The Travelling Student – Changing Directions

My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right fit or time to do so. This is part two in the story of how Athabasca has allowed me to create my own study abroad program.

In part one Matt and I left London, Ontario heading towards a remote town in Northern Quebec called Val d’Or (Valley of Gold).

In the last minute Matt decided we would take the Ottawa route. His explanation being he’d already taken the North Bay route in the past and wanted some new scenery. He veered into the passing lane of the 401 and stepped on the gas. After two coffees, a gas station stop, and 4 hours we were approaching Ottawa. I provided directions (via Google Maps) as Matt drove. So far we were well ahead of schedule.

I gave Matt directions while we approached a busy interchange on the 401. Matt’s phone made a chirping noise. It was on the dashboard and I glanced over to see the name Simon.

Simon was Matt’s contact at the brush cutting camp, which was our final destination. The two had met while tree planting in Alberta that summer. “Read out the message” said Matt. I quickly grabbed the phone and started reading “Change of plans? that’s all it says.” “What is that supposed to mean?” we both said.

I started to dial Simon’s number before noticing the loud sound made from driving 120km/h down the highway with your windows slightly down. Except none of the windows in the car were actually down. Matt explained how the seal on the doors had been broken. It was one of the CR-V’s many imperfections. It had the kind of small imperfections any old car would have, the kind that made you nervous about a cross-country trip across Canada. The only reason I was confident we’d make it to Val d’Or was that Matt was a grade-A MacGyver. He was the kind of guy who could jump-start a truck using a Dorito, some duct tape, and a paper clip. But the noise from the broken seals made talking on the cell impossible.

A few minutes later, though, a much longer text message came in. The message explained that Simon and a few others from the camp in Val d’Or had left and relocated to a place called Longue-Rive. Brush Cutters essentially functioned as independent contractors, arriving at a camp with their own equipment and know-how. And the camp in Longue-Rive was paying $630 a hector while one in Val d’Or only $410.

I opened Wikipedia and did a search on Longue-Rive. It’s a small town of about 1000 people. More importantly, it’s located completely on the other side of Quebec. I frantically opened Google Maps and recalculated the directions we would have to take. “Take a right” I said.

Now, instead of five more hours we had nine more hours to go. A bit further, but were grateful that we hadn’t taken the Northern Ontario route, or things would have been much worse. After talking about how lucky we were for what seemed like only a few minutes the Montreal skyline began to appear. Still unsure of where we would end up that night we headed into town hungry and ready for adventure.

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