The Travelling Student – Stick it to the Plan

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 time to do so. This is the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In the last installment I enjoyed a few weeks in on the sunny Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.
After a few weeks staying at the Surf Side Hostel on Bondi Beach I found myself wanting to explore more of the country. Visitors to Australia often underestimate the size of it. If you don’t include Alaska and Hawaii Australia is about the same size as the United States, driving around the coast-line of Australia is a whopping 15,000km and takes almost a month to complete.

I’d come across an RV relocation deal where an RV can be rented (for FREE) in a popular destination (Sydney) and driven to a popular starting location (say, for instance, Cairns). The rental company will often refund your gas receipts, and in my case threw in a bonus $150. The only down-side to the deal is the tight time-line. I’d be expected to drive from Sydney to Cairns in four days, three nights. Google Maps estimates the scenic route as being a 30-hour drive, so any less than 8 hours on the rode a day and we’d be risking arriving late.

After reserving the RV I posted an ad on GumTree (the Kijiji of Australia and UK) offering a ride for some extra cash. With so many travellers arriving in Sydney daily the ride-share section of GumTree was booming. I soon found two German girls looking for a ride to Byron Bay (about half way between Sydney and Cairns).

The next morning I woke up and called the girls to confirm. They were packed and excited to hit the road. I excitedly called a cab to head to the RV rental place. After a fairly easy process of signing in to get my vehicle (and of course being hit with some small hidden fees) I walked out of the building with the keys.

I packed up and hoped in ready to start the ignition. As I turned the key the engine started up only to quickly stall, I repeated with the same results. I took a good look around the RV and to my horror realized I was in a manual. I tried a few more times to get the vehicle working but I figured it would be enough getting use to driving in a city of five million who drive on the left side of the road without having to learn to drive manual.

I left the rental place to meet the German girls at a nearby subway station. I’d have to tell them the bad news. From discussions with other Germans I knew that almost all Germans drive manual, and, if I was lucky, they’d be able to drive. I met the girls in the subway for the first time and had an extremely hard time explaining the situation. Their English was intermediate at best and when what I was finally saying clicked they gave me their best teary puppy eyes. As it turned out one of the girls claimed she could drive manual but didn’t have a drivers licence. I decide not to take my chances. Not wanting to be there if the girls started crying I paid their subway fare and left.

To make my situation worse I’d paid a deposit on the RV. I’d get it refunded ? but only when I dropped the vehicle off in Cairns. Not ready to give up I sat down and posted a new ad. “Free ride to Cairns must be able to drive stick”.