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Man revamps old ambulance to travel the world with his dog

Their story gives us life.

In 2016, fresh from a nasty breakup, Ian Dow from California decided to buy himself a camper and travel the world with his dog, Dino. However, instead of getting a van, he got something more unconventional: an ambulance.

“I’d been searching for a van to convert and was blinded by the Sprinter fad,” he told ABC. “After getting burned by a Craigslist seller – he backed out after I drove 12 hours to buy his Sprinter.

“I was depressed and I crashed my motorcycle,” he added. “Then I had an epiphany. I was in pain and needed some emergency help.”

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Found a trippy spot today on the northern cost of Yucatán, Mexico. This is part of Laguna Coloradas where they're making salt. I'm not sure why this particular salt flat was so vibrantly pink but it sure was mesmerizing to look at. We found the place after driving through thick bush and empty beaches from El Cuyo in the East. The isthmus between these two villages is skirted by the turquoise water of the golf on one side and multi colored pools on the other. Some brown some green, others bright blue or even pink and all filled with horseshoe crabs, fish and sea birds including exotic wild flamingos. We stayed on the isthmus for two nights then on our way out today found this pink gem glowing off the side of the road. What an epic place, even if it is man made. #mexico #landscape #vanlife #overland #traveler #travelersjournal #vanlifediaries #vanlifemovement #campervan #adventuring #pinklife #beachy #travelingtheworld #photobook #vanlifeexplorers #vantravel #lagunacolorada #yucatán #ambulancelife #landscapedesign #trippyshit #camper #vanlifestyle #overlander #Overlanding #homeiswhereyouparkit #buslife #travelmexico

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So he took to eBay and searched for ambulances, and found one. He bought it at a fraction of what the Sprinter would’ve cost him, allowing him to have a bigger budget to customise his vehicle.

“I finished it with materials I like,” he said. “The teak floors, subway tiled kitchen, exotic hardwood table, cedar-lined closet, bamboo cutting surfaces and guitar inlay accents all keep a smile on my face.”

The ambulance also comes with a seating area that can turn into a bed or workspace, lots of storage spaces, and an indoor surfboard rack. Outside, there’s a motorcycle rack, and on the roof, there’s enough space for a couple of lawn chairs and a tent.

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On the road again mañana!! Bringing @_cadalso to the airport in Managua where he'll fly back to San Francisco for 2 weeks then come back and find my somewhere on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. We still have some deals brewing down here in Nicaragua but nothing's set in stone yet and the road beacons. Honduras here we come! #dinodoggy #ambulancelife #vanlife #traveldog #honduras #overland #overlander #dogslife#adventuredog#vanconversion#vanlifers #vanlifedog#vandog#vantravel#vanlifetravel#vanlifeideas #vanlifestyle #vanlifemovement #overlandlife

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For the last two years, Dow and Dino have traveled to countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Along the way, they’ve made many friends and made plenty more memories.

They’ve been documenting their travels on Instagram, where Dow has more than 31,000 followers and Dino has his own 917 followers.

“Dino’s been on the road for most of his life now and becoming the perfect travel dog,” Dow wrote on Instagram.

“He’s not a fighter and has learned to read the personality of other dogs from afar. When we arrive at new spots he’s the first one out to run the perimeter and make new friends but never strays far from the ambulance. I walk him around with no leash unless we’re on a big road and he’s happy to follow along and come when called.”

