My family joined Servas as hosts in the late 1980’s when my children were young. It was a good way to give them an experience of our wide and diverse world without the expense and time of travel. We hosted visitors from everywhere for about 15 years before being Servas travelers, with a family trip to Italy our first Servas vacation. We alternated Servas visits with hotel stays, but the homes were by far the highlights of the trip. Our memories include sharing the cooking, hanging laundry on outdoor clotheslines, picking fruit from the orchard, and orienteering through mountain forests. By contrast, hotels were formal and even the best meals couldn’t compare with fresh-made home cooking!
Upon return to Boston I took up Italian, vowing to myself that by the next trip I’d be fluent. Several years later I took a 3-week Servas-only solo vacation, choosing destinations based on their artful qualities. My blacksmith host taught me to forge an iron rose. My woodworker host made me a tiny model of an Italian hill-town, with windows that glow when I place a small lightbulb inside. I traveled around Carrara with a building restoration expert, watching the craftsmen fabricate marble inlay floor mandalas.
Staying with a teacher during that trip I was able to visit her classes and talk with the elementary school children about America. It was just after the US attack on Iran, and the children were astute about world matters and angry about the attack. They wanted to know why I didn’t stop the war. When I asked whether Mr. Berlusconi would ask for their permission before taking an action, they understood the limits of democracy, and also the power of connections between average citizens.