TRAVEL STORY: A fight with a local?

Hawaii hiking guide

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Have you ever considered speaking a different language in the presence of locals? I can confirm that is a bad idea!

Here’s a backpack travelling horror story from my trip to Hawaii!

Hawaii is a breathtaking destination. The paradisiacal landscapes, the sun, the beaches! The Aloha vibes that reign across all the islands! My three-month backpacking trip was going extremely well, until the last few weeks of my trip when my friends Max, Maude and I were strapped for money and were looking for a cheap place to sleep in the Waikiki area. Maude’s long-time friend, Jim, was a native from Honolulu and she thought of reaching out to him to ask if we could couch-surf at his place for a night or two. He generously accepted and we headed to his place to have a beer with him before going out to dinner. A few selfies, beers, and giggles later, we were on track to the start of a great evening.

Waikiki beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Jim had dinner plans that night, so we went our separate ways and decided to grab a bite to eat while waiting for him to come home. When we returned to his place, to our surprise, the 24 beers we had brought earlier had disappeared. It appeared that Jim and his buddy were ahead on schedule and had quite a lot to drink. We joined them and tried to catch up to their consumption. The evening was going well, and the room was full of good vibes. Ending the evening, I thanked him for hosting us and made plans to go surfing together in the morning.

         Everything was going smoothly, and we were ready to end the night. Because Jim lived in a loft, our sleeping pad was right next to him and his girlfriend’s bed. Getting ready for bed, I asked my friend Max in my French mother-tongue which side of the pillow he thought would be most comfortable. Little did I know, that would be the end of our lodging.

         Immediately, Jim sat right up his bed and told us to start packing our things. Confused as to the sudden shift of energy, I didn’t say a word. It was at that moment that Jim got up and came right up to my face and asked me, “Do you want me to kick you in the face? Get out.”

         This, I understood, but I was dumbfounded. What could I have possibly said to offend him so much? I stood up and tried to explain to Jim that I had simply asked Max about his pillow preferences, and that we had no intention of offending him. But that didn’t matter: the deed had been done. The look in Jim’s eyes confirmed that there was no amount of apologizing that could remedy the situation. Intoxicated and angry, his eyes were blank. I plead to his girlfriend who was still sitting in bed, and looked frightened. She told me that she did not understand what was happening and was shocked by the impulsive and aggressive reaction her boyfriend was projecting.

“You disrespect me in my home!” Jim continued. In the moment I understood that he had interpreted our French-speaking as an insult. He pushed me back into the corner of the wall and lifted my shirt with closed fists. I could see the prominent vein on his forehead and splatters of spit coming out with each heavy breath. I was sure that I was going to have to fight this giant drunk man in this tiny Honolulu loft.

Diplomatically, I apologized a thousand times over and reiterated what had really been said between Max and I. Eventually, Jim calmed down. We quietly, but quickly, began to pack our belongings. We were clearly uncomfortable and felt as though we had overstayed our welcome.

And just when we thought were going to stealthy leave with our 4 surfboards, 3 backpacks and several carry-ons, Jim and his girlfriend got into a screaming match. “I’m going to sleep at my friend’s tonight!” she screamed. “This is my fault?” Jim yelled back with all his might, lashing out, throwing and breaking things in his apartment. We ran out of the apartment in the middle of Honolulu at 3 am, once more looking for a place to sleep.

Maude reached out to Jim and girlfriend a couple of weeks later to make amends. Thankfully, nobody was hurt that night and it turns out that Jim’s girlfriend can hold her own.

All’s well that ends well, but I learned a good lesson that day. It is important to pay attention to what we say in a different language that the locals, and to tread carefully to not offend anyone!

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