Hi, my name is Tamara, and I’m the owner of Glambulance, the prettiest darn ambulance you’ll ever meet. She’s a girl, and I call her Glamby for short. I bought Glamby on January 15, 2020, just before the pandemic officially began. However, before settling on an ambulance, I spent a good eight years doing research. I spent hours at RV dealerships testing out my options.
Did I want a travel trailer, 5th wheel, Class C, Class B, Class A, or none of the above? What were the benefits and challenges of each vehicle?
After the end of an 18-year marriage to a man who preferred a brick-and-mortar lifestyle, I finally had time to begin plotting and planning my dreams to travel the country with a home on wheels. I still had two sons in high school, so I’d have to wait, but I knew eventually, I’d be free.
I grew up being homeschooled in a Sufi Muslim commune in the ‘70s on a 250-acre farm in the Hill Country of Texas. We prayed, ate, and slept together on thin futons on floors. We used communal bathrooms, and
during humid Texas summers, we lived without air conditioning, which means we often slept outdoors with fire ants attacking us.
All this is to say I grew up roughing it. I’m used to living with the bare minimum and surviving, all while accepting the bad with the good.
Our commune was nomadic, thus my strong affinity for a traveling lifestyle. Our community members created homes in places throughout the United States and abroad in the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Sweden, and
South Africa. As a result, I caught the travel bug early on and ended up spending my life backpacking alone or with kiddos in tote.
I’ve traveled, lived, and worked in 77 countries. Often I’m asked which country is my favorite. It’s like choosing which of your kids is your favorite. I answer, “I love them all.” Each place has its unique beauty, and each country, state, town, and village are my favorites for different reasons.
Home is where I put my head each night. With dichotomies, extremes exist on both ends. The positive part about not having a stucco, brick, or adobe to call home is I feel at
home almost everywhere. I create home anew, with each experience, with each step I take. Yet, there are times I feel at home nowhere.
While those around me seem to have found their place, their people, I’m left plodding along on a lonesome road.
Thankfully I’m usually somewhere in the middle, where I feel home is inside of me— rooted, strong, unbreakable—not bound to a place or person, but held safely in the infiniteness of the universe.
So, back to Glamby.
After years of research, nothing still felt quite right. A travel trailer and 5th wheel both required big expensive trucks. Would I need a ¾ ton? What was the difference between 150
and 1,500, if any? Did I want a Ford, Dodge, or Chevy?
While trailers were generally the cheapest option, their price skyrocketed after you added in a massive truck. However, what I
liked most about travel trailers and 5th wheels were their amenities—a large back bedroom, a full-sized closet, and the best of all—a
washer and dryer.
Trailers and 5th wheels seemed too clunky, too big, too wide, especially for the national parks I planned to visit. As a woman traveling alone, I had no idea how I’d do all the hooking and
unhooking. Many RV dealers assured me I could do it alone, but experience has taught me to follow my gut, and I didn’t feel comfortable.
Then I started comparing Class Cs and Class As. Class Cs drove more like a truck, so there was less of a learning curve, and they were generally less expensive, but I didn’t like their interior layouts. They felt claustrophobic with little light. I often tested out a Class C by enacting my self-made yoga mat test. Could I
unroll my yoga mat in the center of the
vehicle? If not, the vehicle wasn’t right for me.
I love the large front windows of a Class A, their brightness, open floor plans, and modern interiors. Of course, I wanted a Class A. Rock
stars live in Class As. But I’m not rich, so my dream of owning a Class A seemed unrealistic. But after much searching, I did discover the
Winnebago Intent 26-Footer, the cheapest and shortest Class A I could find, but each time I previewed the model, there were endless problems with the vehicle—a broken screen
door, AC that didn’t work—the list was endless.
After taking several lessons, I was also fearful of driving a Class A but found they weren’t too bad. Even so, I was afraid to drive California State
Route 1, another self-imposed test. Could I take
this vehicle along the Pacific Coastline without fear?
Originally Class Bs were the last on my list. I didn’t think I’d have enough interior space to live full-time in a van. But, after years of researching vanlife and watching every possible video,
viewing every possible Instagram photo, I began to reconsider. The benefits seemed to outweigh the challenges. But again, the main problem was the price—most vans were more expensive than the RVs I’d considered.
Then, I stumbled upon an ambulance online. An ambulance! I couldn’t imagine how or why anyone in their right mind would want to live in an ambulance, but I was intrigued. For days, I researched #ambulanceconversion, and the more
I read, the more I learned an ambulance checked off almost all of the boxes on my “Home on Wheels Wish List.”
By the time I heard of an ambulance, I already decided I’d only buy a vehicle with a pass-thru. As a solo woman traveler, I needed to walk from the cab to the back without ever leaving the vehicle. At a moment’s notice, I needed to turn on the ignition and take off. After parking for the night, I also liked the idea that I could scooch from the driver’s seat to the back with no one from the outside knowing.
Most importantly, I love urban life, so I knew the vehicle I bought would have to lay low in San Francisco, on a narrow street in NYC, in L.A., and along Scenic Highway 101 in San Diego. Not only wouldn’t I be afraid to drive through these cities, but also I could also easily park. But what the ambulance offers that a Class B doesn’t is stealthiness. I could ride around in my ambulance, park, and sleep for the night without anyone knowing the vehicle was my home.
