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Tips and Tidbits

Travel Tips • Servas How-To • Words of Wisdom • and Fun

Tips & Tidbits Blogs

Posts in this category range from how to use the Servas websites to tips for safer or easier travel. It is a catchall of short items of interest.

NOTE - You can click on most blog photos for a larger view

Noteworthy Tips

Unique item that may be of interest to members Tell us about it. Submit your stories here.

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  • May 25, 2024 1:50 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Graphic with words "Renew Your Thinking"by Tys Sniffen

    Servas is much more than a travel club. It is a community of thoughtful, egalitarian, peace-promoting, giving people who love to travel. US Servas is now an all-volunteer organization, with neither office nor staff. Our fee structure is now a flat $33 per year all-inclusive membership... no extra charges for LOI's etc. With this low fee there is no longer an incentive to drop your membership between trips. Renewing your membership annually helps to keep our fee this low. It also offers you the benefits listed below.

    • Join a Global Movement: Be part of a global community committed to fostering peace, understanding, and cultural exchange through travel and hosting.
    • Meaningful Connections: Forge meaningful connections with fellow members from around the world, building friendships that transcend borders and enrich your travel experiences.
    • Support a Noble Cause: Support a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a more peaceful world one conversation at a time, and contribute to positive social change through grassroots diplomacy.
    • Access Exclusive Benefits: Enjoy exclusive benefits as a Servas member, including access to virtual meetings, local events, newsletters, blogs, and updates from Servas International.
    • Make a Difference: Play an active role in promoting peace and justice initiatives locally and globally, and have the opportunity to volunteer, participate in elections, and run for office within the organization.
    • Expand Your Horizons: Expand your cultural horizons, broaden your perspectives, and gain insights into different cultures and ways of life through hosting and traveling with Servas.
    • Be Part of Something Bigger: Be part of something bigger than yourself. Join hands with like-minded individuals who share your values and aspirations for a more interconnected and harmonious world.
    • Unleash Your Potential: Unleash your potential as a global citizen, and leverage your skills, passions, and experiences to make a meaningful impact within the Servas community and beyond. Volunteer!
    • Experience the Joy of Giving: Experience the joy of giving back to the community and making a positive difference in the lives of others, whether through hosting, volunteering, or supporting Servas' mission and programs.
    • Stay Connected: Stay connected with Servas and stay updated on the latest news, events, and opportunities to engage with the organization and fellow members, keeping the spirit of Servas alive and thriving for generations to come.
  • May 25, 2024 1:41 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Sign staing "No Advertising"This article has been removed. US Servas does not endorse commercial products. The Publications Team apologizes for including it on the US Servas website.

  • January 19, 2024 1:30 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Graphic of magic lamp, servas Logo, world map, and the word Magicby Tys  Sniffen 

    Hope this newsletter finds you embracing the spirit of adventure and cultural connection! It's time to start thinking about travel for 2024 

    You know the magic of Servas, the joy of connecting with people from around the world, the thrill of exploring new cultures and languages. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to share that magic with the next generation – Every Generation - but I think we'd all agree that 20-somethings traveling with Servas will have a huge impact on their lives. 

    Why Now? Because We Want More Younger Members!  

    Picture this: young minds hungry for adventure, eager to explore the world, and craving meaningful connections. That's the 20-something crowd, and they're exactly who Servas is made for! So, let's spread the word far and wide, inviting them into the incredible Servas community. Graphic of small globe

    What would you say to explain "Why Servas?" Because It's the Coolest Global Gang Around! 

    Cultural Awesomeness: Servas isn't just a travel network; it's a cultural experience. Imagine 20-somethings diving headfirst into new traditions, savoring local flavors, and forming friendships that last a lifetime. 

    Language Love: For those itching to learn a new language or perfect the one they've been practicing in their bedroom mirror, Servas is the ultimate language playground. Real conversations, real connections – it's the language lesson they never knew they needed.  Make sure to mention SYLE! 

    small rocket graphic

    Global Squad Goals: Servas isn't just a community; it's a global squad of like-minded individuals who believe in the power of unity, understanding, and the occasional dance-off with newfound friends. 

    How to Spread the Servas Spark: It's Easier Than Ever!  

    Social Media Magic: Share your Servas adventures on social media! Post those incredible photos, share your stories, and don't forget to use #ServasSpirit or some other tag. You never know who might see it and catch the travel bug. 

    Coffee Chats: Grab a cup of joe with the young folks in your life and regale them with your Servas tales. Personal connections are the secret sauce to spark curiosity. 

    Virtual Hangouts: Host a virtual Servas hangout! Share your screen, showcase the amazing Servas community, and let the magic of cultural exchange shine through the pixels. We're doing this already with a group of interested 20-Somethings.  If they want to connect, have them contact 

    Joining Servas has Never Been Cooler! 

    And the cherry on top? Joining Servas is a breeze! We've streamlined the process to make it easier than ever for our new 20-something friends to become part of the global Servas family. 

    So, Servas Experts, let's make waves, create ripples, and invite the young and adventurous to join the most incredible cultural exchange community on the planet! 

    Here's to spreading the Servas love far and wide!** 

  • October 25, 2023 10:04 AM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    By Tys Sniffen  

    Are you in Servas to actually meet people? I am.  Are you surprised that you haven’t heard from travelers lately? I was. When I checked my profile on, I discovered that I had missed some key ‘flags’ on my Servas International settings and I want to make sure everyone is aware of these choices that may have been automatically set by the system.  

    An updated and well-edited profile along with a good photo conveys not just a sense of commitment and reliability to potential travelers, but it also fosters trust and builds strong connections within the SERVAS network. Incomplete or outdated profiles may lead travelers to question a host's availability and the whole Servas program, potentially causing missed opportunities for cultural exchange.  

    Here’s what you can do to check your profile:  Login to the US Servas website then select “My Servas” and then “My Profile”, then read and consider each and every item! Specifically, check out the “Hosting” area. About the fourth thing down in that section, there are 3 items that have “NO” as their DEFAULT setting. I believe there are  some translation issues that leave travelers believing you don’t want to host them.  

    • Can host families” - This is a strange question, and doesn’t really make sense, language-wise. “Family” might mean two parents and a small child, or maybe just a married couple, or a father & daughter, or maybe just *not* unmarried people. I think that unless you are adamantly against Servas members with children traveling with them that are under 18, you should mark this *yes*.   

    • Can host youth 18 to 25” - This is the one that completely shocks me. How in the world do we say people can be members at age 18, but then have a DEFAULT setting saying ‘no’ to the first 6 years of membership? Plus, guess who travels the most? People in that age group. Get over to your profile and mark this YES. 

    • Want more travelers” - this is also a strange thing to include in host profile, but maybe you are so overwhelmed by traveler requests that you *don’t* want to host… which would be fine, but then maybe don’t be a host? Just be a Day Host, or just a traveler? Anyway, I’d advise you go and decide how you want this marked, because I think the default is set at NO.  

    Check the rest of your profile as well, and make sure to add a profile picture. If you’ve ever tried to find a host, you know having a picture makes a huge difference.  

  • September 15, 2023 1:54 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of a dock on a bay with a bonfire on it.It was a Monday and inboxes began filling with a strange missive... "Bonfire at Dockweiler - Sept. 6th."  Was this a simple spamming incident, or foreboding arson at the Dock of the Bay, or worse yet, an inside Wild Apricot hack? Fortunately, detectives Bare and Emory began tracking the digital trail left by the perpetrator(s) and discovered that the event was a simple sign of human frailty ... a simple mistake. While testing and setting up a special emailing to Southern California members for an event, one of our deep-state volunteers accidentally hit the wrong button and oops!, 2,609 contacts in our system received the omen.

    Please accept our humble apologies. 

  • September 15, 2023 1:42 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of young people taking a selfie while wearing Covid masksby Shyla Esko Bare 

    Few, if any, countries still have Covid-19 restrictions in place, although some regions are seeing an upswing. After years of limited travel, mask wearing, and showing vaccination cards, the easing of rules seems liberating to some. To others it is worrisome. 

    Some members have indicated they do not want travelers in their home who are not vaccinated. Please know that you don’t have to. Servas hosts can set house rules that travelers are expected to follow. These can range from a shoes-off policy to a curfew, or even how long a shower can be. Some rules may seem odd or restrictive; but they may be the cultural norm or in place for a specific reason. I once stayed with farmers in Australia who were experiencing a drought: the house rule was no shower and I had to bring bottled water for brushing my teeth. 

