As It Happens

A tale of two Sydneys: Dutch teen tries to visit Australia, but ends up in Nova Scotia

Milan Schipper was all geared up for an outdoorsy Australian adventure on Saturday, but instead he ended up on Cape Breton facing down a blizzard.
Milan Schipper meant to visit the Sydney on the left, but ended up in the Sydney on the right. (Jason Reed, Steve Wadden/Reuters)

Story transcript

When Milan Schipper was looking at flights from Amsterdam to Sydney, he found one ticket that was almost $300 cheaper than the rest.

"So I thought, 'Well, let's book that one,'" the 18-year-old Dutch man told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

He was planning on spending some time in Australia before starting college — backpacking along the lush coastal landscapes, and maybe working a little. But instead he ended up in an airport on Canada's East Coast the weekend before last, facing down a blizzard.

"I thought I was going to Australia, but that turned out a little different," he said with a chuckle.

Milan Schipper didn't stay in Canada very long, he said. He wasn't dressed for the weather. (Facebook)

He first realized something wasn't quite right when he landed in Toronto for a stopover and caught a glimpse of the Air Canada plane that would take him to his final destination. 

"The plane was really small and so I figured, would that make it to Australia?" he said.

He boarded it anyway. Then he saw the map on the screen on the seat in front of him.

"I saw the flight plan was going to go right, not left. It was about the time that I realized there was another Sydney," he said.

There's actually a long history of tourists accidentally flying to Sydney, N.S., when they mean to visit Sydney, Australia. (CBC)

"I felt terrible. I think I [swore] in my head for like 10 minutes. But there was nothing I could do about it because I was already up in the air."

Not properly dressed

He landed in snow-covered Sydney, N.S., with a blizzard on the horizon, sporting nothing but a T-shirt, sweatpants and a thin jacket.

"I was not dressed for the occasion," he said. 

Beachgoers gather at Sydney's Bondi Beach to welcome the first sunrise of 2017 following new year celebrations in Australia's largest city. Milan Schipper will have to wait to see the city's famous beaches. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

He found some airport employees and explained the situation. They booked a flight straight back to Toronto, and from there, home, where his very amused father picked him up at the airport. 

"He felt really sorry for me, but he thought ... only I could do such a thing," Schipper said. "He also laughed an awful lot — just like everyone else."

Downtown streets are covered with snow following a winter storm in Sydney, N.S., in February 2015. Schipper was greeted by similar weather when he landed there by accident recently. (Steve Wadden/Reuters)

His father, however, is incorrect. There was a U.S. woman on the same flight as him who made the same error, he said. 

What's more, in 2002 two British teenagers ended up in Sydney, N.S., while trying to visit the Land Down Under, as did an Argentine tourist in 2008, a Dutch man and his grandson in 2009 and an Italian couple in 2010.

In the latter case, they stayed in town for a few days and enjoyed some fresh seafood and Cape Breton hospitality.

Schipper, however, didn't stick around long enough to take in the sights and sounds of Canada's East Coast.

"I only saw the parking lot of the airport," he said.