At some point in childhood, running away seems like a pretty good idea, especially after a fight with a parent.
For 12-year-old Drew from Sydney, Australia, the idea went from just an outrageous thought to dangerous reality when he stole his parents’ credit card and booked himself a flight to Bali.
The hard-to-believe story was aired on Australian television this past month and proves to be a cautionary tale for parents of children who may be a little too clever for their own good, and a little too good with a smartphone.
"He's kind, he's generous, he's got a heart of gold, and no there's no problem with him. He's just too intelligent for his own self at the moment," Drew's grandmother told interviewers.
He had tried it twice before, 'borrowing' his parents' credit card and using his smartphone to make the bookings.
These attempts were unsuccessful since he didn't have a letter from his parents as per the airline’s requirements for underage travellers.
After reporting the incident to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), his parents were assured the child's passport would be flagged in case of future attempts.
"We screamed, we begged for help for weeks on end and when the first attempt to Indonesia took place, we were told his passport was going to be flagged," explains mom, Emma.
But on his third attempt, the young boy succeeded.
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How'd he manage that?
Armed with only his backpack and scooter, Drew took to the road to catch a train to the airport, a connecting flight taking him from Sydney to Perth to Bali.
Using an automated scanning system to check-in, Drew managed to take an international flight completely undetected.
"I [thought] why am I doing this, but I still had adrenalin from being so angry at mom to not care."
Window seat, cloudy views
After 4 hours, the tween reached Bali, and after lying about his mom being outside waiting for him, the boy made it through without raising any alarms.
Drew would spend the next four days in Bali, racking up a total of AU$8,000, that's more than R80 000!
"I said my sister was coming and I was just checking in early," Drew said, explaining how he had managed to make hotel reservations without adult supervision.
His Bali adventure included renting a motorbike, sightseeing, shopping and drinking a beer on the beach, all the while ignoring calls from home.
But after accidentally including his location in a video he shared with a friend, Drew's Bali trip came to an end.
Bye bye Bali
After being notified, the AFP tipped off Indonesian police about the underage adventurer, but since Drew hadn't actually broken any Indonesian laws, the boy had to be collected by his parents.
Surprisingly, for the distraught parents getting there proved shockingly complicated.
"We couldn't get on the flight because we've got a non-return ticket... and that's when my former partner said, 'Well how did my twelve-year-old son get on a flight without being questioned and you're questioning us as adults?'"
All was (mostly) forgiven when the relieved parents finally reunited with their boy, getting a hug from his dad, Brett.
Smoothing things over with his mom proved a little harder.
"I could see him through the window and he looked in at us as we were driving... and I think I broke… we just wanted to know why?"
Once reunited, Drew was not allowed out of his parent's sight.
The matter is currently being investigated by Australian police, with Emma questioning the broader implications of what the incident entails for other children.
"So easily fooling our Australian police, our Federal Police, Customs everyone – What about those other kids...what about child trafficking? It doesn't kind of relate [directly] to us but you start thinking outside the box."
When asked by the programme interviewers, the airline advised that they would be reviewing their policy.
Watch the full story below:
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- How to keep kids safe at home
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