This story is from Jensen Martin, one of the office workers we have here at US Servas headquarters. We asked him to write of his first Servas experience. If you have any stories you would like to share please mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
My first Servas experience began about a year ago; I was 18 and it was Spring Break at Humboldt State University where I was attending classes for a philosophy major. Well, when Spring rolls around, the last thing that one wants to do is sit around on campus, so I was eager to get as far away from school as I could. When my roommate offered me a ride out to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah I jumped at the opportunity. I was eager to do a backpacking trip and this would be my first real chance at backpacking in a foreign environment. I got all my stuff together; food, some water, a good book, and just in case, my Servas LOI. You never know what will happen. However, I didn’t think to bring the US Host List with me for some reason. After an agonizing 18-hour car drive, my roommate and his friends dropped me off at Arches National Park, with an agreement for them to meet me at the end of the week back at the visitor’s center. I had a vague idea where to go, a hastily drawn map by the Park ranger showed me the area’s I was allowed to camp. The directions were very unclear and I picked a direction and started walking. After 20 minutes of walking, I stopped and completely broke down. I was already exhausted from the enormous car ride ( plus my roommates friends had not been pleasant car companions), and suddenly the reality of being alone in the desert had hit me. This was my first real backpacking trip and the realization came to me that I had no idea what I was doing. The route I was supposed to be walking on had no water; with the exception of the possibility of a small spring that may hold water; but the water would need to be filtered. I had no filter, and only two gallons for the whole week. I suffered through the first night, the wind ripping at my tiny one-person tent, threatening to tear the whole thing apart. I had no idea how I was going to make it.
Two more days went by, I had a great time exploring the natural beauty of the park but my food and water supplies were slowly dwindling and I was not sure that I had enough to make it through the rest of the week. Trying to think of other options; I remembered that I had brought with me my Servas LOI. I got it out and found the phone number and on my last bit of cellphone battery, I managed to call the Servas office in Arcata. I found that there were 6 Servas hosts in Moab and I got the contact information for all of them. I had a really hard time finding cell phone service out in the park and it was a thirty minute walk from my campsite to the closest location where I knew I had a bar of service. Because my phone was about too die, it was a miracle when Diane Greene answered the phone after my second round of calling the Hosts. Excitedly, I arranged to meet her at the parks visitor center at noon the next day. From then on, things proceeded with a strange synchronicity. I had an awesome rest of the day; finishing off my food and water while realizing that there was no way that my meager supplies could have lasted me a week and getting some great pictures of the sunset setting underneath delicate arch. The next day, I awoke, packed my gear and set off early for the long walk back to the visitor center. There was no hitchhiking allowed in the back, but I was offered a ride by two kind travelers who were passing through and I arrived at the visitor center with a few hours to spare. I took this time too do some writing in my journal, trying to recollect all of my experiences and lessons that I had learned from this trip.
Right around noon, my Servas host Diane showed up and we connected right away. First we went out to lunch at a local restaurant; the Peace Tree. The was really my first opportunity at seeing the town of Moab and I was so thankful for having an experienced guide show me around and tell where the cool places were. I was struck by how similar the feeling of the town was to my own town, Arcata, where the US Servas national office is located. Moab had the same liberal, outdoor, hippie feeling that makes one feel as if they are in a free, magical place full of open adventure. The grandeur of the slickrock around us only served to accentuate this feeling. After lunch and great conversation, I had the chance to cool off and relax at a beautiful creek that ran through a valley on the outskirts of town. I felt refreshed by the water; it was sorely needed after my three day stint in the wilderness. Afterwards, we headed back to her home where she offered me a guest bed and she gave me some time to relax and settle in. I had a great meal that night with her and we discussed a wide range of subjects late into the night. The next day, I had a full day to explore while Diane went to work. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the library and lying in the grass in the park just relaxing and enjoying the town’s energy. I visited all of the little tourist shops and saw some really phenomenal artwork and Native American crafts. That evening, Diane had a guest, another Servas host named Drew Roots and we all made dinner together and went for an evening walk to a nearby park where Diane and Drew reminisced and I joined in the conversation talking about my own experiences of life. The next morning I had a wonderful breakfast of rice with fruit and soymilk and I bid Diane farewell as I met my roommate and his friends back at the town hall. That was the beginning of my final leg of the journey; the exhausting 18 hour drive back to Arcata.
After the whole trip I had a lot of time to reflect on the experience and I found that I was very grateful of the service that Servas had provided me. I do not know what would have happened to me had I attempted to stay in the wilderness the entirety of the week, but I doubt it could have been better than the trip that I had. I still stay in touch with Diane and I consider her a great friend. Servas really opens this connection and makes it possible to make great friends and get a perspective of the area that is hard to get if you are visiting an unfamiliar place for the first time.