I kept my eyes peeled for years, searching for my ambulance. I wasn’t willing to travel to buy the rig, so I figured I’d wait to see if one would pop up in my hometown, and sure enough, one day, while I was scrolling Craigslist, I spotted an ambulance!
It cost me $10,000 for a 2001 Ford Econo E-350 equipped with a 7.3L diesel Cummings engine, considered one of the most reliable engines ever created.
I immediately made an appointment with the owner. Surprisingly, he lived only a few blocks
away from where I was staying. He and his wife had spent a year driving the ambulance crosscountry with their new baby. He was a digital nomad, and she ran their Instagram page,
populating photos of their journey.
I know the moment I walk into a house if I feel comfortable. Or the moment I meet a person if I like them. One of my biggest concerns about buying an ambulance was the residual paramedic-y energy. Surprisingly, the second I walked into the ambulance, I felt nothing other than positive energy. I expressed this feeling to the owners, and they said they’d disinfected every nook and cranny several times and had smudged the place multiple times.
I believe having a baby live in the ambulance a year before I purchased it made the ambulance feel safe, bright, and homey—I felt the energy of
the newly living versus the energy of the newly dead.
I asked the owners, “Had anyone died in the ambulance?” Their response was “no.” They explained people aren’t pronounced dead in an ambulance. Usually, a doctor pronounces them dead after they arrive at the hospital. So officially, no one had died in the ambulance. We
also talked about ambulances saving lives, which seems obvious, but until you’re considering living in an ambulance, you don’t go so meta. I
decided I’d be proud and honored to drive an ambulance, a lifesaving vehicle.
The ambulance quickly took on a new meaning; perhaps, the ambulance came into my life to save me—to teach me about life, death, and renewal.
Before purchasing her, I brought her to a mechanic for a complete look-over and learned I’d need to put a couple of thousand into repairs —new brakes and AC, nothing too terrible. One
of the first things I did when meeting my
ambulance was naming her. Without any thought at all, I came up with Glambulance. I searched, and no one had yet called their ambulance Glambulance, so I quickly adopted her name.
By the time the repairs were complete, the pandemic was beginning. I’d planned to take Glamby on the road, but then stay-at-home orders started. I’ve spent the past year getting her more ready for travel, and I still have many upgrades I’d still like to do. A fan, air conditioner, and solar top my list. I’d also like to build a bed with storage and add a pull-out table and desk. A good night’s sleep and a place to write are all part of my daily routine and essential pieces of constructing my perfect ambulance life.
If I put in a sink, a place for a portable toilet, and a shower, I’ll be in Glambulance heaven. It’s a long list, but for now, she is perfect just the way she is. I still don’t feel comfortable traveling, especially now with the Delta variant on the rise and places closing again, but once I do, I’ll be ready for life on the road in my tiny home.
The ambulance is by far the best choice I could’ve made—it offers important elements other vehicles can’t and don’t. First of all, stealthiness. A cargo van can do this, but I don’t want to live in a non-insulated box. Ambulances don’t provide big windows, but I find their
window size perfect because an intruder can’t easily fit through them. Additionally, ambulances are difficult to break into because they’re steel cases with super heavy-duty locks. Ambulances offer just the right balance of safety and light.
In my opinion, no RV., or even a school bus, can beat an ambulance when it comes to uniqueness. Ambulances are canvases for your art projects. You can create the vehicle of your dreams— turning the ambulance into anything you envision.
Ambulances are easy to drive on steep and narrow roads. You can park them almost anywhere, even in conventional parking spaces. They offer open floor plans, which means they pass my yoga mat test. Sturdiness. Safety. Reliability. A diesel engine at the lowest cost, which I never dreamed I’d have enough money to afford. Great secure storage, both inside and out —much better than any van.
An ambulance is a perfect vehicle for a solo woman traveler.
Since my divorce more than ten years ago, I haven’t owned a home. A couple of months before purchasing Glamby, I bought a trailer home, which I spent months also renovating. She’s tropical pink, aqua, and surrounded by flamingos. I named her “Barbie Palace.” My original thought was to keep her as my attached aluminum home while I live locally and keep
Glamby as my traveling U.S. home.
I have my Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics, where I write and research my hybrid identity of growing up simultaneously Jewish and Muslim. Besides Glamby being my tiny home, I also bought her to use as my portable storytelling studio for the nonprofit I recently created called “Muslim Jewish Love,” which spreads peace, love, and joy between Muslim and Jewish communities worldwide.
I miss my kids like crazy and would do anything to reverse the clock to return to being a mama to young boys, but life is such that we have phases
Here I am, a 49-year-old single empty
nester. During my marriage, I could’ve never imagined one day owning an ambulance, but I never stopped believing in my tiny home on wheels. My advice is to keep watering your
dreams because one day, they’ll flower at precisely the right time and right place.
I only have this one life to live, and I want to see every inch and corner of planet earth my health allows, so I prefer feelings of loneliness, uprootedness, and not belonging to being attached to a specific spot on earth I call “home.”
For me, home is: Outside. Inside. In cacti. Hummingbirds. The rain during a monsoon. In death. Life. In mothering the world. In mothering ourselves.
I am still waiting to travel and live in Glamby more full-time, but I’m patient. I work on many goals simultaneously, creating my dream life one tiny step at a time.
If we nourish our soul, no matter where we are, whatever we’re doing, we’re home.