(CNN) – Two vets driving around the world with their dog in tow in an ambulance sounds like the premise of a movie.
But reality is very much reality for UK couple Lawrence Dodi and Rachel Nixon, who are currently embarking on a nearly year-long journey around the world across more than 50 countries in a bid to set the Guinness World Record for the longest journey in an ambulance.
The pair, who set out in October 2021, are attracting considerable attention from country to country for their first private ambulance, a white Land Rover Defender with green and fluorescent stripes, which was previously used in equestrian events. .
“We’ve never had anyone come to us for medical help,” says Dodi, noting that the ambulance doesn’t really resemble the emergency vehicles used in the places they’ve been.
“But we get a lot of stares. In traffic, everyone’s looking at you.”
The ambulance challenge
UK couple Lawrence Dodi and Rachel Nixon are attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the ‘Longest Ambulance Journey’.
Dodi and Nixon, both veterinarians, were looking for a vehicle to convert into an RV and travel around the world when Nixon came across the ambulance on eBay in 2018.
“The initial plan was not to buy an ambulance or try to set a world record or anything like that,” explains Dodi.
“We were looking for a functional vehicle to travel with and fell in love with the ambulance and the aesthetics.”
After purchasing the vehicle, along with a stretcher that still contained all the paraphernalia and equipment of an ambulance, Nixon came across an article about a group trying to set a record for the longest distance driven in a fire truck.
When he discovered that no one had formally attempted an ambulance, the couple contacted Guinness World Records to ask if they could try.
Nixon and Dodi were told that they would have to meet a list of specifications, such as ensuring that the vehicle retained its ability to function as an ambulance (although it would not be used as an emergency vehicle) and still. it looked like an ambulance from the outside.
They say they took that into consideration when designing the interior, and were able to stick to the guidelines while still having room for a stove and fridge “and all the other things you’d associate with an RV.”
In the many months since leaving the UK, the couple have driven around 24,000 kilometers (almost 15,000 miles), traveling to 24 countries, including Armenia and Bosnia, with Nixon as their “main guide”.
Nixon came across an ambulance listing in 2018 while looking for a van to travel with the couple.
Although they initially completed the minimum distance of 20,000 kilometers set by the Guinness World Record, “they will continue to move forward and try to set the highest possible figure”.
Taking along their pet springer spaniel Peggy Sue, who has an EU passport, as well as the rabies vaccination and blood test required for the animals to travel across Europe, was always part of the plan, and the couple say they are “living it to the fullest”. life” during his time on the road.
“He might be 10, but he thinks he’s two,” says Dodi. “He can walk all day, and if he has to sit in the van all day, he can do that. So as far as doing our outdoor activities, it hasn’t been a big problem.”
Although they had to skip some activities that didn’t allow dogs, and some countries are less friendly than others, Dodi and Nixon have no regrets about taking Peggy with them.
“I think they probably brought us more opportunities,” Dodi says, noting that Peggy has been a magnet for people.
However, due to a number of factors, such as the war in Ukraine, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, nationwide protests in Iran, and the fact that some Central Asian borders are still closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, they have. forced to change course.
The pair plan to return to the UK early next year, before sending an ambulance to Halifax, Canada, and driving the PanAmerican Highway, the longest road in the world, to the bottom of Argentina. Their final destination will be Liverpool FC — a soccer team from Montevideo, Uruguay, which has the same name as their hometown team in the United Kingdom.
They are currently unsure whether they will take Peggy with them to South America and are considering leaving her with family in the UK when they return briefly early next year.
“I think we’re going to miss a lot if we don’t take it,” says Dodi, before explaining that Peggy has struggled with the heat at points on the trip and they’re worried about how she’ll handle it. in South America
“But no matter what, we don’t want to go through anything that he won’t be happy about.”
Although Dodi and Nixon originally planned to spend two years completing the challenge, they have since extended it by another six to 12 months.
Dodi and Nixon said they have both lost colleagues and friends in the industry to suicide and are passionate about raising awareness about the issue.
It set sail from Liverpool’s Albert Dock in October 2021.
While they’ve explored some incredible sites, including the highest peaks in Kosovo, Montenegro and Armenia, they say it’s the people they’ve met and the experiences they’ve had along the way that stand out the most.
Dodi recalls that they were driving around Georgia looking for a place to spend the night and ended up being invited to a local’s house, where he was having a birthday party.
“We were treated like celebrity guests,” he says. “The next day they put us in a bedroom and served us breakfast.”
The couple says they have been invited to dinner by some locals while driving through Turkey and have attended several barbecues.
“The world is full of very beautiful people,” says Dodi. “It really warmed our hearts to see that it’s not a scary, horrible place.”
Although their lives are on hold as they continue their journey, they are looking to the future and say they plan to return to the UK once this challenge is over.
“Eventually the money will run out,” says Nixon, explaining that they have set a budget of £30 (about $26) a day and plan to pick up temporary work when they are in the UK, once an ambulance is booked. its MOT, a mandatory test to ensure the vehicle is roadworthy, in February.
“Someday we have to think about coming back and having a family,” added Dodi.
For now, they are enjoying the freedom of being able to travel the world together and making connections with other travelers along the way.
“We’ve met so many people on such wonderful trips,” says Dodi. “There’s always someone doing it for a long time, going to more places and doing it in a weirder way, that always makes you jealous. And you think, ‘I could do that’.”