Servas: A Special Way to Travel

I love to travel and really enjoy meeting and getting to know people who are interested in making the world a better place. I also don't like to travel alone and sometimes find that my travelling companions can't join me for the entire month or whatever length the trip is. Fortunately, a bit over a year ago I discovered and became a host and traveller with Servas.

I think that many TVSers would also find very interesting this non-profit, non-governmental, interracial, interfaith group dedicated to building world peace one friendship at a time. It was established by American students in Denmark in 1948 who, after all of the destruction of the World Wars, thought there had to be a better way to build peace.

One can become a host, traveler, or both. As a traveler, you contact hosts (in over 120 countries and all over the U.S.) and make arrangements ideally to spend two nights with them. You must first understand the goals of Servas and be accepted by a local Servas interviewer (contact US Servas, as below).

The traveler should have flexible plans to be able to spend time getting to know the host family, and the experience should involve some level of cultural exchange and sharing of ideas and experiences. Hosts can accept or reject any request ("great, we'll even pick you up from the airport!", "sure, can you come in time for dinner?", "too many this year", "bad time") and, though they're encouraged to provide at least breakfast and ideally other meals, aren't obliged to. Some (often students) are day hosts who can enthusiastically show a traveler around or arrange for interesting activities, but may not have lodging. No money, except for long distance calls, is exchanged, but the traveler needs to present a letter of introduction.

Servas is a unique, lovely way to meet people who can very well turn out to be lifelong friends. My first Servas visit felt more like visiting family than friends! Vegetarians who live in support of world peace issues like environmental preservation and an ethic of kindness and compassion will find a world of kindred spirits in Servas!

For further information, contact US Servas, Inc., 11 John Street, Suite 407, NYC 10038, (212)267-0252. Ask me about my rewarding experiences and the very kind and giving people I have met!

Another related organization that I just found out about is The Hospitality Exchange (P.O. Box 561, Lewistown, Montana, 59457, 406-538-8770, hospitalityex@hotmail.com, http://goldray.com/hospitality). If you join ($20/year), you are listed in their directory and can contact any other member to arrange a stay. They have been around since 1965 and have members in 31 states and 21 countries.

Dec. 1999 update: I continue to feel that Servas is one of the best discoveries I've made in the past few years. I have had interesting guests and visited wonderful hosts in places like Hawaii, Arizona, California, Chicago, and New Orleans. For the past few years I am now also an interviewer, so you can contact me if you would like an interview. U.S. Servas can now be found on the web at www.servas.org and also be reached by email at usservas@servas.org.