Did I almost get abducted?

When I went on my semester abroad during my bachelor’s studies, I first spent about half a week in a hostel in my destination city. The year was 2013 and I arrived in Lille, France, sometime in July. The semester was to last roughly until Christmas, and I was in for an interesting time right from the start.

My hostel was in the city center. Rooms stocked with humble metal bunkbeds, full occupancy, noise from the city outside. I still remember walking into the hostel lobby to use the computer there, and wondering if someone was playing a practical joke on me. It wasn’t a joke; it was just the (to foreigners) utterly confusing French keyboard layout.

But I fought my way through it, sent off some requests to look at flats, and then sat with some of the other people in front of the hostel. Most people must have been in their early 20s. Just one guy was easily in his 50s, calmly chatting away with people.

As the crowd thinned out, the older guy remained. Eventually, I got to chatting with him. He didn’t seem to speak English, but he was extremely patient with me trying to cobble together something in French. This seemed perfect, because, at this early stage of my semester abroad, I was still super motivated to learn French for real this time.

And so, we kept on chatting for a couple of hours. The next day, we were chatting again. We even went to a nearby McDonald’s and had a burger there. I remember being surprised at how he ate his burger, first taking the bun and then eating the toppings separately with his hands.

The next day, we went for a walk to a nearby park. He said his son was there, and we should say hi. Sure thing, I thought. When we got to the park, we met a much younger guy who was dressed like he had been jogging there. He took a brief look at me, exchanged some words with my companion, and ran off again.

Then came my final night at the hostel and the person suggested that I should come to have dinner with him at his family’s place. While we were walking there, in the late evening, through almost deserted streets, I suddenly started feeling anxious. Something in the back of my mind was sounding the alarm. I pretended to get a call on my phone and excused myself from the invitation. After turning a corner, I ran back to the hostel as fast as I could and broke into a cold sweat once I was finally in my bed.

Now, to this day I’m not entirely sure: Did I just meet a kindly elderly man who enjoyed some company? Or was I right to think that something fishy was going on?

43 thoughts on “Did I almost get abducted?

  1. Way too sketchy an individual. You were wise to listen to your gut and make a hasty retreat.

    I remember all too well being that age, pushing myself to be more open to new people and experiences, to be less cautious and judgmental. It took a couple of close calls to jar me out of that approach, because it’s that mindset that is exactly what predators seek and exploit.

    So glad you came away unscathed. And wiser.

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    1. Here’s to living to tell the tale. It really is a challenge to walk the line between being open towards people and new experiences, but not throwing common sense into the wind while doing so – or being cautious and on one’s guard, while not also being closed off to the world.

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  2. I think you were smart to listen to your instincts. I learned the hard way not to accept invitations to someone else’s home when you don’t know the host very well or at all. I wasn’t abducted, but it quickly became clear that the people hosting the party had “made plans” for me. Luckily I was able to get out while their backs were turned, but it’s made me, for better or worse, less trusting of people when I travel alone.

    I wonder why your acquaintance was staying at a hostel when he had family in town. Or was he the host/manager of the place? So many questions here.

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    1. What a terrible experience. I’m glad you made it out of there.

      Yes, exactly! Lots of things don’t really add up when you think about them. Also, what was the deal with his “son”?

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  3. It is always best to listen to your instincts about things. I always do that too and have avoided a few possible problems for myself. I have always worried about being abducted as we were warned about this all the time as girls, especially as we were all very blonde. For some reason, everyone I knew thought blonde hair was a ticket to abduction.

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  4. I think you were right to be cautious! Women are probably targeted more often than men, but I’ve heard of single male travelers being drugged and robbed. It can happen to anyone. In some places, kidnapping for ransom is a real danger.

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  5. Hahahah interesting story. I’d do what you did for sure but it’s hard to tell what his real intentions were. I’m guessing you had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right – and more often than not gut feelings turn out to be right.

    Liked by 1 person

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