Lawrence, Rachel, and Peggy (The Overlanding Ambulance)

Today's Explorers

Lawrence, Rachel, and Peggy (The Overlanding Ambulance)

February 11, 2022
min read
Charles Forman

Where are you from?

Lawrence is originally from London (Whetstone in Barnet) but now lives in Liverpool with Rachel, Rachel is from Liverpool.

When did you start your interest in exploration?

We both began doing a lot of independent travel during our time at university. Rachel spent several months in Ghana & Mexico. Lawrence began his interest in road tripping with multiple solo trips to the USA.

We are very lucky with our jobs that we have had the opportunity to work and live abroad. Since graduating we have both worked in New Zealand for several years. Rachel has also worked in Fiji and Sri Lanka. In the years following graduation Lawrence has backpacked through India and Vietnam. These experiences in part spurred us onto future, grander and more far flung exploration.

What is a brief understanding of your background story up until you started seeking adventure?

We have both attended university to study veterinary medicine in the UK. Rachel went to Girton College at Cambridge University and Lawrence studied at the University of Liverpool. Rachel was a keen rugby player pre university, but injuries whilst playing at Cambridge meant she needed to stop and her focus changed to other outdoor pursuits.

Lawrence's father died at 55 whilst he was at university. This has formed a strong ethos in Lawrence since then to travel now rather than waiting till retirement.

Our love of working in new places has encouraged travel to new jobs both within the UK and abroad as small animal veterinary surgeons. Rachel has a particular interest in surgery and would like this to be her future career path. Whilst Lawrence is looking to focus on vetting for TV and film.

What special skills do you have to help with your explorations?

We are both veterinary surgeons so our 'specialist skill' would have to be medical training. Though it is for animals, there is a lot of crossover with people.

Lawrence through nearly a decade in the cadets is fairly handy with navigation.

Though we aren't 'experts' in mechanics or other skill sets, we have made steps to familiarise ourselves with many different aspects helpful with exploration and travel. We have tried to learn at least a little bit of the languages used in the countries we will be passing through. Rachel is definitely the best with languages. We have also done training to have a basic understanding of mechanics to keep us on the road and upskilled ourselves with off road driving.

Where have you explored so far?

On our current expedition we have so far only travelled through the UK from Liverpool to London.

Previously we have travelled together in New Zealand and Fiji, and separately Rachel has travelled in Ghana, Sri Lanka and Mexico and Lawrence has travelled through the USA, Vietnam and India.

What is a brief understanding of your adventures so far?

With regards to our current adventure, on 2nd October 2021, we left the Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool UK with a plan to circumnavigate the globe in our Landrover defender ambulance to Liverpool F.C. in Uruguay, South America. So far we have travelled south through the UK to London and have taken theEuroTunnel crossing to France to begin the European leg of our trip.

We expect to be travelling for the next 2-3 years, driving through Europe, Central Asia, Australia/New Zealand and South America.

What are the top three destinations you hope to explore next, and why?

Lawrence - Mongolia due to the genuine sense of remoteness

Rachel - The Pamir Highway travelling 1200km through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to travel a portion of the original Silk Road

French Guiana - to see the amazing wildlife. We would both love to see sloths and nesting turtles in the wild

Where would you recommend others visit?

New Zealand - we both lived there for several years. It is such a beautiful, varied country (beaches, mountains, volcanoes, forests) and if you are not a seasoned traveller, it is very easy to explore.

How do you primarily travel on your adventures today?

We drive in a modified 2010 Land Rover Defender 110 ambulance called 'Amber'. We have made lots of modifications to increase its functionality, as a vehicle that can circumnavigate around the world and yet retain the appearance of an ambulance.

  1. We have fitted a pop-top roof to give us both much needed head room and a bed on the roof.
  2. We have added a diesel hob which has been brilliant and means we run the ambulance off one fuel source - diesel.
  3. We moved the bulkhead of the cab backwards to increase leg room in the cab. The alteration to the cab and driving position has made the ambulance much easier and more comfortable to drive, which is very important over such long distances.

What are five pieces of equipment you always travel with?

Extensive mechanics tool kit, a device to document our travels (mostly an iPhone), Peggy Sue (our 4 legged travel companion), hiking boots (we love walking) and spare glasses (Lawrence is blind without them!)

What inspires you to explore more?

Lawrence's father unfortunately passed away in his 50s before he reached retirement, and this has encouraged us both to live for the moment. Life is too short to not seize the moment and do what you are passionate about.

How do you engage with others?

We try our best to learn at least a little of the language when we travel to another country to allow us to travel to less touristy areas and speak to people. Rachel speaks French and Spanish and is currently trying to learn Russian (with difficulty!). Lawrence is learning Italian.

Why is it important to embrace global cultures?

We are all one people on this planet. To best appreciate this you must experience life with other people and sample their cultures. This is why we love overlanding between places, as it makes that connection with locals much stronger and easier.

What are your goals when you explore?

We love to get out into nature, particularly hiking and climbing. We also really enjoy experiencing different cultures, particularly through food and meeting people.

What are some challenges you have experienced?

We had initially planned to begin our current adventure in May 2020. However, with the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have had to delay our planned departure date until October 2021. Although international travel is now more open, we are still going to need to remain up to date with restrictions and requirements for travel when moving between different countries.

Similarly, the change in European travel rules associated with Brexit has forced us to alter the planned route of our European leg as we are now only allowed to spend 3 months out of a 6 month period in the EU.

What has been your most meaningful moment so far?

Finally setting off on our expedition. We left from The Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool on 2nd October 2021, almost 18 months later than initially planned. We have been planning our trip since 2017, and quit our jobs in early 2020 to head off travelling. Unfortunately the covid-19 pandemic meant we had to put our plans on hold, so it was brilliant to finally be able to start what we had been planning for so long.

How has exploration changed you?

For us travel is addictive - the more we travel the more places we want to visit and explore. Exploration has made us change our priorities in life - we are keen to travel as much as possible while we are young rather than waiting till retirement to have our adventures.

What is the number one lesson that you have learnt through your exploration?

People in general are extremely friendly and helpful, particularly if you make an effort to engage by learning a little of the language and local customs. I think watching the news can create the feeling that the world is a dangerous place. However, we have met some genuinely lovely people while travelling.

How do you explore locally?

We both love hiking so once we have arrived at a destination in our ambulance, we prefer to explore on foot. This allows us to meet local people and get out into nature.

What does the explmore mantra mean to you?

Travel, Adventure, Exploration, Challenge, Reward

What advice would you give to others who are seeking life changing adventure?

Simply - just do it. There are always excuses and obstacles to not do something. Set yourself a goal then make a plan of what you need to do to achieve it. Speak to other like minded people who will hopefully give you the support and advice to go forward.

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