The Travelling Student – Liberated

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 part fourteen in the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In part thirteen I woke up completely drained from my excursion as a brush cutter. After realizing the job would make studying for my Athabasca classes extremely difficult I decided to call it quits. I bought myself a ticket to Quebec City.

As I stood outside, waiting for my bus from Longue-Rive, I felt like a bit of a strange sight. People could tell I wasn’t from the Cote Du Nord area, and they could probably tell I was an ?anglo? (if You’re an English speaker in Quebec you’ll hear that term a lot). A woman walked past me and I greeted her with “Bonjour,” still staring straight ahead she increased her pace. “Ouch,” I thought to myself.

A few minutes later the young man whodunnits’d been called to sell me my ticket because he knew English came outside, seemingly for the sole purpose of speaking with me. Longue-Rive essentially gets no tourists and an anglo being there must have intrigued him. His English wasn’t great but we exchanged stories and found a common interest in nineties grunge rock and video games. After a few minutes my bus arrived and I said “Au revoir.”

It was an uneventful ride but the scenery was great. Especially the bits where we drove along the Saint Lawrence River. To this day I regret not stopping in Tadoussac for a whale-watching cruise, the Saint Lawrence is home to thirteen species of whales including belugas and blue whales. Of course lugging around a large blue tot and my backpack wasn’t exactly appealing.

After about six hours of driving and break stops we were approaching Quebec City. I thought about the embarrassment I would face going back to my hometown so soon, the dullness of said town, and the feeling of complete lack of opportunity. As I pondered what I would do next I looked out the window to see a large sign which read “Bienvenue Quebec la capital nationale”.

I stepped off the bus in my steel toe boots, my bomber jacket, my backpack strapped over my shoulders, and holding a large plastic storage container. I got some weird looks from the people with convenient travel bags with wheels, something that I wished I had instead of having to carry this tote into the bus station.

At the ticket counter I asked for the pricing on a ticket back to London. After a few minutes on the computer the attendant informed me that their company only operated in Quebec, I’d have to transfer to Greyhound in Montreal but she could sell me a ticket. After she called Greyhound on the phone and spent a few more minutes on the phone I was informed that the trip would be just over $300 after taxes.

That was more than I expected, so I headed to subway to think about what I’d do next. I didn’t have much waiting for me in London, so paying over $300 to get there seemed like a steep price. I figured I’d stay in Quebec for the night and think about it. I used Google Maps and found a nearby hostel. What would normally be a ten-minute walk was a very painful 20 minute walk thanks to my large blue storage container. Every few blocks I had to stop when I felt like my arms were about to fall off. It probably didn’t help that I was still sore from lugging the brush cutter through the bush yesterday.

I finally arrived at a hostel, La belle Planet Backpackers. The first floor was a café with a ?chilled out? atmosphere playing a mixture of indie rock and underground hip-hop. I walked over to the counter where a heavy-set man with a small dog sat. I informed him that I had made an online reservation. In a condescending French accent he told me that check in was not for another hour and I’d have to wait.

Not discouraged, I sat down in a comfortable chair. I figured I could take advantage of the next hour by enjoying the atmosphere and getting a head start on an Athabasca course that I’d start in the coming week. The class was an overview of Electronic Commerce (ECOM320), and I was excited to learn about the field I’d worked in but from a Managerial perspective. As I read my textbook the hour flew by.

I approached the counter again and asked if I could be checked in. The large man with the dog said it was a busy time for them and because of that they only had 1 very small room, for a price of $40, minimum stay two nights. I was surprised because I had a confirmed booking for $30 for a single night. After arguing my point to no avail I gave in as it was still a lot cheaper than any hotel, and all the other hostels had been booked up.

A girl in her mind-twenties showed me to my room. It was a horribly cramped room with a single bunk-bed and enough room for two people to stand up straight. The bedding felt like the kind of plastic sheets which I thought were only made for children who frequently wet the bed. While I wasn’t happy with the room, or the price, I figured, “Oh well, at least I can have a hot shower.”

After my shower I went downstairs to ask about what I should see in the city. The owner rudely mentioned that I should probably pay first. I handed him my credit card and said “I figured you already had my card on file from the online booking I made.”

“We only take cash,” he said in his most condescending voice.

That was it. I’d have enough. I tossed the key over the table at him, “You keep it,” I said, “Saving a few bucks isn’t worth being treated like dirt.”

I walked back up to my room and proceeded to empty my blue storage container. I had a few extra bags I was able to cram most of my stuff into. A few things including the storage container and some extra clothing were abandoned in the room.

I walked out of the hostel feeling liberated. I had been treated like crap and I spoke up, letting the owner know I wouldn’t have it. What was even more freeing was not having to carry around the storage container I’d left behind. With that, I found a bench where I’d fire up my phone in an attempt to find somewhere, preferably cheap, to sleep that night.

The Travelling Student series of articles was mentioned as a favorite by a couple of students. This one, from January of last year, I particularly like for having a solid story-arc, including a hero in strange circumstances, a conflict that gets resolved, and even a villain.

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