    Along these lines, some hosts may have rules about Covid-19. They may ask to see a vaccination card, request travelers test before coming to their home, or require masking. If you are a host, decide what is comfortable for you, and set your house rules accordingly. The important thing is to communicate them to a traveler before they arrive. Travelers, please be respectful of any house rules that are in place. If you don’t feel like you can follow a rule (Covid-related or otherwise), let the host know and find a different place to stay. Traveling with Servas is a privilege not a right.  

    Servas does not have a policy requiring members being vaccinated (click here for US Servas Covid 19 Host and Travel Policy). Instead, the organization promotes open dialog on the topic. Hosts and travelers should share their expectations with other members.  

    If you are a Servas host and/or traveler, please consider your Covid-19 requirements and expectations. Most importantly, put them on your profile so others can see them. Many hosts currently state that travelers requesting stays must be current with Covid-19 vaccinations. If this is important to you, add it to your host profile. If you request a stay as a Servas traveler,and a host asks your vaccination status, please answer honestly. Some travelers include it on their Letter of Introduction (LOI).   

    To update your Servas host or traveler profile log-in to the Servas International website( If you have questions on how to update your profile, look for the blue, speech-bubble icon labeled Help/Ayuda at the top of each webpagewhichtakes you to user help in multiple languages. 

    US Servas Host/Travelers can also visit our US Servas webpage Servas International Website Help for tips on using the Servas International website. You must be logged in to access this page. It includes guides and videos on how to update host and traveler profiles.  

  • August 07, 2023 3:35 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Several members looked through the photos in the July Issue, and indeed found most of the Photo-Shopped images. All but member Mike Johnson found other doctored photos, and even Mike missed what was outrageous about the outrageous photo. He noticed that the wine bottle in Deirdre Marlowe's July article "Recipes for Successful Travel" had been added. He caught it by the angle of lighting reflected on the glass. Very observant!

    But what Mike did not pick up on was the fact that the wine depicted, Petrus 2017 Bordeaux - Pomerol Red, sells for $99,900 per bottle (see ad below). I don't know about you, but this a bit out of my price range. Perhaps I might serve it for a REALLY SPECIAL dinner, but it is simply over-the-top to use it for cooking wine!

  • August 07, 2023 2:33 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    Photo of young woman sitting on bed planning where to go nextby Tys Sniffen 

    Let's talk about something that can make our awesome community even more amazing – quick and friendly responses to hosting requests! 

    Picture this: Many of us travel using the wanderlust method... we head toward the next interesting thing we recently learned about. We want to explore the world, experience different cultures, and make unforgettable memories. This means our planning may only be one week out, or less. We reach out to potential hosts through Servas, hoping to connect with locals who can show us the hidden gems and insider tips of their hometowns. Then we wait, the angst building. 

    Now, here's the deal – when we finally get that enthusiastic ping in your inbox, that a host is eager to welcome us into their home It's like receiving a warm hug even before we set foot in their country!  A speedy response means they are eager to share their culture and create beautiful memories; what a joyful feeling! It also relieves the self-induced stress of on-the-fly travel. 

    Photo of colorful Gypsy wagon with sign on the back that reads "Here and there and everywhere"There are many reasons why it is crucial to reply quickly/ Well, my wonderful hosting friends, here are some good reasons: 

    Time is of the essence: You know how fast-paced travel planning can be. By replying promptly, you help travelers organize their itineraries with ease and confidence. Let's get them packed and ready for the adventure of a lifetime! 

    Spreading the Servas Vibe: Our community thrives on openness and kindness. A friendly and timely response sets the tone for a fantastic cultural exchange. It's like saying, "Hey there, new friend! Can't wait to meet you and connect." 

    Trust and Connection: When travelers reach out, they're taking a leap of faith, trusting you to open your doors and hearts to them. By responding quickly, you show that you area caring and reliable host. Even if you have to say, “No,” by replying quickly, you help fellow members make plans and feel a sense of trust in the organization. 

    Expanding Horizons: Every positive hosting experience encourages more travelers to participate in Servas. It's a ripple effect of awesomeness – more connections, more friendships, more global understanding! 

    Magic Happens: When cultures collide, magic happens! Quick responses ready travelers to dive into local traditions, taste authentic cuisines, and experience moments they'll cherish forever. 

    Supporting Peace and Understanding: Servas' mission is all about breaking barriers and promoting peace through personal connections. A friendly and swift reply keeps that spirit alive and thriving. 

