Why You Need to WWOOF | km
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
A culture/knowledge exchange program whereby anyone can volunteer to work on an organic farm anywhere in the world in exchange for accommodation & food (and much more!). It’s a non-monetary exchange that promotes community and sustainable living.
Learn more at: http://wwoof.net/#wwoof
After a long day’s work I sit down to a dinner of rösti cooked by a Swiss man, a medley of greens picked from just outside, local Irish cider and apple pie baked by an American woman. Different accents fill the atmosphere with an international nuance, adorned by the soft bleating of sleepy Irish sheep in the background. Dirt and sweat cling to us, reminiscent of the day’s work while we laugh hysterically at English translations of German jokes. The Irish countryside glistens through rain-stained windows of the castle while the late and slow summer dusk creeps up over infinitely rolling emerald hills.
2 months later I’m waking up on a tiny, little known, charming Island far off in the Dodacanese area of the Greek islands, just a few kilometers from Turkey. My host is cooking me scrambled eggs and vegetables picked straight out of the garden in olive oil that was cold pressed a couple of meters away from where I stand. The warm wind blows my sarong about me as I walk a few steps to a beach where the most crystal clear water I’ve ever seen laps at pebbles on the shore and I can’t help but tear up because I’ve never encountered anything like it.
These images may sound over-romanticized but they truly aren’t. I know that retrospect is the most flattering filter but I felt this sentimental in those moments as they happened too. I think I did get unbelievably lucky with my WWOOFing experiences, I can’t convey enough how blessed I felt at both my farms. But whether your experiences are brilliant, so-so or even terrible here’s why WWOOFing is the ultimate travel experience…
Cultural Exchange and Integration
It’s so easy to brush past the culture of the country you’re in- seeing it, appreciating it but never really engaging in it. WWOOFing gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of a place. You become a part of your host’s family and by respecting their culture and household you open yourself up to learning so much about other lifestyles, ideologies, perceptions and day to day living. A lot of the time there will also be other WWOOFers on a farm, allowing opportunity to learn about their cultures and ideas too while reciprocally sharing your own. This exchange will guarantee you leaving your experience a far worldlier and open minded human being.
WWOOFing presents the opportunity to form some beautiful friendships, often with people you never would have socialised with at all otherwise. From your hosts and their friends and family to fellow WWOOFers, opportunities to meet new people are rife! There are usually communal meals which are conducive to socialising as is working alongside others and the way you spend your leisure time on the farm or exploring nearby towns and cities. You might even meet people who’ll join you on your journey after WWOOFing or who you’ll meet up with years later.
WWOOFing is definitely a great way to cut travel costs seeing as your accommodation and food comes free in exchange for your work. However it’s a very bad idea to use a WWOOFing position as a way to merely stay somewhere for free because you will become disillusioned very quickly. Don’t disregard the fact that you actually have to work for what you’re getting! But if you are willing to embrace your tasks, the money saved will be beyond worth it.
Learn new skills
You are guaranteed to walk away from a WWOOFing experience with new skills as your hosts will have you doing all kinds of things. You’ll learn all about eco-friendly and sustainable living, methods of farming and gardening, a bunch of new recipes and ways of cooking, and all sorts of odds and ends that are part of whatever your particular host offers (e.g. perhaps they run a B&B and you end up learning about tourism and hospitality or many hosts run eastern healing and yoga retreats which you can learn from). Some of these things could even end up becoming a new hobby or way of life for you, making it a great prospect for growth, learning and improving yourself on your journey.
Get to know yourself
Consequently to all this learning, you could stumble upon new things that you love and discover things that you didn’t know you were really good at, you could also come across some things that you don’t- whether it be meeting someone who’s attitude to life you don’t agree with or realising that doing physical labour out in the freezing cold or crippling heat isn’t actually for you (or maybe to your surprise it is!). It’s all part of getting to know who you are. The type of work you’re generally engaging in allows for a lot of meditation and opportunity for self-reflection, and it’s amazing what a few hours a day of this can do for your personal development.
See off the beaten track parts of a country
You’ll get to see beautiful parts of a place’s countryside that you generally wouldn’t if you were just a tourist or only interested in going to bucket list places (don’t get me wrong, you can still be close by to those types of places on a farm too). These off-the-beaten-track parts have things to offer beyond what you could imagine.
Don’t go into a WWOOFing experience naïve to the fact that it can be difficult- that the work can be physically taxing or you might not even like your host or perhaps your living facilities are extremely basic and below what you’re used to but this is what is so great about it! Being thrown so far from your comfort zone is the best way to grow and enrich yourself with experiences, adding to the well-roundedness of your character. I had incredibly positive WWOOFing experiences but there were DEFINITELY challenges within them and the parts that sound so romantic like living off the land can actually be very difficult at first (trust me, beating an almond tree with a stick for hours on end in the Greek summer heat just to have them munched up in seconds by naughty goats is certainly challenging). But it’s the best exercise out there for testing your adaptability and teaching yourself to embrace challenges and put a positive spin on them. There is always a chance you might have a bad WWOOFing experience- but no experience is really bad, it’s at least always a learning opportunity. #cheese #cheeseybuttrue
Q:How far in advance should I organise?
A: Man this ranges a lot, it really depends on the place. To get a spot in a popular country in their summer you sometimes need to start contacting 6 months to even a year in advance. I’d highly suggest organising as soon as you can! But sometimes places have a cancellation so you get lucky and squeeze in on short notice. Some places don’t like to plan more than 2 months ahead. And sometimes you want to be spontaneous and plan something just a month ahead. There is always opportunity. Never let short notice deter you! But get on it as soon as you’ve decided you want to WWOOF and picked a place.
A: Most places ask for a minimum stay of 4 weeks because you need about a week to get into the swing of things anyway. I also recommend at least a month so you can really experience a place. Usually no maximum! I met a fellow wwoofer who’d been at the farm for 8 months.
A: Literally anywhere in the world.
Check out the list here:
You can find hosts in countries that don’t have an official WWOOF here:
Q: How do I sign up?
A: Choose your country and sign up on its WWOOF site. You have to pay a small membership fee that usually averages around $40 for a year’s membership. If the country you want to go to doesn’t have its own site, have a look on the WWOOF independents. Then, make yourself a profile, read about the farms and hosts, contact the ones you like and organise details with your future hosts!
Originally published at kaylinmichelle.com on February 16, 2017.