Call him the “accidental tourist.”
A Massachusetts man who confused the state of New Jersey with the British Isle of Jersey, which sits off the coast of France, ended up getting an all-expenses-paid trip after locals there crowdfunded his plane tickets, offered him free hotel rooms, and treated him to three square meals a day — as well as beer, of course — for a week.
It all started — well, Joe Hill’s not quite sure, exactly. The 26-year-old Plymouth resident said he isn’t positive how he ended up joining a Facebook group several years ago called “Good or Bad Jersey Businesses,” but he always assumed it was a page dedicated to the US state.
“I decided, well, might as well learn more about New Jersey,” Hill, a UMass Boston student, said. “Then I noticed all the British slang.”
In October 2017, he posted a short message in the group, noting that he was American but that the business review page was his favorite to lurk in.
“I had previously never heard of Jersey and still only have the foggiest idea of where it is. But if anyone ever asks me I can tell them where not to get their car fixed in Jersey,” Hill quipped.
The post garnered more than 1,500 likes, 356 comments, and 59 shares.
Shortly after, a Jersey resident named Alex Dolan started a GoFundMe page that sought to raise 1,200 pounds — or approximately $1,677 — to get Hill and his girlfriend, Amanda Rose, plane tickets to the island.
It took less than a week for the funds to be raised, Hill and Dolan said.
“It was all people who lived in Jersey,” Hill said.
His girlfriend’s reaction when she found out?
“He does crazy things all the time honestly, so I didn’t believe it,” said Rose, 24. “I almost didn’t believe it was real until we got on the plane, and even then it was still overwhelmingly mind-blowing.”
In late April, the trip finally happened. Hill and Rose stayed at a hotel owned by Dolan’s family.
“Joe seemed like a really nice guy,” Dolan said in his thick British accent when reached by phone. “I said, OK, if Joe’s making the effort to come over, I own some hotels in Jersey, so I can put him up.”
The locals were also more than generous when it came to feeding (and liquoring) the American couple.
“They’re enormous drinkers over there. We were forced to drink alcohol the whole time,” Hill joked.
During their time on the small island — which is a quick, inexpensive flight from London — Hill and Rose toured the beaches, cliffs, cities, farms, and lighthouses, he said.
In fact, there were so many people willing to give Hill free things and experiences, Dolan said they had to turn down some of them.
“There were so many offers, we ended up having to be quite selective,” he said.
Hill — who said he has never left the United States before — estimates that between the plane tickets, car rental, hotel room, food, drinks, tours, and activities, he and Rose were treated to a vacation that was likely worth a whopping $15,000.
“They’re super friendly. You should go there,” he informed the Globe reporter interviewing him.
Hill and Rose, back from their trip, are already looking forward to hosting Dolan and his girlfriend in Boston some time soon.
“I’m really looking forward to coming over — I’ve heard so much about Boston, and I’ve never been to America before,” Dolan said.
As for why Jersey residents rallied behind Hill’s trip?
“I’m not sure,” Hill admitted. “I thought that maybe they just don’t get many tourists, but I got there and it was, like, half tourists. So I don’t know. I think they’re just friendly and got excited for it.”
For Dolan, he said it was quite simply the spirit of a “passionate and patriotic” people who wanted to share their love for their home.
“When you live in a place like Jersey, you tend to lose sight of how lucky you are,” Dolan said, touting the island’s beaches, sunshine, resorts, restaurants, and surfing. “As soon as Joe said ‘I don’t know anything about Jersey,’ everyone started sharing their favorite things about it. We love this place.”
Some more photos, courtesy of Joe Hill, from his time in Jersey: