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Feature Story

Engaging With Servas Values Close to Home:  

A Travel Report from New Orleans and the US Civil rights Trail    -     by Andrea Veltman and David Schwartz 

Is it possible to put Servas values at the forefront of your travels whether or not you are staying with Servas hosts, whether or not you are traveling abroad? We believe it both possible and enriching to do so. Here is a trip report that shows how we raised our cross-cultural awareness and also had lots of fun without leaving the USA. 

"What fascinates me most about history is how it helps us make sense of the present. Becoming aware of it can then empower us to be more than passive, unwitting participants in events as they unfold around us... It’s one thing to read about history in a book and quite another to find yourself physically present in a space where a certain event occurred, where the walls around you and the land beneath your feet bear witness to what happened and hold palpable energy that propels you forward toward a greater understanding of your own place in time."

Bree Newsome Bass in forward to US Civil Rights Trail by Deborah D. Douglas

We have felt that energy of greater understanding when standing at a site of Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia; walking the grounds of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland; and looking at the wide Atlantic through the “Door of No Return” at the slave castle in Elmina, Ghana. We must witness and understand what happened at such sites to become as educated and aware as we can be and then, in turn, to help shape our world. 

On two recent trips to parts of the US Southeast, we felt that same propelling energy as we gained insights into a culture and a history much closer to home. We also let the good times roll: opportunities abound for both kinds of travel—the somber and the joyous. We hope that many fellow Servas members will travel on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail and tell its stories. Our own country has beautiful cultures and traditions that enrich our lives, and in following the Servas mission, we have enjoyed increasing our awareness of them. 

New Orleans overflows with parades, joyful music, gourmet meals and regional dishes often served with creative cocktails, and museums full of amazing Mardi Gras costumes. 

This charm of a city and its friendly inhabitants offer more possibilities for fun and entertainment than any visitor has time for. Our favorite was the walking parade of the Krewe of Barkus—dogs and their owners dressed up as kings, ballerinas and whatnot trying to move together in one direction with costumes in place while doing important dog activities like going in circles sniffing each other’s rear ends, chasing treats, and greeting the curbside onlookers. 

In two recent trips to the city, we added a sprinkling of history to the mix. Here are a few things we enjoyed that you might like to explore: 

Barkus Dogs - New Orleans, LA - by Andrea Veltman

Hidden History Tours: Leon Waters (“Mr. Leon”) leads walking and driving tours in New Orleans, highlighting events related to the civil rights struggle.He is a lifelong activist and historian, and a leader of several nonprofits. We appreciated his depth of knowledge, his patient answers to our questions, and his inclusion of a stop for “naked” (no powdered sugar) beignets at the legendary CafĂ© du Monde—the best fried dough ever!  (If no tours are scheduled, write or call to request a custom tour. Mr. Leon is very accommodating.)