Meet the couple traveling the world in an ambulance

Two vets and their dog riding around the world in an ambulance might sound like the premise of a movie.

But that’s the reality for British couple Lawrence Dodi and Rachel Nixon, who about a year ago embarked on a global journey through more than 50 countries in a bid to set the Guinness World Record for the longest ambulance journey. .

The couple, who left in October 2021, attract quite a bit of attention as they travel from country to country in the former private ambulance, a white Land Rover Defender with neon green and yellow stripes, which was previously used at events equestrian.

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“We never had anyone ask us for medical assistance,” Dodi says, pointing out that the ambulance doesn’t really look like emergency vehicles used in the places they passed through.

“But we get a lot of stares. In traffic, everyone is watching you.

British couple Lawrence Dodi and Rachel Nixon and their dog Peggy Sue are traveling through more than 50 countries in a bid to set the Guinness World Record for the longest journey by ambulance. Credit: Sarah Eddon/CNN

In 2018, Dodi and Nixon, who are both veterinarians, were looking for a vehicle to convert into a motorhome to travel the world when Nixon came across the ambulance on eBay.

“The original plan wasn’t to buy an ambulance or try to set a world record or anything like that,” Dodi says.

“We were looking for a functional vehicle for traveling and fell in love with the ambulance and the aesthetics.”

After purchasing the vehicle, which still had all the fittings and accessories of an ambulance, including a stretcher, Nixon came across an article about a group trying to set a record for the longest distance traveled in a fire truck .

When she discovered no one appeared to have officially attempted this in an ambulance, the couple contacted Guinness World Record to ask if they could give it a try.

The couple set off in the Land Rover Defender ambulance in October 2021, taking their springer spaniel Peggy Sue with them. Credit: Laurent Dodi/CNN

Nixon and Dodi were told they would have to meet a list of specifications, such as ensuring the vehicle retained the ability to function as an ambulance (even if it would not be used as an emergency vehicle) and that it still looked like an ambulance. externally.

They took this into account when designing the interior layout and were able to meet the guidelines while still maintaining room for a stove and fridge “and all the other things you would associate with a motorhome”.

In the many months since leaving the UK, the couple have covered around 24,000 km and traveled to 24 countries, including Armenia and Bosnia, with Nixon acting as their “driver chief”.

Although they have already covered the minimum distance of 20,000 km set by the Guinness World Record, they “will continue and try to establish the highest possible figure”.

Taking their springer spaniel Peggy Sue – who has a European pet passport and the necessary vaccinations and blood tests for animals to travel to Europe – has always been part of the plan, and the couple say she has “lived her best life” during their time on the road.

“She might be 10 but she thinks she’s two,” Dodi says. “She can hike all day and if she needs to sit in the van all day, she can. So as far as our outdoor activities, it hasn’t been a major problem.

In the many months since leaving the UK, the couple have covered around 24,000 km and traveled to 24 countries, including Armenia and Bosnia. Credit: Laurent Dodi/CNN

Although they had to skip a few activities where dogs weren’t allowed and some countries are less dog-friendly than others, Dodi and Nixon have absolutely no regrets about bringing Peggy with them.

“I think it probably brought us more opportunities,” Dodi says, noting that Peggy has been kind of a magnet for people.

Dodi and Nixon, who shared their travels on their online blog, originally planned the trip “to be a true global circumnavigation” taking them through Central Asia to Russia before dispatching the ambulance to North America. North.

However, due to various factors – such as the war in Ukraine, a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, national protests taking place in Iran and the fact that some borders in Central Asia are still closed due to restrictions related to COVID-19 – they had to change their itinerary.

The couple now plan to return to the UK early next year before dispatching the ambulance to Halifax in Canada and driving the Pan-American Highway, the longest motorable road in the world, to the bottom of the ‘Argentina.

Their final destination will be Liverpool FC – a football team from Montevideo, Uruguay, bearing the same name as their hometown team in the UK.

Raising awareness

They are unsure if they will take Peggy to South America with them and plan to leave her in the UK with their family when they return briefly early next year.

“I think if we don’t take her, we’re going to miss her a lot,” Dodi says, explaining that Peggy struggled with the heat at times during the trip and they’re worried about how she’ll fare in South America.

“But also, we don’t want to put her through anything that she’s not going to be happy with.”

Dodi, Nixon and Peggy on the podium at the abandoned Igman Olympic Ski Jumps just outside Sarajevo, Bosnia in May 2022. Credit: Laurent Dodi/CNN

Although Dodi and Nixon originally planned to spend two years on the challenge, they have since extended it for another six to 12 months.

The couple have raised money for two charities: Anthony Nolan, a UK charity which connects people with blood cancer with volunteer donors, and the independent charity Vet Life, which provides emotional support , financial and mental to the veterinary community.

According to a 2020 study by Merck Animal Health in partnership with the American Veterinary Medical Association, veterinarians are 2.7 times more likely to die by suicide than members of the general public.

Dodi and Nixon say they both lost industry colleagues and friends to suicide and want to raise awareness about the issue.

Create memories

Although they’ve explored incredible sites, including the highest peaks in Kosovo, Montenegro and Armenia, they say these are the people they’ve met along the way and the experiences they’ve had. who stood out the most.

Dodi recalls one night when they were driving around Georgia looking for a place to stay and ended up being invited to a local’s house, who was having a birthday party.

“We were treated like honored guests,” he says. “They put us in a room the next day and served us breakfast.”

The couple say a number of locals extended dinner invitations to them while they were driving in Turkey and attended various barbecues.

“The world is full of lovely people,” Dodi says. “It really warmed our hearts to see that it’s not a scary, horrible place.”

The couple were looking for a vehicle they could convert into a motorhome and travel the world, when Nixon came across an ambulance listing in 2018. Credit: Laurent Dodi/CNN

Although their lives are somewhat on hold as they continue their journey, they look to the future and say they plan to return to the UK and settle down once they complete this challenge.

“The money will eventually run out,” says Nixon, explaining that they have set themselves a budget of £30 (about AU$53) a day and plan to take temporary work when they return to the UK – where the ambulance is booked for its MOT, a mandatory test to ensure the vehicle is roadworthy, in February.

“We have to think about going back and starting a family at some point,” adds Dodi.

For now, they are very happily enjoying the freedom of being able to travel the world together and bond with other travelers along the way.

“We’ve met so many people who were on fantastic trips,” says Dodi. “There’s always someone who does it longer, goes to more places and does it in a weirder way, it always makes you envious. And you think ‘If only I could do it like that’ .

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