Servasing the world

As a 50-year-old, Judith, from Saltspring Island, British Columbia, travelled the world in 1992. Her fondest memories of the trip are of the many hosts who welcomed her into their homes and hearts.

From October 1992 until November 1993 I backpacked around the world for over a year. I was 50 years old and on a budget of $15/day! You can imagine how Servas played an important role in my safety and well-being.

I met my first host, now living in Germany, in Thailand. Her response to my request for a stay was ͞”The key is under the mat. Stay as long as you like;” the best introduction to Servas one could imagine! We have remained friends ever since. I have visited her in Germany four times, she visited us at another friend’s home in Bavaria and she stayed a week with us last year in Italy.

In Thailand, I also had a wonderful stay with hosts who ran a kindergarten. My first hosts in Malaysia were a lovely couple, Sikh lawyers who told me sadly that even though they had high-level jobs, racism was such that they were still considered to be the bottom of the social ladder! I hope things have changed for the better now. My next hostess was in Kuala Lumpur – dear Harbans is a friend for life!

After Singapore, Bali, and Jakarta, I arrived in India. My next host was in Mumbai. He meditated with me, took me to interesting sites and a wonderful Carnatic voice concert. I had a spectacular sleeping place on the roof, from whence I could see the Parsi Towers. Another hostess in the same city was a lawyer who introduced me to her family and other highly educated female friends.

Off to Greece where my hostess and her husband were both lawyers. Then I flew to Rome where my Servas hostess was a full professor at the University of Rome, even though she was severely physically challenged. She let me stay for three days before I flew to Egypt and three other African countries. On my return to Rome, she was happy to receive me again! As I travelled north in Italy, I was hosted in Bologna, Padua, and Trieste. From there I went to Zagreb because, as a psychologist specializing in trauma, I and a colleague were asked to help educate social workers dealing with the many traumatized women coming out of the rape camps.

I left Zagreb and was hosted by a mother and son living in Budapest. She was a special education teacher – my prior profession. From there I went to Prague, where a day hostess showed me the John Lennon memorial wall, among other special sights. Then to Austria and Germany, where my very first host welcomed me again! In Spain, I stayed with a lovely hostess in Barcelona and two other hosts in central and northern Spain. I then travelled by train to Paris, France, to be hosted by a woman who was visually impaired, but took me to places tourists seldom see like the huge Asian vegetable and food market.

I left France and travelled to Denmark, where a female PhD. geologist working on the Greenland drilling project hosted me. She took me to Jutland to meet her parents and put me on the ferry to Norway, where my relatives live. I stayed with a lovely young university woman in Oslo, then to my relatives and the Lofoten Islands. I then journeyed to Sweden where my hosts were a wonderful couple, cultural workers who played music on traditional instruments, and at puppet shows. I stayed in touch with them for some time, and arranged for their two daughters to be pen pals with some girls their age from a school on Salt Spring Island where I live. On to Finland, where I stayed in subsidized housing with a single woman who showed me unusual sites, including a beautiful round underground church with an amazing copper ceiling/roof!

From there, I toured Russia, Poland, and back to Zagreb, where my colleague and I were able to be of some help again. After which I returned to Rome, and you guessed it, was hosted by the same university professor!

The last stage of this incredible journey was to South America, where I met a delightful day hostess in Argentina who introduced me to friends, artists and to great food! After travelling to Chile, I went to eastern Mexico where I hitched a ride on a plane to the US and took a bus home to Salt Spring Island. I may have forgotten a few hosts but this trip was wonderful because of the kind people who received me into their homes and their hearts!


Did you appreciate Judith’s tale? If you have travelled with Servas Canada and would like to share some of your news and a couple of photographs as a Travellers’ Tale, please contact us.