I met a broad range of interesting folks at the recent Canada-US Servas Conference in Vancouver and among the first people I met were Robert & Bette Allekotte from New Jersey. They are both teachers and retired just recently, at only 53 years of age. Today they live on a little island off New Jersey that is connected by a bridge to the mainland.
Robert & Bette joined Servas more than 25 years ago and were interested in the concept of “peace through travel” since they are both social studies teachers. Since then they have had the opportunity to travel to many countries, including Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand, India, Singapore, Malta and various places throughout the United States. Through Servas they have shared people’s lives in their homes around the world, and they have brought up their children to have an open mind, opening their own home to travellers from all different countries.
Robert and Bette are also volunteer interviewers for Servas and help to ensure that new travellers and hosts will share the Servas philosophy of building peace and intercultural understanding through travel. They also host about 10 to 15 different Servas travellers a year, many of them singles, others as couples or even families with children.
Through Servas they have met some really interesting people, for example a “kinetic hypnotist and whale communicator” from Florida who lives on a motorcycle. Their first Servas travel experience was on the Danish island of Bornholm in 1977 where they stayed with an opera singer who also ran a minigolf course while also being a sailor. All this was happening right at the time when Elvis Presley died and they remember Elvis songs playing everywhere. Naturally this travel experience left some lasting memories.
Robert and Bette commented that the most wonderful thing about being a Servas member is that you connect with people in their daily lives, you start to understand people’s roles in the host family and you get a true feeling for the culture. One time in Japan, Robert was invited by his host family to play the drums in a big parade during a local festival, something that would have never happened if he had been just a regular tourist.
So all in all, Robert and Bette and their children have some pretty interesting stories to share about the places they visited, the people they met, the things they learned and the long-term friendships that have been created as a result of these hundreds of connections over close to 30 years. Stay tuned for their first-hand travel experiences and inter-cultural adventures.