Archive: Servas Tales
Servas (www.usservas.org) is an organization devoted to getting travelers into the homes of locals for a quality cultural exchange. Members contact local members and arrange a two-night (free) visit. Is this worth the trouble?
Years ago, my roommate and I were hosts in Chicago. We had many memorable
guests...the two Swedes we took to a soul food restaurant, the two young
French women who were on their way to Japan, the two German travellers
who were interested in Frank Lloyd Wright, and a young Belgian man who
was amazed by Oak Street Beach. (He has kept in touch with us all these
years.) I loved sharing my time and space with these people...I never
felt like I was running a hostel.
Servas is great! I have spent some wonderful evenings in the homes of
"real locals". It takes special people to share their dinner table and
a bed in their home with a foreign traveler. I have stayed with twelve
different families in seven different countries. I have stayed with a
farm family in a small village in Switzerland as well as a couple in Paris
who were high-level government officials. I have not had a "bad" Servas
experience. It is a cultural exchange--a two-way street. Not only am I
learning about my hosts and their country but they are learning about
me and my country. I highly recommend a Servas stay when you want to slow
the travel pace down for a couple days and experience a memorable interaction
with some real people.
Beaverton, OR USA 02/21/99
Yes, you can bring your kids with you. However, families or groups may
have somewhat more difficulty finding Servas hosts to put them up. Fewer
hosts (especially abroad) have the space to accommodate them. I have been
both a host and a traveller, and recommend the experience highly.
San Francisco, CA USA 02/20/99
Servas hosts in heavily touristed areas get overloaded with requests.
If you go someplace more out of the way, you are more likely to get a
Berkeley, CA USA 01/26/99
I did just check the web site mentioned, and found that you must be
18. Does this mean no children can accompany parents? It sounds like a
great opportunity, but we are definitely bringing our 2 kids with us this
Kate Lufkin Day
Syracuse, NY USA 01/14/99
SERVAS is wonderful! The time I spent with two lovely SERVAS families
in England made the memories of that trip so very special! I would travel
using SERVAS again in a heart-beat!! I have recommended the organization
to several friends who love it, too.
Bartow, FL USA 01/06/99
It's definitely worth the trouble; and those who are interested can look at a SERVAS website at www.exodus.it/associazioni/servas/.
SERVAS is not the only such organization. Bernd Wechner has a list of
them at www.travel-library.com//general/hospitality_clubs.html -- My personal
favorite is the "Pasporta Servo" of TEJO (the world Esperantist youth
organization), at http://home.wxs.nl/~lide/paspserv.htm. As PS hosts we've
had visitors from Australia, Sweden, Germany... and Detroit(!), and stayed
with families in Denmark, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic...
as well as Southern California and Connecticut.
Douglas, AK USA 12/04/98
Yes, SERVAS is a good organization. In Italy, I enjoyed hearing about
the social system from a married couple that worked at the post office.
We were welcomed as old friends, and I truly enjoyed meeting some of the
'real' people of the country. I might try it again, although I am reluctant
as a single traveler, now.
Dallas, TX USA 11/29/98
This is to add to my earlier comments about Servas. It isn't for ugly
Americans ( doubt they are reading this) or for people who want a free
place to stay for 2 nights.It's for people who want to absorb another
culture and contribute to theirs. The motto for Servas is "Peace through
Lake Oswego, OR USA 11/05/98
I was a SERVAS traveler to Europe in 1984. I thank Rick Steves for adding
this to his web site. Every experience we have becomes part of our memory
and therefore part of our life. I will always have with me the exceptionally
good memories of my stays with families in Vienna, Austria and Thun, Switzerland.
I will return to Europe in the summer of 1999, again as a SERVAS traveler.
Norfolk, VA USA 11/04/98
We joined Servas in England in 1969. We have been hosts in UK, New Zealand
and USA. We have also travelled extensively; individually, as a married
couple and as a family of four. It is a wonderful organization and we
could never have experienced other cultures so intimately without Servas.
Some, I know, find it a little uncomfortable accepting hospitality from
strangers. We in Servas believe that those who travel provide just as
much of a service by carrying their culture to other countries. This year
we only stayed Servas once in Europe - a delightful family in Rome . We
still talk of our long leisurely meals on their balcony overlooking the
lights of Rome drinking wine and talking well into the night.
San Diego, CA USA 11/04/98
If I won the lottery I would still travel with Servas. I have stayed
with Servas hosts in most European countries. Our hosts have been great.
It takes a special kind of person to take in strangers for 2 days. You
can learn more about the people and the culture in 2 days with a family
than a month in a hotel Servas is for people who want to be a part of
another culture.You have to be flexible, for example, in Switzerland,
we spent 2 nights high in the Alps in a 350 yr old house-then the next
night in a penthouse apartment in Lucerne.Eastern European countries are
especially interesting. There you REALLY learn what life was life before
l989 and how difficult the transitions are.
Lake oswego, OR USA 11/04/98
We have hosted more than 30 SERVAS visitors in San Diego, yet only stayed
one night with a SERVAS host in Europe. It was in Freiburg in 1979. I
was with my parents. We had a good time with the hosts, who were a group
of students sharing a flat. It was definitely good for cultural exchange,
Albuquerque, NM USA 11/03/98