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Lying in bed with food poisoning doesn't seem so bad with my little dude Dino by my side. After a day of recovery I tried to start the ambo but the glow plugs wouldn't engage. Luckily I felt good enough to explore the problem, diagnose it and fix it right there by the river in some small Puebla in Chiapas, Mexico. We left in the evening and made it to "Hogar Infantil", it's a group home and school for orphaned children that allows people like us to stop and camp free of charge. We'll stay here today and play with the kids before moving on. Dino's going to have his paws full, there's 40 kids here and I'm sure they'll put his endurance to the test. Tomorrow we continue on to a waterfall I visited on my way south called Aguacero, I remember it being an epic falls and I'm stoked to return. From there it's beach time! Yeow, looking forward to some waves!! #hogar #chiapas#vanlife#vandog#doglove#foodpoisoning#roadlife#ontheroad#mexicotravel#mexico#travelersjournal #ambulancelife #campervan #sickday#sickdays#vanlifetraveling#vanlifemovment#overlanding#traveldog#travelpup#adventuredog#bestbud#dogsaredope#doggos#bffl#🐶#🤢

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He added: “Defiantly a water dog through and through he eagerly springs over waves to take a swim whenever he gets the chance, I’ve even thrown him on a surfboard and pushed him into waves.

“When we’re on the road he sleeps and is mellow always ready to get out and play but also fine with obeying me and staying in the ambo when the situation calls for him to.

“So stoked to have a best bud like this on the road with me!”

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Lyrid Meteor shower ready, the star gazing at this spot in Oaxaca is perfect and I've been honing in on my night photography skills in hopes to catch a shot like this with a shooting star up above. No luck yet but even lacking that extra Meteor action these shots are turning out great and my little poser Dino's being a good model. Tonight will be our last night at this spot, I'm looking for reasons to stay or come back or just move here forever but the wind is pushing me along and I'm not one to fight the breeze. Oaxaca city is calling and I can almost taste all it's lovely flavors now. I'm happy to stay, happy to move on and happy to come back soon. ❤️ this travel lifestyle ❤️ Mexico ❤️ Oaxaca. #oaxaca #mexico #❤️travel #vanlife #nightshot #lyridmeteorshower #nightphoto #nightphotography #moonlight #moonphotography #palapa #campingvibes #campinglife #simplelife #minimalis #tinyhouse #smallhome #camper #vandwelling #homeiswhereyouparkit #wildernessnation #vagabond #wandering #wanderluster #ambulancelife #mobilehome #vanlifediaries #overlanding

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If you’re thinking about making your own camper van conversion, you’re in luck! We got to talk to Dow a bit more on how he converted an old ambulance into a home on wheels. Check it out:

Please tell us more about yourself. How did you get into conversions? Did you have any experience prior to buying your ambulance?

“My name is Ian Dow, I’m from Newport Beach California and I’ve been traveling almost perpetually for 10 years with my adventure spanning 69 countries.

“Prior to building the ambulance, my construction and woodworking experience consisted of set building for the entertainment industry (movies and commercials). I grew up in a 100-year-old wood beach house and my dad had a wooden sailboat from 1928, I think this is where my style comes from.”

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Mexico City is beating up my legs. It's so nice to come home and lay on my couch after a huge walk around the city, even Dino is pooped, he just plopped down on the Teak to pass out. We're camping in a park called Chapultepec in the center of the city, its larger than New York's Central Park at 1,700 acres making it a great, quite, green place to camp amongst 20,000,000 people. Mexico City is an amazing place and although I'm not a city person this one has me feeling surprisingly comfortable. I'm planing to stay a few more days before continuing the trip north. I'll stick to the instvibe here with a pic of me chilling in the ambo but if you want to see my day to day just check out the story posts I do. I just got the update and haven't really figured out the story highlight thing yet but I'll make a Mexico City one soon ✌🏼 #vanlife #vanchilling #mexicocity #camping #glamping #ambulancelife#cdmx #creammagazine #minimalista #homeiswhereyouparkit #chapultepec #bosquechapultepec #mexico#travlwingmwxico#mexicotravel#vanliving#vanlifestyle#vandwellers#vantravel#vanlifemovement #vanlifeexplorers #vanlifeideas #vanlifeproject #overland#overlanding#traveler

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How long was the conversion process? What were the biggest challenges in transforming the vehicle?

“The ambulance took me four months to fully convert working day and night and ignoring friends and nightlife. I really wanted to hit the road so I was aimed and focused.

