also apply for exemption from the EPA’s standards. I believe that all cars have to apply for this even if you think the car would fulfil all requirements. To do this, you send a request letter with car and driver details and trip plans to the EPA, and they hopefully approve and send you a letter confirming! You have to send them the proof of re-export when the vehicle leaves the country, otherwise you are issued a huge fine!

3) Import Bond: This was a BIG question that was on our mind for a long time and we didn’t get a clear answer to until very late in our planning! in some cases, US Customs will charge an import bond (deposit) when the car arrives, as a guarantee that you will not sell/leave the vehicle in the USA. This is normal charged at 1.5x the value of the car! So in our case if would have been much more than we could afford… In doing all of our research, both on USA government websites and hearing from people who had done similar trips, we could not get a definitive answer from anyone about whether we would have to post a bond or not… and obviously this was a huge consideration as to whether we would be able to go ahead with the import or not. Finally, through our shipping company, we were put in touch with an import broker, who, after asking us the year, make and value of the vehicle, told us that we would not have to pay a bond. I really have no idea whether other cars would have to post a bond. The official guide on “temporary imports as a non residents” says that no bond is required, but it is down to the discretion of the customs officer… so it best to get a definitive answer from an import specialist.

4) Shipping: We got several quotes from shipping companies to ship from Southampton to New York. We decided to go with Kingstown Shipping, since they gave us the most information with contacts for insurance and import brokers. They were also the most reasonably priced with great service! The other companies just told us “not to worry”, one gave us wrong information, and just seemed interested in getting our business no matter what. We used “Roll on Roll off”, since it is also cheaper. But you can also book a whole container if you have other items to ship. (With RoRo you are not allowed to pack the car with any personal items) We had to arrange a haulier to pick up the car from the UK since we were still in Hong Kong, and Kingstown Shipping were happy to arrange that for us. We scheduled a shipping for the 11th April, and the car was delivered to the port on Friday 10th with no hassle. The shipping company issued a Bill of Lading once the car was on the ship and the vessel had sailed. Their fees covered the haulier, the port fees/terminal handling and the shipping.

5) Import Broker: US Customs requires two forms to be filled out and submitted upon arrival. Thankfully we were put in touch with Flora and Fauna import brokers who made the process extremely simple for us!  “There is no legal requirement for you to hire a Customs broker to clear your goods. However, many importers opt to do so for the convenience.”  [Procedures for Importing Vehicles and Engines into the US, EPA 2010] I don’t know how you would go about submitting this by yourself, so would definitely recommend using a broker house! We had to submit a power of attorney that allowed Flora and Fauna to act on our behalf. The two forms they submitted for us were the CBP and the EPA 3520-1. Each of these forms needed information from the shipping company, from us, and from the broker. You need to elect an address where the car will be “Shipped” to. Although we had no permanent address in the USA, we were able to use a friend’s home as the car address, and this also served as the address for the insurance (see below). The Import Broker contacted us once the car had arrived, and once it had cleared customs. Their fees covered the Customs charges (Department of Transportation and EPA), filing fees, terminal handling and their own legal fees. They would have also assisted in bond posting if we had needed it.

6) Marine insurance: We got insurance for the period that the car was on the ship with Towergate Insurance. This was very straightforward; they just require the value of the vehicle and the cost of the shipping, and can process very quickly.

7) Delays: The car was supposed to arrive into New York on the 21st April. So we planned to arrive on the 18th, so that we would have a couple of days to get over jet lag and sort out insurance etc. But we got an email on the 20th that the vehicle wasn’t going to arrive until the 26th, and that it could take some time to clear customs! Thankfully, it only took two days to clear customs, but it still put us a week behind schedule. It could have been much longer, and so be prepared to have to wait.

8) Insurance: From the research I had done, it didn’t sound like getting insurance was going to be either difficult or overly expensive. But it turned out it was both! The difficulty is that the car is never registered in any state, and most insurance companies need the car to be registered in the state that they insure you from. But since the car retains its international (in our case UK) registration, a lot of companies had no idea what to do with us! And we both have international drivers licenses, so companies in the US cannot see driving history, which puts premiums up. Finally, we spoke to an agent at AAA who found us insurance through Progressive. I had already spoken to a Progressive agent who said they couldn’t insure us, but the AAA agent found something for us! You can get either just liability (which is the legal minimum) or full coverage. We opted for full coverage, otherwise you’re not covered for any damage to your car. This ended up costing quite a bit more than we had budgeted, but we have peace of mind which is worth so much!

9) Pickup: Picking up the car was a relatively straightforward procedure. The import broker forwarded the Delivery Order once the car had cleared customs, and gave us the address of the port. Thankfully a friend drove us to the port, otherwise it would have been a long walk from the closest bus stop! The port is huge, so we had to find the right office and dock. Once inside, we handed the Delivery Order to the officer, who took a copy along with a copy of my passport, and sent us to the next office to process the release. This took about an hour, but was just a case of waiting for them to finalise paperwork. Then off we drove!

10) Carnet De Passage: This is a document that is honoured in many countries in place of an import bond. It is used especially in Africa, South America and parts of Asia. The USA does not honour the Carnet de Passage system. We looked into this for going into Canada, but we would have still had to make a large deposit to the Carnet Office in the UK (the RAC) and so we decided against it. So there is no point in obtaining a Carnet de Passage for driving the USA.

11) Diesel: America loves petrol! There are not that many diesel cars here; of course trucks use diesel here, but not all gas stations have diesel available. So we are gonna have to make sure we don’t get caught in the middle of nowhere with no diesel. It’s legal to carry extra fuel tanks here, but make sure you get the right colour – Red is petrol, Yellow is diesel.

12) Budget: It may have been cheaper for us to buy a vehicle once we arrived in the States. But we were not sure if we would find something safe, reliable and that allowed us to camp at the back. Plus, we had already invested in upgrading our Defender for the journey. Looking at the below costs, it is definitely cheaper to import rather than to rent a car, when you are doing a trip longer than a couple of months. Here is a rough estimate of our costs:

Shipping (one way, without haulier) – $1200

UK Port Fees – $220

Marine Insurance – $230

Car Insurance – $1100 for six months

Import/Customs Fees – $700

Total: US$3500 approx, plus return shipping.

To return the car to the UK, we will have to pay shipping, port fees and marine insurance, which should be similar prices, but always budget for the unexpected!

Note 1:

2.2.5 Temporary Vehicle Imports for Nonresidents
Motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment for personal use may be imported for up to
one year. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival, and it must be owned
by you or on order before you depart from abroad. Only individual nonresidents may import a
vehicle through a nonresident exemption. There is no Customs bond required, however, EPA
requires that written approval must be obtained prior to importation.
● Importer must file with U. S. Customs, upon entry, an EPA Form 3520-1 declaring code
“O;” and attach the EPA letter of exemption.
● Importer should keep a copy of the EPA approval letter for future proof of EPA
● Importer must be a nonresident;
● Vehicle may not be sold or otherwise transferred to another party in the U.S.;
● Vehicle must be used primarily for personal use by the importer while in the U.S.;
● Use of this exemption is prohibited if the vehicle is to be used primarily to conduct
business, or for principle use by persons other than the importer (or spouse of the
importer); and
● Vehicle must be exported after one year, or upon the nonresident departing the U.S.,
whichever comes first

 [Procedures for Importing Vehicles and Engines into the US, EPA 2010] 

Is It O.K.?

An earthquake in Nepal kills thousands of people. A pregnant, homeless young woman sits on the streets of New York City begging for change. A child in the Philippines loses her mother, and suddenly becomes the breadwinner for her four siblings.

Is it OK?
It’s not OK. We live in a world full of situations that are not OK. They are so not OK that they are overwhelming. There are so many issues in our world, both at home and abroad, that need our attention – sometimes it all seems to be too much. What could I possibly do?
There is no simple answer. And I can’t pretend to have found a nice, neat solution. But I can do what I am good at. I can use my voice, my melodies and my stories to bring hope, to bring awareness, and to bring change, at least in one area for now, and hopefully more in the future.
is it ok2I wrote the song “Is it OK” about a very different issue – it is about me struggling with my personal dreams… is it OK for me to pursue my goals, is it OK for me have these gifts and not use them to their full potential? The song is me wrestling with who I am and my responsibilities in life.
But, as people have listened, the song has taken on a new meaning. And that meaning is found within the lyric: “Is it OK to retain such a colossal amount of gold and hold it in your hand for so long without letting go?” 
We hold gold. And I don’t mean cash. I mean all of our resources; our wisdom, time, networks, finances, relationships, experiences, talents… And it is not OK for us to hold onto that gold and keep it to ourselves, when our neighbours are suffering.
We shot this music video in partnership with a charity in the Philippines  who work to lift those who live on less than $0.50 out pf poverty ( We have been telling the story of poverty for many years… and last year, we were trying to come up with a new, creative way to highlight what poverty looks like. So we decided to do “poverty in slow motion”.

