Wwoofing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is something I’ve always wanted to do. and I can finally check it off my list! It was, overall, a fantastic experience that I would do again if I ever wanted to travel cheaply and volunteer at the same time. I became a Wwoofer through Wwoof USA but there is also Wwoof International and, for some reason Hawaii is special with their own Wwoof Hawaii. I started Wwoofing in North Carolina unsure of how long I’d tour, whether I’d travel to other states or not. Turned out, I loved North Carolina farms so much that I stayed for the whole two months! Below is a list of reasons why Wwoofing is a great experience, followed by things to expect/be aware of.
Reasons to Go Wwoofing
This is the number one reason Wwoofing is great. You receive free room and board, that includes food, in exchange for 20-25 hours a work a week. Throughout my tour, I lived in a yurt, a cabin, a studio apartment, and a private room in a house, for free! Every place was beautiful, quiet, cozy, and outdoorsy. It’s a personalized travel experience, because you really get to know locals and their way of life. The farms might be tucked away in beautiful mountains or on pastoral landscape on the outskirts of bigger cities. You have plenty of off time to go hiking or exploring in towns. I kept track of my spending, and through the whole month of December I spent only around $100 including gas.
2. A Time Filler for Uncertain College Grads
Are you a college grad who has no idea what your doing with your life? Me too. That’s why I went Wwoofing! After graduating in Spring 2015, I got a summer job on a trail crew that ended in the middle of October. That’s an awkward time to pick up another job, with Holidays approaching, no place to live, and no job leads. Wwoofing was a great way to fill the time gap between one job and the next. It also gave me more time to figure out what I want to do!
3. The People You Meet
The people I met were wonderful. They were all so friendly and had great stories to tell. My Wwoofing hosts were so concerned with my comfort and enjoyment of my stay. They were very open to talking, adjusting schedules to our liking, making us feel at home. After all, they want to make good impressions for future Wwoofers! And don’t underestimate their potential to be job references. They not only gain a sense of your work ethic, but they get to know you as a friend and resident in their house.
4. Something Cool on Your Resume
Even though Wwoofing can be a time filler and money saver, that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable on a resume! I gained valuable life skills while Wwoofing about carpentry, gardening, tending to animals, and traveling. Plus, job employers love to see volunteer work on a resume! Keep track of your hours and activities, and you’ll have something to say to an employer. Wwoofing shows that you are independent, adventurous, adaptable to different cultures, and probably have some street smarts.
5. Work and Live Outside!
Wwoofing is mostly working outside on farms. Feeling the sun on your face every day, working up a small sweat, is the funnest, healthiest way to live. If you are new to working outside, that’s okay! The work isn’t overly intense,so even for newbies, it’s doable. Wwoofing hosts are happy to give you as many breaks as you need. For most of them, farming is their life passion; they are there to teach you, so don’t be afraid to ask.
6. Inspires Creativity and Healthy Living
Is there a book you always wanted to read but never had time for? Or maybe you play guitar and haven’t practiced in a while. Both of these things were me at the start of Wwoofing. Working outside stimulates happy feelings and creative thoughts. On my off hours, I had plenty of time to read, write, and play music. My small living space, with no phone service or distracting internet, was like a creative haven. I have never felt so inspired and relaxed at the same time in my life.
Not to mention, Wwoofing lifestyle inspires healthy eating. My hosts were organically centered, ate only natural meat products, all local produce, and vegetables from the land. They composted everything. So if you want to start learning how to eat healthy, local, and natural, all the while on a budget, then Wwoofing is a solid introduction.
Things to Look Out For
Wwoofing was a great experience, but there are precautions. It’s always good to keep wits about you, play it safe, and question things that make you feel strange in the gut. The Wwoof websites are totally, 100% safe, but you simply can never be 100% sure about the people on the other side, at least not before you meet. I’ve heard Wwoofing “horror stories” about people who hated their host families, who were over-worked or treated like free labor. Here’s some advice on how to avoid all that so your experience turns out as positive as mine.
1. Buddy Up
I went Wwoofing with my boyfriend, Taylor. We stuck by each other’s side and made decisions together. Go with someone you trust, who you know will take your thoughts and feelings seriously. It’s safer to travel with another person, especially if you’re a young girl (sad but true). I would have been safe either way, but being with someone else eased potential paranoia, doubt, distrust, and made the whole experience more enjoyable and relaxing.
2. Phone Interview Wwoofing hosts (Skype if you can!)
It is so easy to sign up and contact Wwoofing hosts, it’s almost hard to believe. Taylor and I scoured the website and emailed five farms that we liked based on their profiles. Most of the farmers got back right away and wanted to set up a phone date. They want to make sure you are not a crazy person, but also, YOU want to make sure that THEY are not a crazy person. Skype is better, but it’s amazing how much you can tell about a person just through the phone. Taylor and I narrowed our choice from five farms to two almost immediately after the phone calls. Ask questions, and know that you are in the driver’s seat.
3. Know the Rules
You won’t be taken advantage of if you know the rules. Read the Wwoof website which clearly defines the expectations of both the Wwoofer and the Wwoof host. Each farm might have slightly different rules and expectations than the Wwoof organization, but if your host expects you to work 50 hours a week, then there’s something wrong with that. That’s not the deal. You can offer to work more hours for pay, which would get some money in your pocket, but Wwoofing is about learning and experiencing life, not free labor.
When you get to the farm, have a friendly conversation with the host about rules and expectations. You might want to ask for a hard copy for reference (and proof), if they don’t already give you one.
4. Be Aware
Essentially, FOLLOW YOUR GUT! Your gut is a very powerful thing. Even if your gut is “wrong,” and a situation you feel is dangerous actually isn’t, that doesn’t matter. Your gut is about knowing your personal boundaries and limits. Do not do anything you aren’t comfortable with. Wwoofing is volunteering – they are happy to have you help! But you are not obligated to stay in any circumstance. You can get up and leave in the middle of the night, who cares? If it’s a matter of safety, do it. If it’s a matter of unhappiness, well, maybe have a conversation with the hosts before taking off. They will appreciate honesty and if they are good people, they only want you to feel comfortable and happy.
5. Know yourself
This means, if you are a city person who hates nature and has extreme anxiety in new places, then Wwoofing is not for you. When I hear people had a bad experience Wwoofing, it’s usually because they didn’t like the work or they thought the host was mean for making them do the work they hated. So maybe the farmer was kind of a d-bag, but if you hate working outside, getting dirty, shoveling hay or pulling out weeds, then that’s on you, not the farmer or the Wwoof organization. Wwoofing will put you in new circumstances all the time and you have to keep an open mind and positive attitude. The moments when I wasn’t thrilled with the work were also the moments I was having a bad attitude about life. Instead, try to embrace change and differences, respect other cultures, try new things, keep an open mind, stay positive, and you’ll have fun!