If you’re looking for an authentic traveling experience that does not involve overrated tourist attractions and crowded museums, WWOOFing, or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, may be for you. By connecting volunteers with organic farms, WWOOF.net provides travelers the unique opportunity to immerse themselves into the idyllic yet arduous lives of farmers around the world.
In exchange for four to six hours of labor a day, organic farmers and their families welcome travelers into their homes and lives for anywhere from a few days to several months at a time. In addition to being housed and fed, “WWOOFers” are given the opportunity to, quite literally, enjoy the fruits of their labor, learn about organic and sustainable farming, and experience what life is like in an another country without breaking the bank.
Interested? Begin your adventure by choosing your desired destination and signing up with that country’s WWOOF organization. A $15 – $45 membership fee allows unlimited access to that country’s listings for one year as well as the ability to contact farm owners.
It is best to have an idea of what type of farm you would like to work on in order to refine your search appropriately: Do you want to work with animals? Pick coconuts? Build barns? Make wine? There are many options available and while it is great to keep an open mind, it is important to feel comfortable in your work environment and acknowledge your boundaries. WWOOFing can be an extremely enjoyable experience, however it also involves strenuous manual labor; potential WWOOFers should be prepared for this and take the following precautions to ensure their experience is a positive one.
Know what to expect and what is expected. Ask your potential host a lot of questions: What is the farm environment like? Are there animals there? Is there a town or city nearby? Will I be able to go there? Exactly how many hours a day will I be working? What will I be doing? Will I have days off? Who else lives on the farm? Do they speak English? Will there be other WWOOFers? Will I have internet and phone access? Where will I be sleeping? What should I bring?
It is not unfair to ask that an informal contract be drawn out to specify the hours you’ll be working, the tasks that will be required, and what your accommodations will look like. Be sure to communicate any dietary restrictions and inquire about what type of food will be provided. If possible, set up a time to Skype.
2. Ask for a reference
There is no better way to get a sense of what your experience will look like than by speaking with a former or current WWOOFer. If your host is offended by your request then it is probably not a good sign and it may be best to find another. Always trust your gut.
3. Play defensively
Do not over commit. In all your excitement it may seem like you’ve found the perfect WWOOFing setup, and while that may be the case it is wise to allow yourself a trial period before agreeing to spend the next month or year on a particular farm. Tell your hosts you’d only like to spend a few days with them, and if it feels like a good fit ask to prolong your stay. If it doesn’t, move on to the next farm.
Done properly, WWOOFing can be an exciting and rewarding way to not only travel, but to cultivate an understanding of another country and its people. Whether you’re caring for elephants in Thailand, milking goats in Finland, picking coffee beans in Ecuador, or all of the above, be sure to take each day as it comes, show appreciation, and follow these guidelines.
Ready, set, WWOOF!