Robert and Bette were among the people I had a chance to get to know at the Canada-US Servas conference which was held in Vancouver from August 5 to 8, 2005. At 53 years of age, both retired recently since they view time as one of their most precious assets.
Through Servas, Robert and Bette have travelled extensively throughout the world and they have been members of the US organization since the 1970s. Throughout their membership they have had an opportunity to create personal connections in a great variety of places. They have also hosted many Servas travellers from many different countries in their home and have passed on this generous spirit of hospitality to their own children as well as to other young people. Here are some of Robert and Bette’s experiences:
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourselves. Where are you from, what are your professions, where do you live now?
We are both born and raised in Philadelphia. We enjoyed small town living in Moorestown, NJ for the last ten years. Our girls are pretty grown and so the big house was unnecessary. So now we are retired middle school teachers living in the resort of Brigantine, NJ (just north of Atlantic City).
Robert & Bette Allekotte
2. Both of you just recently retired at the young age of 53. I am sure that involved some conscious choices. Why was that decision so important to you and how did you manage to carry it out so early?
We firmly believe that rich people have money while wealthy people have time. We wanted to be wealthy. Bette’s bout with leukemia three years ago reminded us how short life can be, making time even more precious. Also, the provisions of No Children Left Behind have made creative teaching obsolete. The only thing worse than bored students is a bored teacher.
3. You found out about Servas in the 1970s. How did you hear about this organization and what was your first travel experience like?
A friend, Mimi Rosen, took a three-year vacation from teaching in the 1970’s and learned about Servas in Australia. We thought it sounded too good to be true, but the organization has gone beyond our high expectations. We first traveled through Scandinavia, hitchhiking while meeting interesting local people from all walks of life.
4. What other countries have you travelled to through Servas? What kinds of people from what places have you hosted in your home? What makes Servas travel so special to you?
We have made Servas visits in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, U.S., India, Western Europe, Malta, and Singapore. A visit to Thailand is upcoming. Our listing says that families are especially welcomed. We’ve hosted many Europeans, North and South Americans, Indians and Japanese. Our cultural most distant visitor was a student from Bhutan. Servas allows people to see the places they are visiting from the inside. We come to understand what makes a society what it is: daily routines, wedding albums, leisure activities, meals, and raising of children.
5. Please tell us about your 3 favourite or most memorable travel stories.
I played ancient Japanese drums in a marching band during a Nepeta festival in Japan while my family helped pull a deity through the streets. We sailed and got stuck in the doldrums while exploring the medieval ports of Malta. We admired in the junk art of an unknown, anonymous dump operator in India. We toured Mesa Verde’s ruins with a host/ park ranger during twilight when we were the only ones there.
Israeli-Palestinian peace quilt