If you ever travelled in developing countries you’d realize that the notion of gracious hospitality has zero relationship to income levels. One might even argue that it has an inverse relationship….the less money the warmer the welcome. And one early Sunday morning Ofer and I proved this relationship beyond a doubt in Wincoma, NY; a private community north of Huntington. But I get a head of myself.
Hospitality is a huge concept for me. I spent years traveling to off-beat places from Kathmandu to deserts in India, to fishing villages In Iceland, to oasis communities in western Egypt. I travelled by bike, camel, sailboat, kayak, and foot. Many a time I was at the end of the world tired, hungry and without a working knowledge of the local language. But a smile and an extended hand is all it took to get a warm cup a tea and a place in the proverbial tent.
As a young man, this worldwide concept of hospitality made a lasting impression on me. I came back from faraway places proclaiming that people are good; explore and meet them. That is until I beached my kayak on Wincoma beach (2 miles from my home) for a rest stop one early Sunday morning. As is our custom, Ofer and I dragged our slick kayaks above the high tide, got out the super Gazia (our camping stove) and set to prepare for our morning tea. But it wasn’t to happen this morning.
As soon as we set foot on the beach, a middle aged man (Ken) ran up to us waving his arms and pointing to several private beach signs. He was clearly the resident in charge of keeping the beach private and he was doing a good job. Ken had the law on his side and we were in violation. We were not welcomed and we left in a silent disgrace like two drifters.
Ken missed a great opportunity, though. If he had bothered to sit down and share tea with us, he’d have learned a thing or two about what you receive in return for hospitality given to travelers who happen at your doorstep. He could have tapped into the collective experiences of two seasoned travelers. He could have learned what it was like to be on a medical mission to Haiti after the earthquake, or to follow 9/11 firefighters cycling across the USA , or to cycle across Israel raising money for environmental research. And we lost too. We could have learned about Ken and life in Wincoma. It could have been a great tea party. Yes, it is a private beach and you need to draw the line somewhere, or before you know it all kind of other strangers may want to enjoy your beach, but two kayakers on brisk fall day landing on an empty beach? That’s where hospitality and common sense give way to rules.
I’m glad that our sons and Oren and Ori were not with us to witness Wincoma enforce its hospitality policy. It would have been hard to explain the logic to them.
Ofer and I will keep looking for friendlier shores and people and to share our tea with.