When you shoot in slow motion, suddenly everything looks just incredible. So cinematic. The simplest, the most mundane things all of a sudden look extremely beautiful – someone blinking, a drop of water. And so when we were getting shots in the communities in the Philippines, everything looked spectacular.
But the unfortunate truth is, it actually doesn’t matter how you decide to shoot. At the end of the day, poverty is dehumanising, it is ugly, it is haunting. When you cut to the wide shots, the real time shots, the “reality”, it is then that you realise just how desperate these situations are: the flies, the rubbish, the insufficient food, the unstable shelter.
By presenting this stark contrast, we hope to shed some light on the reality of poverty.
It is not OK.
Please share if you believe that the level of global poverty is not OK. Lets not hold onto our gold; let’s share it, invest it, give it away, and make a change.

Louise Wright

Which street do you live on?

“Which street do you live on?” he asked as we thumbed through his paintings.

We tried to politely and succinctly explain that we don’t live around here, and that actually we don’t really live anywhere right now. The awkward way we told our story seemed to create some kind of kindred spirit between artists… “Well take a look anyway,” he smiled.

IMG_8860 copy

It was a chilly late afternoon and the sun was slowly setting on Greenwich Avenue when we met Kazuya Morimoto; a Japanese painter who spends his days painting the picturesque scenes of Greenwich Village, NYC.

“I always work on site. It’s more fun, more intimate that way… hey, I met you guys right?” As he shows us his work, he tells us about this part of the city; that it used to be full of artists like him, that it has more of a local feel than other parts of the city, but that there’s not many artists like him left.  “People say to me ‘wow, you’re still doing the traditional stuff – that’s’ rare!’”

Kazuya loves this part of New York the most; the routines of the people who often pop up in his paintings, the light, the trees, and the buildings. He paints specific crossings and facades of the streets, adding a radiance and brilliance to their already unique buildings and pavements, capturing the enticing charm of this “village” in the big city.

IMG_8841 copy

Another perk of being a resident artist of Greenwich Village is meeting the local famous residents. He laughs as he tells us that he embarrassed himself when he met Liv Tyler “I told her I thought she was British. She said ‘why did you think I’m British?’… Because Rolling Stones are British right? She said ‘My dad’s not from the Rolling Stones, he’s Aerosmith!’. I don’t know who is Aerosmith! I mean, I heard their music on the radio, but I don’t know their name. So embarrassing… but she has a few of my paintings… she likes my work.”

And it wasn’t until a friend from the UK sent him a photo from a newspaper of him with Sarah Jessica Parker that he finally realised who she was! Her children often come and see him when he is working. “They love to paint – they always get paint on their clothes! Most of the time they come with their nanny, but sometimes with mum, sometimes dad too.”

IMG_8825 copyKazuya has an online portfolio and a small following on social media. But he says that most of his clients are local – “For them, it’s really special having these paintings. For tourists, they only care about the landmarks. But for the residents, they really care about these places.” 

But he doesn’t live in Greenwich – “I wish, but too expensive! A small studio will cost you like $2000 a month…”

Take a look at Kazuya’s beautiful scenes at:                          

New York, New York

What an amazing moment to approach this city. Sunrise over New York is spectacular. Photos can’t really translate it. 

IMG_8620 copyWe landed on Sunday morning and headed down to visit our friends who are hosting us for a few days until our car arrives. It was a special day in Summit, New Jersey as it was Daffodil Day and the weather was perfect. People outside of the U.S. usually think of New Jersey as New York’s dirty, industrial little brother. But really it’s an amazing state, especially during a sunny day. After all it’s the Garden State. But at the end of the day it’s a quiet and peaceful place, so enough about it already.

