By Mark McConville
MEET THE man whose near death experience led him to pack up his life and travel the world in a converted ambulance.
Ian Dow (34), from Newport Beach, California, USA, realised he could have died without ever seeing the world.
Since the accident he has travelled to over 69 countries over the past 10 years, first on a motorcycle and now in an ambulance he bought and converted himself.
The 1994 Ford E350 type III Amublance cost Ian around £2100 and he spent another £4200 converting it into a suitable travelling home.
“My personal travels started with chasing my ambition as a competitive snowboarder and moving domestically to a few different mountains in California and Nevada,” he said.
“At 22 I broke my back snowboarding and had an epiphany at that same moment, I thought to myself that life is fragile. I was staring at a rock that my head had missed by an inch; that could have been it, right there and I haven’t been out to see the world yet. It was time to go.
“After returning to America from living in Europe I bought a motorcycle to travel the States on. I had no money so I lived in my hammock while exploring the forests of the Pacific North West.
“When I’d spent my last pennies I found temporary work on a farm in Northern California. I worked there for a great season in a beautiful place with awesome co-workers and a farm dog named Rhino that had become my best bud.
“As things were dying down on the farm I was asked to adopt a puppy from an accidental litter my new buddy Rhino was responsible for, I gladly accepted the most beautiful blue eyed little puppy that I’d ever seen and later named Dino (son of Rhino) after his dad.
“My lifestyle on the motorcycle wouldn’t suit life with my new buddy so that, coupled with the fact it was getting cold outside started my search for larger wheels, something we could also live in. I was in search for a van when one morning on a ride I went down on the motorcycle and almost slid off a cliff.
“That was it, I was broken and I needed emergency help, another epiphany. I needed an ambulance. I bought one on EBay that night and was in Missouri three days later picking it up.”
Ian has clocked up around 18,000 miles in the ambulance as he travelled through America, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize.
Before that he had spent around £12k visiting 50 countries in 18 months in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and the South Pacific. He explained what life is like living in an ambulance.
“Life in the ambulance is glorious,” he said.
“When south of the boarder in Mexico to Costa Rica the Van Life is perfect. Dino and I would pull up on secluded beaches with perfect waves and not only have them all to ourselves but also have our home with us.
“I set up the ambulance to really feel like a tiny home rather than a camper so even when we’re completely away from society and on our own or in a parking lot in a city we really feel at home.
“I love travel because no two days are the same. I learn so much from the cultures I get to experience and the people I’m lucky to meet along the way.
“I guess what I love most about travel is that for me it is really living. When out in the world I have to apply myself to do simple tasks like finding food, finding water, charging a phone or even just finding a bed or place to park my bed.
“When I’m in a new place with new people and a different language all of these things take more involvement and effort. Some people prefer an all inclusive holiday where this is taken care of for them, but I love not knowing what’s around the corner and dealing with everything as it comes.”
While the van life has treated him well Ian has his eyes on the sea and hopes to move onto a boat next. He also had a message for anyone wishing to follow his example.
“I grew up in an old wood shack (1914, very old for California) and sailed with my dad on his 1928 R Class Sloop named “Aloha”,” he said.
“Because of this upbringing I’ve been feeling the call of the ocean a lot lately and I’ve been thinking about selling the ambulance to buy an old wood sailboat so I can sail away and eventually circumnavigate the world in.
“Luckily old wood boats are cheap to acquire but they require a lot of time, money and love to upkeep. Everyone I tell about wanting a wooden boat says I’m crazy, I don’t disagree, it’s just my style. I have one in my sights, a beautiful 53-foot Herreshoff ketch that’s currently in Canada.
“Just do it! The most important thing to know is that the “worst case” in your mind, that thought that makes you afraid or apprehensive about starting a trip like this, is usually not so bad in reality.
“A breakdown, flat tire, stuck in the mud, road block or even revolution can all be opportunities for experience. Every time something goes wrong and I find myself in a vulnerable position is when I’ve had my most amazing experiences.
“Sometimes it’s the kindness of others or a forced roadside camping experience and sometimes it’s a test of nerves to overcome or solve a problem on my own, leaving me with a sense of triumph and accomplishment when it’s overcome.
“The hardest thing to do when planning a trip is forget your fears and get started. Just get out and go, you’ll soon see how beautiful and nonthreatening the world is.”
For more information visit: https://www.instagram.com/vanlife_ian_dow_travels/?hl=en