We will, here, be publishing stories about women’s experiences travelling with Servas. The stories appear on servas.org, on Facebook and other social media. Please enjoy!
Jonny Sågänger, President, Servas International
Why, as a Woman, I Joined SERVAS
Almost forty years ago I was suffering from burnout from my first job of teaching and wanted to travel by myself in Mexico with my first salary savings. There I met another German woman with the same intention from the same situation, except working as a doctor. We decided to hike together to El Arcotete in San Cristobal de las Casas (one of the poorest areas in Mexico where indigenes have suffered from the worst consequences of colonialism) and afterwards separate for our individual routes.
At El Arcotete we met two young local men who were friendly to us and we reacted in the same manner. On our way back, in the middle of nowhere, in a lonesome forest they attacked us, threatened us with our own knives, attempted rape and disappeared with our money.
We remained together, went to a police station, where policemen surrounded us closely and grinningly asked us to tell details of the rape. We went to the German consul in Merida, a Mexican businessman who invited us for dinner and then made remarks that made us flee his home. We travelled to Isla Mujeres (which at that time was an insider tip and not yet a tourist hub), told our stories to a woman lying beside us on the beach. “You are brave, you are talking about it, it also happened to me, at home”… It helped us all to survive the sexual violence we had experienced.
It was my travelling companion who eventually dropped the remark, “Someone told me about an organisation which you can join to visit other members around the world. All have to pass an interview and thus are accredited as trustworthy. You can meet locals – without having to worry about anything dangerous. SERVAS also holds an observation position with the UN, it is about making peace through meeting. ”
For thirty-five years now I have been travelling safely as a single woman - with SERVAS.
A Wanderer Along the Coast of Portugal
by Raffaella Rota, Servas Italy
My backpack is ready. Only what is absolutely necessary is inside. I like to travel “light”, with a very few things with me, like ancient nomads or Alpine explorers. I love to travel alone. I love to travel on foot and by bicycle. I feel free, full of adrenaline, independent. Really surrounded by creation... the blue sky, the quiet sea, the strong wind and sometimes the rain... but also people all around me. Now I am leaving for a couple of weeks for a short holiday. The trip will lead me to Oporto, in Portugal, for the first time, and then, on foot, for an adventurous walk along the Douro river, the ocean coast and woody paths... direction north, toward Finisterre. I am travelling alone, with no GPS, in a country I don’t know. Several thoughts in my mind. Shall I reach my goal? Shall I miss my home, my family, my friends? Shall I be up to the situation... facing unknown people, unexpected events and bad weather? Shall I handle the anxiety of this trip that’s not so well-organised? But I have a strong feeling inside. I am part of an international network, Servas, which can make you feel at home everywhere you are. In Oporto somebody is waiting for me, by coincidence another “single” woman, Teresa, whom I am meeting for the first time. She will freely share with me her time, her stories, her feelings. Servas is a dream! Servas is a revolutionary dream of a new lifestyle based on welcoming, on “taking care”, on “feeling part of a single humanity”, with a unique project to build a new world of peace and justice.
Raffaella Rota of Servas Italy has written a contribution in a series of articles describing women’s experiences travelling with Servas.