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Notes From Portugal - Real Travel

March 28, 2024 1:26 PM | Bill Magargal (Administrator)

Photo of R to L Tys. friend, and host at pastry shoyby TysSniffen 

I finally got my best travel companion friend - with whom I've been traveling for 30 years - to join US Servas so we could connect 'legitimately' with day hosts while we were knocking around Portugal. Before we left, I spent a lot of time on the Servas website reaching out to different members in Portugal and setting up some connections. Right off the plane, We were met - on the gangway! - by a great Servas member, Romulo Sellani, who works at the Porto airport. A coffee, some advice, and a walk to the metro got me on my way. Photo of Tys at airport with friend, Romulo Sellani

The next night, he and his daughter took us out to a local favorite spot for a fabulous fish dinner. His daughter Anna brought a friend the next night. We all went out to a wine tasting and dinner, and enjoyed long, philosophical talks while walking in the light rain of a beautiful European evening.

Tys with friend, Romulo, daughter Anna, and Anna's friendAnother young person's connection, through Trustroots - a Servas-like org that's more 'punk', more hitchhiker, but still warm and hospitable – made for a great connection for drinks, walking tours, and late-night snacks at locals-only spots. Gustavo also joined us for big fish lunches and an incredible football match with the town's archrivals..."we" won 5 to 0.

Tys, friend, Anna, and her friend at futball gameThis was just the first few days in northern Portugal.I'm skipping over many details of these great times to get to my bigger point: by being open to meeting people like this, my friend and I simply had a different mindset.We were ready to talk to new people, open to ideas and opportunities, simply had more smiles on our faces, more often.I've been traveling (well, may I brag here?) for most of my life, but this trip took me to another level of... cultural receptivity. Is that what it was? We were more open mentally, maybe it could be called generosity? grace? around meeting people and the world.  

We took a train up the Douro Valley east of Porto into the wine country.You can take a boat up the river in the summer, but I love trains, and this one goes right along the river. On that trip, we fell in with a large extended family who shared their lunches (and beers!) while we chugged (pun inadvertent!) up the river.Once arriving at a small town in the center of wine country, we connected with the owner of a quiet, perfect restaurant for a long, artistic conversation, and many more drinks than we were charged for. 

We continued on to southern Portugal for many more adventures, that also included Servas members and further chance encounters that made the trip amazing. 

All this to say something that maybe everyone who reads this newsletter already knows that authentic connection made through meeting people in an honest, open way is what makes travel worthwhile. I don't really travel for natural beauty, nor architecture, but for a cultural connection through conversation, sharing food, and sharing time. Servas is a gateway to authentic travel.We should get more Americans involved. 

Dinner in the countryside


  • March 30, 2024 2:29 PM | Anonymous member
    Sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing. I'll be in Portugal for a yoga retreat in Sept. would love to connect with Servas members. Hope I can connect the way you did!
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  • March 31, 2024 5:08 AM | Anonymous member
    Your experience sounds perfect and very much a Servas experience! Beautifully shared.
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