WWOOFing Around: What Does That Even Mean?
World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farming.
An organisation that is independently managed within each country, while simultaneously operating all around the world. Funded only by the low membership fees for both hosts and volunteers, with a setup comparable to a Facebook profile where both can describe their expectations and background, get in contact with each other and leave reviews as to how they have experienced their time together.
The sole purpose for founding it was and still is that of bringing organic farmers together with people keen on acquiring knowledge and contributing towards a common goal; obviously organic farming but also connecting people all around the world. Exchange of knowledge, acquiring skills and generally creating something as a team.
I first heard about it from a friend that has travelled both with workaway.info and WWOOF. She wholeheartedly recommended WWOOFing as, according to her, the heart of the people was set onto connection rather than cheap workers. At first it sounded like the simplest and cheapest way to see Scotland, and further ahead travel the world. After all the most expensive part of travelling is the accommodation and the food. Both are taken care of by the hosts, in exchange for your participation on the farm and/or other projects, depending on the size and the hosts vision.
And thus the story goes and is known.
If not, this whole blog revolves about my experiences with all of this 'WWOOFing' and my YouTube channel does as well.
Two years later and I can acknowledge WWOOFing for so much more than just travelling low budget. It became this whole slow travel experience and brought with it a mind-blowing amount of new skillsets, friendships and ways of seeing the world. Two years- and I think I understood the three key aspects that make WWOOFing something I’d always go back to again in the future, wether still travelling on a budget or just because:
Places - Projects - People
The obvious reason for choosing WWOOF is exploring a variety of different countries.
Seeing places, experiencing places, taking in places and their vibrancy, their energy is the most intriguing part when you travel alone. There is a certain innate feeling that you get when you come to a new place and pretty fast you feel either at home, unmoved or freaked out. Scotland was my first destination, and still is my priority whenever I get the opportunity to come back and visit the friends I am fortunate enough to have made during my stays here. But because WWOOF is spread around the world, even Iceland or New Zealand can be reached and made into a travel reality because with just the expenses for travelling, even if you are not financially in a very good place, it is possible. Sometimes people say that they want to travel badly but they do not have the budget- with WWOOFing this becomes less of a hindrance and possibilities open up that have not been available 50 years ago.
There is so much to see and experience in this world. It is a glorious planet. And being able to explore it on a budget is such an enriching and fortunate thing to exist.
More importantly though, my prior notion that travelling is only about visiting places turned out to be only a third of what the word travelling means to me now because of WWOOFing.
As mentioned above, WWOOFing is all about a collaboration. A union between the host and the volunteer, for a short or longterm stay. As a volunteer you embark on an adventure to connect with a yet unknown human being, sometimes even a whole family. You spend the majority of your time within their life. Since they open their heart and home to you, I always felt the urge to earn my keep by being an asset to them, rather than a nuisance or annoyance. My work ethic, it turns out, is giving it my all: Love what you do and do what you love.
And sometimes this is the only attitude that gets you through a day of hard manual labour. Only sometimes though, most of the times the backdrop landscape of where you are working is unfathomably beautiful and rewarding. The range of work is as varied as the hosts and their locations. When it comes to projects, it depends on what you are looking for: The WWOOF host profiles are very good to identify if your expectations can be met and if you feel intrigued by what the host lists as overall daily duties and other projects on the side, you can simply send them a message or a visit request. Some hosts even reach out to you directly. Only 3 of my 10 hosts so far wished to have a Skype call before confirming my stay; serving as a first meeting to identify if your expectations and personalities are a good fit. What sparks joy within me every single time is the exchange of knowledge, the (as the name suggests) world wide opportunities for acquiring not only skills for organic farming but a variety of other competences too: From all things concerning maintenance of a B’n’B, to handling wood and building sheds or craftwork, being part of a construction site for buildings or parking spots, operating a digger, even stone masonry!
Thus my point being, if you come with an open heart as well as a keen interest to learn and expand your know-how, you would never in a lifetime thought possible to experience, this is the way to do it. And along the way you might be surprised to find that you discover talents that you prior to this experience would have never estimated to be of value. Bringing visions of the host to life is one thing, but contributing with your own ideas to the overall project, seeing your talents used and confidence strengthened, transforms you into a whole different person.
Plus, this journey connects people with people. Something that gradually gets lost within the overall fast-paced world with its mega cities and hustling, technological advanced lifestyle.
My third and probably most valuable aspect to WWOOFing. In the beginning I did not even consider this as a main point. Yes, I was working and living with people on their farms, ultimately there would be interaction. Although the wisdom and insight I had access to during the experience, was unfathomable. If you are living day in and out with people, and if you only decide on long-term stays (no stay was less than six weeks), then those people turn from strangers to very real human beings with their joys and family systems, characters, stories, dreams and at times also hardships. Their life happens while you are connected with them, right by their side.
I totally underestimated the aspect of people when I first started my journey.
Nowadays, to be honest, it has evolved into the most important one.
You can learn so much from this sort of connection and interaction. Not to mention the insights you get into the culture of the specific area of a country you stay in, the rhythm of life and the way people think about the world. It is a never-ending possibility for growth. In many ways the people that shaped my transformation over the past two years are very much these hosts. I could live their life with them for a certain amount of time. Help and support them, be helped and feel supported by them. Learning as much about them as about myself. Friction arises sometimes, how you deal with that is part of the adventure. What I took with me from them all was a clearer vision of dynamics between people and what I want to incorporate in my life, and what I’d rather abandon. What works for me and what does not.
Mostly though, the genuine connections I was able to form and maintain is what I most appreciate and am grateful for. Out of 10 different stays and hosts, I am still in regular exchange with 4, although 9 have offered me to come back whenever I want as a guest or WWOOFer, their doors are open for me.
WWOOFing became somewhat more of a sneak peek of what life can look like in different stages. The demographic of my hosts ranged from young and single, to old and single, middle-aged couple choosing to not have children to a whole patchwork family, or the ordinary two parent and one child combination. I have met women consciously deciding against biological offspring and I have witnessed WWOOF love stories as well.
Life is abundant, and there is only so much time you have to experience it to the fullest. One way of doing that, for me anyway, is connecting with people, never get enough of learning and exploring this wonder of our Earth. I wholeheartedly embrace every aspect that WWOOF has presented me with and I have an intense feeling that I will continue to look for wonder all over the world for a long period of time. It will always remain one of the main reasons why I travel these days: Wonder.
The wonder of people and relations.
The wonder of knowledge, expertise and skillsets.
The wonder of places and their beauty.
May you keep the childlike spark of wonder in your eyes as well whenever you wake up and go about your day!
Love and Light