Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the traveller road-tripping in a retired ambulance with his dog and fish

Following a split from his fiancé, California native Ian Dow was feeling down on his luck, and knew that he needed to make a change. After reviewing his housing options, he decided to purchase a retired ambulance from a charity organisation on eBay, and with the help of his father, converted it into a mobile living space that would change his life.

Ian with El Salvador at Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. Image by Ian Dow

“It all started with needing a place to live and not wanting to pay rent. I’ve been addicted to travel for a long time, so a home on wheels was just the best way to go,” Ian told Lonely Planet Travel News. Along with his dog Dino and his beta fish Mr. Biggles, Ian discovered that hitting the road was the best tonic, dubbing the vehicle that made it possible “El Salvador” (The Saviour). “She’s put purpose back in my life through the inspiration others gained from my renovating her and our voyage together,” he said.

Taking off from Baja, California, so far Ian has travelled across mainland Mexico and down the Pacific coast, through Guatemala, El Salvador, Hondas, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, covering approximately 6000 miles over a four-and-a-half-month period. Already a seasoned traveller, Ian has visited 68 countries in total over the past ten years. After beginning his journey, he began sharing his daily experiences on Instagram, racking up over 26,000 followers and receiving messages and questions from people inspired by his story. “It’s really great. I’m stoked to hear people are excited about this type of travel and hope to see van-lifers and recycled ambulances out here in the future,” Ian said.

The ambulance is fitted with a range of home comforts, including a kitchen, hardwood floors, a multi-bed system and plenty of storage. Ian is currently running a gofundme campaign in order to fund his trip back north. He currently spends approximately $800 a month on petrol, parking, and food and water for himself and Dino.

When it comes to offering advice to prospective travellers, Ian’s suggestion is simple. “Just go for it! Any vehicle and anybody can do this trip. There are great days and there are good days but not many bad ones.”