By Jim Mendell
I first heard about Servas from a friend of a friend. It seemed too good to be true. For a nominal fee, I could stay with families in countries around the world. Rather than being a tourist seeing only other tourists, I had the opportunity to know the natives and learn about their culture.
My first trip almost 40 years ago I stayed with hosts in six different countries in Europe. I met a family in Italy who made me a special meal of pigeon. I was treated to a tour of the beer halls of Austria and then attended a dance performance by a family member in the Salzburg castle. In Neuchatel, Switzerland I picked delicious red cherries right from trees. On a more recent trip, my family had dinner in an historic home in Compiegne, France.
We are also Servas hosts and have had travelers from Peru, Australia and other countries stay in my home. The usual stay is two days, but longer stays can be arranged if desired. U.S. Serves held their annual national conference at Common Ground Center last June (see photos) with members that told of their experiences meeting families in distant lands such as Rwanda, New Zealand, and Nepal.
While families come to Common Ground to educate and recreate with others at our beautiful 700 acre site, individuals and families join Servas for the opportunity to stay with others in their homes around the world. The mission of the nonprofit organization founded after World War II is to promote peace and prevent another world war by promoting intercultural exchange. The connections made over the past 68 years have been invaluable to thousands of hosts and travelers in over 130 countries.
Servas has always aimed to emphasize interpersonal relations. To become a Servas member, all travelers must have a personal interview before being issued a Servas passport. Then they can be emailed a list of hundreds of hosts in the countries they want to visit with information on the ages and interests of the families.
Servas hosts their annual conference in Boulder, CO this year on June 12-14. For more information, you can visit them online or call the national office at 707-825-1714.