    Let's embrace the power of a timely and warm-hearted response!  Be the shining beacon of hospitality that makes Servas such a special and vibrant community.  Take a minute and log into and update your profile to include the best way to contact you, if email isn’t the fastest.  Maybe WhatsApp, or a text, or even Facebook messenger if that’s your thing. Whatever it is that you’ll actually be looking at in under a day. 

    Remember, every "hello" can turn into a lifetime of memories and friendships. So, spread those smiles, click that "reply" button, and get ready to host some incredible travelers!  

    Together, we'll continue building a world where people come together, laugh together, and grow together.  Happy hosting. 

  • August 07, 2023 1:22 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

    photo of Kristine on her bike with a travel friend standing beside her. by Kristine Martin, Chicago Area Rep 

    Maybe a two-night stay doesn't fit your travel schedule - or maybe you already have comfortable place to stay - or maybe overnight hosts are not available (it happens).  Don't overlook the delight of a brief visit with a day host.  Sharing a few hours walking, chatting over coffee, or enjoying a local event can be "just right."   

    photo of Kristine and friend JoanLast month my self-supported cycling trip to Denali began and ended in Anchorage.  A few weeks prior to my trip, I reached out to Joan Diamond. We decided to play our get together by ear.  When I arrived, Joan made time for me.  We spent an afternoon walking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (and saw a moose!) while exchanging Servas experiences.  She shared advice on bear spray, mosquitoes (Deet), the Denali Highway... and then wished me luck.  What a treat to reconnect with Joan after my wilderness cycling adventure.  We had lots to talk about while we walked part of the Knowles Trail. It felt like we were longtime friends.  So again ... Servas isn't only a two-night stay.  Take time to savor brief local connections. 


  • July 04, 2023 6:54 AM | Deirdre Marlowe (Administrator)

    photo of ingredients for Chicken ala Kenzoby Deirdre Marlowe

    Many of us travel for the sights, many for the people, and all of us, admit it, travel for the tastes of it. It’s hard to find a bad bakery in France, nearly impossible to find a bad mango in Thailand, but sadlyit’s too easy to find unconventional pizza in Hungary. At lunch in Budapest one day our waitress brought a bottle of ketchup with our pizza, “In case you want more sauce on it.” 

    Traveling in Japan and staying with many hosts, we quickly grew to appreciate the subtleties of Japanese cuisine. We enjoyed many meals and even gained an appreciation of umeboshi plums with rice and a fried egg in the morning. Our favorite meal was prepared for us by host Kenzo on one of our last nights in Tokyo. I have been making Chicken à la Kenzo or variations on it ever since. Serves 4. Prep and cool time 1 hour. Can simmer for longer if need be. 


    6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 

    1 medium onion sliced 

    2 cloves garlic minced 

    1 Tbs. brown sugar 

    1 lb. sliced white mushrooms or sliced Asian eggplant 

    Vegetable oil for sautéing plus 1 tsp sesame oil 

    ½ cup chicken broth 

    1/3 cup miso (of your preferred color) 

    ½ cup red or white wine (determined by miso color) 

    Salt/soy sauce and pepper to taste. 

    Pat chicken dry. Sauté in oil turning once until golden brown. Remove from pan. Add onion, garlic and brown sugar to pan, sauté until onions begin to wilt. Meanwhile mix chicken broth, miso, and wine together until miso is blended in. Add mushrooms or eggplant and sauté until soft. Add liquids. Return chicken to pan. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook turning chicken once for 45 minutes. Add salt/soy and pepper to taste. 

    For a vegetarian option, substitute 1” cubes of firm tofu cubes for chicken. Add them after all the veggies have been softened, the liquids mixed and simmering. Reduce cooking time to 30 minutes. 

    Of course, it’s not just a matter of the recipes you take home with you, but also the food you cook for your hosts. It could be a recipe for something that’s traditional in your family, something that shows your immigrant roots, or something perhaps from the list of all American foods that can be made almost anywhere in the world like apple pie, clam chowder, baked beans, fried chicken, or all-American mac ‘n’ cheese.  

    What have you made for your hosts? What substitutions have you made? Tell us the story and share your recipe. If you haven’t cooked for your hosts, perhaps you’ve brought back a recipe or two. Share those – let Open Doors’ readers be your table companions. 

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