The second person I had a chance to get to know at the Servas Conference was Gilbert Sherr, a communications professional from Atlanta where he was born and raised.Until college Gilbert had only been to 5 different states and had never really gone on vacation. That changed radically after college when he travelled all throughout the US, followed by a long trip to Europe about 4 years later.
He found, however, that travelling, visiting buildings and museums and marvelling at natural wonders simply wasn't enough - one thing was absent, and that was meeting the people.That changed when Gilbert learned about Servas in 1981. He said he had tears in his eyes when he realized that there existed a group of people who were willing to share their lives and invite strangers into their homes.
In total Gilbert has spent about four and a half years of his life travelling around the world.As Gilbert travelled more through the Servas network he found that he wanted to give something back. So he started to make meals for his hosts, babysat their children and truly became a part of their family, just like a long-lost relative. That's when he had an idea for a book "Dishwashing through Europe", a project that hasn't come to fruition yet, but I found the title just delightful.
With his sociology background, Gilbert has a true interest in understanding the societies that he travels to. So what he normally does is he stays with 3 types of Servas hosts: an elderly couple or individual, adult couples with children and a younger adult. This gives him a chance to get a much more authentic, complete picture of the society he is travelling to, and to understand the specific issues that are facing each demographic group.
Similar to me, he also ponders which political / economic system might actually work best, and he has had a chance to spend significant amounts of time in countries with completely different economic systems. He has had the opportunity to study different variations of Western-style capitalism, socialism as well as communism, and he has developed his own insights as to which societal systems might work best for the greatest portion of the population.He also found that the more he immersed himself in foreign cultures, the more he started to understand his own culture, he described this experience with the saying "When a fish jumps out of water, it doesn't discover air, it discovers water" - a very interesting statement indeed.
Travelling also taught Gilbert that truth is not absolute, that current events are covered from completely different angles in different countries, and that local media can sometimes present a very biased one-sided perspective on issues.By hosting other Servas travellers, Gilbert found that he is able to bring the world home, and hosting allows him to give back to this organization. Hosting gives him the opportunity to learn about other cultures from the travellers, and it enables him to share his culture.
As a result of close to 25 years of travelling with Servas, Gilbert now has a network of family and friends around the world.In the upcoming interview Gilbert will share his travel experiences, his insights on different cultures and socio-political systems as well as some of the decision-making and sacrifices that enabled him to spend so much time exploring the world. He will also touch on issues such as culture shock when reentering into his native US culture whenever he returns from an extended trip.
Last but not least, he will share the insights of insider who has had a chance to discover his own culture through the eyes of outsiders..Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions(http://www.travelandtransitions.com). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features.
You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.Submit your own travel stories in our first travel story contest(http://www.travelandtransitions.com/contests.htm) and have a chance to win an amazing adventure cruise on the Amazon River.
"Life is a Journey Explore New Horizons".The article with photos is published at Travel and Transitions - Interviews.
By: Susanne Pacher