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 instaIlment I found the RV I’d rented was a manual. In a last ditch effort to get to Carins, Australia I posted an ad online “Free ride to Cairns must drive stick”.
I stood in the entrance to Central Station in Sydney looking at my phone. I was waiting for someone named Dylan who’d responded to my ad. As I looked around anxiously, my phone started to vibrate.
“Philip speaking,” I said, and we’d spotted each other. Myself with thick black glasses and a large backpack reaching above my head to well below my waist. Dylan wore scrappy clothes (in an intentional grunge sort of way), a fedora, and had long curly hair.
We made our way to the subway and, in due time, to the RV rental. But, first, we had to make a detour. Dylan was on his own journey. Originally from Melbourne, Dylan had slowly hitchhiked his way (a full 9 hours away if constantly driving) to Sydney. Having just arrived in town the day before, he wanted to say hi to a few friends before heading out. So we made a mid-afternoon trip to a downtown pub where a group of equally grungy guys were drinking around a table.
I don’t say ’grungy’ in a condescending way. In fact, I was thrilled to be hanging out with some authentic Australians. They all shared a common style that I can’t say I’ve seen outside Australia, and, to this day, can’t find any examples of online. It was something along the lines of 90s grunge meets beach bum meets Australia. The Australian image isn’t about ’prim and proper’; it’s about clawing your way through thick bush, narrowly avoiding crocodiles, and, if you’re lucky, still having your shirt in one piece by the end of it.
With Dylan driving I was free to slam back a few beers as the group passed around a phone showing Instagram photos of the ’bummiest’ people they’d been able to capture on camera. We started talking about the road trip ahead, including all the secret spots the groups knew about. Exchanging information about beaches and parks where you can get away with camping for free is crucial on an Australian road trip. Unless, of course, you don’t mind paying $20-$30 a night to stay at the RV parks frequented by family vacationers and retirees.
While I wouldn’t have minded staying longer, the RV rental place was closing, so we headed over. I figured I’d have to pay to add Dylan to the RV insurance, but, seeing no one outside, and having the keys already in my pocket, we decided to go for it. I passed Dylan the keys and we quickly hoped into the RV, myself now in the passenger seat. The engine started, the tires squealed, and with that we were on the road battling our way through Sydney traffic, stalling only a few times along the way.
As we drove over Sydney Harbour Bridge, Dylan took out a retro Casio camera, which looked like it had been the top of the line in the early 80s, and started snapping photos. With the sudden realization of adventures ahead I stuck my head out of the window and, feeling the cool breeze, let out a roaring ’whoo hoo!’