“Staying as cheap as possible was my only real challenge. I didn’t have much money for the build and outfit of the rig so I would scour eBay and craigslist for deals while visiting local second-hand shops and garage sales in search of anything I could use.

“Some things needed to be purchased new and rather than buying the best or the cheapest option I would search for a mix of the two finding the best ‘bang for buck’ option.”

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Guatemala is shutting down today in protest of the president being arrested over embezzlement charges. Guess we're stuck in this shitty spot 😜 #lifesrough#harddayswork#travelwoes#Guatemala#lakeatitlan#atitlan#overland#overlander#vanlife#vanlifers#vanlifestyle#vanlifeideas#rooftoptent#rrt#sierradesigns#suzukimotorcycles#dr650#volcom#volcano#rooftop#ambulancelife#travellife#travelstyle#traveling#paradise#travelparadise#camping#camperlife#homeiswhereyouparkit

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What was your initial budget, and how much did you spend by the end of the project?

“I initially planned on buying a sprinter for $8,000 from a guy on craigslist but he backed out on the sale. That would have taken every penny I had at the time so when I got the ambulance for $2,800 I was stoked. After the conversion, I ended up spending my full $8,000 budget but I ended up with a far superior machine and build.”

Which places have you taken the camper, and where are you headed next?

“The ambulance has taken Dino (my dog) and I from Missouri to California then on through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and, Belize. Next up is to visit a bit more of North America and maybe Canada.”

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Just another morning getting up with the sun to the sound of waves crashing against the shore and a light breeze coming off the ocean. I did the math yesterday and discovered living at this spot is costing me less than $5 a day. It's free to camp, surf and fish, I stocked up on basic supplies like 15gal water, a bucket of mangos, basic food and some fuel. I've been using a liter or so of fuel a day in my little 1000w generator to keep electronics charged and the fridge cold. We even stocked up on cheap "tropical cerveza", after a long day of sun and surfing a frosty cold beer in the hammock sure hits the spot. Crazy to think that although this spot, this coastline and this part of the Pacific Ocean is EPIC, it's not my favorite part of Oaxaca. I love it here and will stay until I run out of water to drink but I'm also eagerly looking forward to indulging in the finest cuisine in Mexico and quite possibly the world in Oaxaca city. Oaxacan food is in a class of its own! Tlayuda, mole, consume, chocolate, 🤤🤤🤤🤤bring it on #oaxacan#sunrise#overtheocean#pacificmorning#pacificsunrise#vanlife#overland#mexico#mexicotravel#campingmexico#campingvibes#rv#campervan#minimalist#minimalis#tinyhouse#smallhouse#travelhouse#motorhome#ambulancelife#pointbreak#mexicansunrise#overlander#ambulance#camperlife#overlandlife#vanlifestyle#vanlifeexplorers#travelmexico#traveloaxaca

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Out of curiosity, do people always mistake your ambulance for a real one? Have you ever gotten into some sort of trouble or funny incident involving it?

“Not really, the only times I’m mistaken for a real ambulance have been in the states when making turns. I’ve found that even though others have the right of way they will sit tight and allow or even motion for me to pass first.

“When I first left in the ambo I was wondering if I would be approached by people in need of medical help but it’s never happened.”

Finally, what’s the best advice you could give to those who are just starting in their conversions?

“Do it, then go. A lot of people have great ideas and dreams about travel but they think it’s just never the right time. I think it’s always the right time, if you can’t see the opportunity then you have to make it.”

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Barrancas del Cobre is one sexy hunk of nature! I ❤️Mexico #vanlife #ambulancelife #travelmexico #overland #barranca #barrancasdelcobre #canyon #mexicostyle #creammagazine #aboyandhisdog #vantravel #explore #homeiswhereyouparkit #travel#nature#beauty#earthpics#home#mexico#wild#vandweller#rv#camper#motorhome#view#bestview#clifftop

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