Regarding the Kindness of Strangers

10 09 2009

One of the loveliest things about travel is the aspect of connecting with strangers. This is pretty much a constant in foreign travel, especially when you are traveling solo and even more especially when you are a solo female traveler. But in general, if you are open to “communing with the natives,” locals tend to be open to communing right back. It is my general experience that people are proud of their country/city/home, and eager to share it with those who are eager to really experience the life and culture there.

I came across much of this in South America, and most of the highlights of that trip, not surprisingly, have to do with random conversation or experiences with friendly strangers. This is less the case in the U.S., however. Nice as Americans are, we are generally a bit more closed off, going about our own lives and in general far too busy to show off our homes to folks we do not know. It’s  difficult to imagine, for example, that a strange girl with no place to stay might knock on the door of a vacation rental somewhere in Anywhere, USA and have the family on the other side take her in as the lovely parents of Octavio and Julia did for me in Humahuaca.

Emphasis, here, on in general. Not all Americans are skeptical of random strangers. Especially, it turns out, on the idyllic roads of Long Island, where we recently went wine tasting and were treated not only to lush scenery, but some of the nicest people one can imagine.

Corey Creek

Picture this:

Four ladies arrive in Mattituck, LI after a two and a half hour train ride and decide to walk to the first winery since their bus is nowhere in sight. It’s sweltering, and after a half hour of walking they are sweaty and trudging, but nearly there, when a car pulls to the side and the woman inside offers them a ride, explaining emphatically when the very relieved ladies climb into the car that  she never does this, then gushing over the area and suggesting countless wineries to try, insisting that she drive them further than their original destination and drop them at one of her favorite wineries.

Savior Sasha bids the ladies adieu at Croteaux, a tiny mom and pop winery that rather perfectly for the idyllic setting only serves rosés.

Croteaux bottle

There is much drinking of pink wine, but there is also some petting of Sargent, the resident pup, and best of all some great conversation with the proprietor, Croteaux himself, who shares that he and his wife moved to the property without the intention of making wine, but saved the historic neighboring farm by purchasing it. After much conversation, and in the second act of kindness of the day, Croteaux offers the ladies the use of his family bicycles to make their way to the next few wineries.

The ladies discover there is little more picturesque than biking on North Fork roads. Unless, perhaps, it’s the sight of bikes against rows of grape vines.


As the day passes there is dancing (with strangers), playing the sunglasses game (more strangers) and finally the kind stranger who gives the ladies a ride back to the train station. Long Islanders, it is clear, are some of the friendliest (and most helpful) folks in all the land. Perhaps it’s the wine?

For more on how to wine hop in Long Island, click here (warning: shameless self-promotion link). More of the mayhem, and a clearer idea of the sunglasses game (mind bafflingly complicated) here.