Judy, a host from Manitoba views travellers as “friends she hasn’t met before,” and appreciates the way travel exchanges bridge the cultural gap that often exist along the age spectrum.
The answer is a most definite “NO.” So much so, that one weekend I left a key for a young man I’d never met who would arrive while I was at a meeting. He had a shower, rifled through my cupboards, went grocery shopping, and was ready to cook me dinner while I participated in a two hour teleconference. Then we shared a bottle of wine and a lovely dinner in the back yard while we talked about work, our travels, and life in general. And then we washed dishes together.
I don’t think of them as strangers, but fellow travellers and friends that I just haven’t met before, who will spend an evening or two with me, sharing stories and ideas. I recently remarked about a visit with a 65 year old woman from the Netherlands that it “just felt like having a sleepover with an old friend.”
What has surprised me most about hosting has been the fact that age and gender also seem irrelevant. A pair of twenty-something young men who were bicycling across the country have seemed perfectly at home in the midst of a “happy hour” with a dozen of my 50 to 70 year-old friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed an evening of conversation and a morning bicycle ride with an 18 year-old German lad. I would dearly love to have guests from more diverse cultures, but one of the things that hospitality exchange programs have shown me is that they can also bridge the cultural gap that exists along the age spectrum. In a world where we hear a lot of negativity about youth, I have met young people very involved in their communities and interested in the world around them—and interested in learning about me and how I see the world.
Did you appreciate Judy’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.