On Monday, Louise decided to start the journey by checking out some venues in NYC and going to an open mic. Here is a excerpt from her site:

“So, I thought I would start in the right direction and on Monday night I played an open mic at Side Walk Cafe in East Village. It is New York City’s longest running open mic night, having been running for over 21 years! It was truly an entertaining evening… 

20150422 Open Mic_2

Anyone who wants to perform has to show up for sign up at 7.30pm – they let you do anything; sing, play, recite poetry, rap, comedy… it just has to be either two songs or eight minutes, whichever is shorter. When you sign up, you get given a randomly assigned number and that determines when you play. I was given number 26. So I got a Guinness, sat down, and waited to see what the other acts would be.

I think, for my first night in New York, it was the absolutely perfect introduction. The acts ranged from super-talented to terrible, from mainstream to extremely weird! It was the perfect snapshot of artists in the big city. Some who have been plugging away for years and years, some who have just arrived and are hoping to make it big. Some were there to promote their shows or make connections. Some were there just because that’s what they do on Monday nights. 

It was fun to be a part of such an eclectic group of performers. Being in Asia for so long has made it difficult to surround myself with artists, and so I welcomed the chance to soak up the scope of creativity. 

20150422 Open Mic_3

It turned out that 26 was not the best number to draw… even after the One Song Wonder round which started at 10pm, I still hadn’t heard my name called. So by the time I got up to play (at 12.30am) I was super tired from the jet-lag! But it made an interesting introduction, and I told the 20 or so faithful who were still there a little of my story as I played. My voice was perhaps gruff from the tiredness and the Guinness, but my songs and stories built a connection with the audience that was precious to me, and I hope as I added my voice to the mix of the night, it blessed and inspired a few souls.” (LW)

The following day we woke up in the afternoon, as artists usually do, but we needed to get some sleep. Hopefully soon we’ll adjust and be ready for… whatever comes next. Today we got an email that our car will not arrive until later this week, and we assume that the customs clearance will take some time as well. So it seems that at the start we are already a week behind schedule… the schedule that does not exist. So we should be just fine.


Sail On/Fly Off – live from Hong Kong

Hong Kong; our home for over two years. The weather has been just beautiful as we have been packing up. It was say saying goodbye to our tiny flat – although we are travellers, we have loved having a beautiful little home.


It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulated over the past few years. As we packed, it was wonderful to look back over our time in Hong Kong. But it was also wonderful to do a bit of a cleanse; to throw away the excess, and have to decide what is actually important to have with us as we journey forward.

As we probably should have anticipated, it has been a hectic few weeks. We’ve been finishing up projects at work, organising the house, trying to finalise the car import and plans for when we land, getting the album finished and throwing a launch party.
But we pulled it off somehow – we had an amazing night on Thursday celebrating our time in Hong Kong, launching Louise’s album and reminiscing with friends. It was amazing that so many of you were able to come and give us an amazing farewell.
IMG_4869So, the albums are packed, the piano is packed, cameras are packed, the hard drives are packed… I think we have too much luggage! We are pretty exhausted and are gonna go and fall asleep on a long flight, and hopefully we will wake up refreshed in New York.
Louise is going to play a couple of open mic nights on Monday and Tuesday to get initiated into the NY music scene. Let us know where else we should go to check out some great live music.

Last Days in The City of Smiles


Bacolod City, in the Philippines, is a very special place for us… and not just because they have the best barbecue chicken in the world!

It is the place where we met the ICM Children’s Choir, where we shot our first short film and won our first film festival, where we lived and learned how poverty affects lives, where we started to really us our skills to advocate for the voiceless.

We have been visiting Bacolod City for over eight years. It has changed so much in that time! Every time we return now, we see a new mall or restaurant or spa or car dealership that has opened up. The economy is booming.

_MG_9986But there are those that are left behind in the frenzy of credit and spending and growth. Our heart in Bacolod will forever be with those who don’t have enough money to feed their children, send them to school, give them medicines, nurture their dreams. The ICM Choir, who we have worked with since 2010, completely sum up our hopes for this section of society; that each person would be given the chance to grow their talents, dreams, would develop in confidence, would have the platform to bless and inspire others, would know their worth.

We know that we’ll return one day to Bacolod. We don’t know when. But we know that when we do return, we will see great change. And we hope that it is always in the right direction.