SAM Alexander is no ordinary Gippsland university student.
He is about to take a gap year with a difference - a 5000km horse ride to raise money for Australia's Flying Doctor Service.
And when he leaves from Healesville this Saturday to start the Bicentennial National Trail to Cooktown, it will be yet another achievement for the 23-year-old.
Sam does not come from a horse-riding family and has not had a smooth path to his medical degree at Monash's Gippsland campus.
He scored only 57 in his VCE entry score, which barely saw him get into a biomedical science degree at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
"When I was up there, I got a bit claustrophobic with the city and I joined the university horse-riding club," Sam says.
It was a long-time dream for Sam who, when he was nine years old, came home from school camp and asked his Dad for a pony.
"I got a dirt bike instead," he says.
He loved the riding classes, and when he started his postgraduate degree in Tasmania, he found another riding school to improve his equine skill, and continued to study hard.
After completing the Tasmanian course, where he worked on a project to develop a new drug for brain injuries, he was accepted into medicine in his home town.
He always wanted to be a doctor, but is the first to admit he was a little lazy at high school.
"Ever since graduating from school I wanted to take a year off. I looked around for something unique and found the trail on the web. I thought it would be a great challenge," he says.
Sam decided to do the year-long ride to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, given his devotion to medicine and rural health.
"When I do my ride I can promote the RFDS, but also promote rural health. There is a great need for rural doctors and specialists," he says.
The trip, which has been six months in the planning, will take in 18 national parks and pass through Dargo, Omeo, Canberra and Kosciuszko to Cooktown.
Sam admits he is a little daunted by the challenge, but has received lots of advice, plus donations of equipment.
And he hopes people will contact him along the trail, either to ride with him or invite him to speak.
"What is going to get you to the end of the road is not expensive gear, it's the advice and expertise you get given along the way," he says.
"I'm looking forward to the experience, I love the bush and the Australian landscape and I can't wait to get out there and explore."
For more information go to Sam's website.