WWOOFing Is Your Window to Gaining Skills, Meeting People & Traveling the World
A Budget-Friendly Way to See the World
Are you dying to travel the world, but aren’t sure how to fund your multi-city or multi-country adventure? For over 40 years, students, gap year kids and interested adults have donated their time to WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in exchange for food and housing all over the world.
Each year, around 75,000 people volunteer their time through WWOOFing in 100 different countries. Consider this your handy guide to understanding WWOOFing, recognizing whether it’s the right fit for you, and helping you prepare to take the first steps to participate in this global volunteer program.
What Is WWOOFing?
At its core, WWOOFing is a global network of volunteer opportunities on organic farms and other properties. It’s an opportunity to learn various aspects of organic and sustainable living while contributing to an actual thriving farm.
No prior knowledge or experience of farming is required, just a keen interest in the environment, organic growing and sustainability.
WWOOFers come from a variety of backgrounds and ages. There’s no age limit, just a requirement for an average level of fitness since tasks may require sitting, standing, lifting, bending and the like for extended periods of time.
Tasks vary from farm to farm, but could include things such as gardening, helping with livestock, making compost, sowing seeds, and even wine or cheese making.
How It Works
How long you stay depends on you. An agreement is usually made with your host ahead of time to suit both of your needs.
WWOOFing stints can last from a few days to a few months. Your stay may be project based or consist of a variety of tasks the host needs done by a volunteer.
If you’re interested in giving WWOOFing a try, your first step is to figure out what interests you and where you want to volunteer.
After you choose a destination, you need to join the appropriate country’s WWOOF organization, which can cost anywhere from $0-72 per year. From there you can choose a host from a list of available farms and properties.
It’s your responsibility then to contact a host and begin the necessary arrangements to go help them out. During your conversations, make sure to find out how many hours per day or per week are expected of you, although most WWOOF hosts expect four to six per day.
Pros and Cons
When deciding whether the WWOOF volunteer program is worth it for you, you should consider the pros and cons.
Obviously, the biggest pro of WWOOFing is free food and lodging at the location of your choice. If you’re choosing to travel abroad, this can make a world of difference in sticking to a budget and making your money go further while you travel.
Because you’re only expected to work what’s essentially part-time hours (usually in the early morning), you have the rest of the day and night, as well as weekends, to sight-see and explore the area.
WWOOFing is great because you’ll get to learn new skills, which can be valuable for college applications and resumes. Because most tasks require you to work with your hands, you’ll probably build more muscle and may discover you’re capable of more than you thought.
If you already have an interest in farming, volunteering can help you figure out if it’s really for you or may open you up to other possibilities you hadn’t considered. It’s also a great way to learn about a foreign culture and meet new, interesting people you might never have met otherwise.
On the other hand, WWOOFing might not offer the kind of flexibility you’re looking for if you just want to visit someplace as a tourist. Once you commit, your work comes first since your host is relying on you.
WWOOF locations might be in the middle of nowhere, making it difficult to find transportation to a major city or transit hub. However, as long as you do your research ahead of time and speak with your host about your expectations, this shouldn’t be an issue; there are WWOOF destinations that are close by to public transportation.
It can also sometimes be more physically demanding than expected, especially if you’re not used to working with your hands for long periods of time. Additionally, your responsibilities may change before or during your stay according to the needs of the host.
This can be disappointing for some, but adaptability is always appreciated.
Since you will be staying on a farm or similar establishment, don’t expect five-star lodging or even a bed necessarily. Accommodations vary from host to host, but may include anything from sleeping on the floor of a barn in a sleeping bag to cozying up in a teepee to snoozing in a big comfy bed in your own room.
Depending on the country you choose, modern conveniences may be few and far between. Not all locations will have indoor plumbing so if you can’t handle roughing it a bit, WWOOFing is probably not for you.
Never fear, though, there are plenty of other ways to find free accommodations while traveling, make the expense of having an adventure much cheaper!
How to Prepare for Your Stay
Since every WWOOF travel experience is a little bit different, it’s a good idea to provide as many of your own personal supplies as possible. You’ll definitely need a sturdy pair of work boots, a sleeping bag, toiletries, gardening gloves, a hat and sunscreen.
It might also be worthwhile to have a phone plan so you can update your family on how things are going while you are away. There are multiple ways of getting a phone plan, but here’s a quick guide to using a cell phone overseas.
It’s also important to communicate what you’re capable of ahead of time and let your host know of any physical limitations you may have. Never put yourself in danger or go along with something you don’t feel comfortable with.
Since food is being provided for you, it’s also a good idea to let your host know of any allergies or dietary restrictions ahead of time.
Get to know your host as much as possible before you leave. Emails, Skype conversations and the like will allow you to get a feel for them and what they expect from you.
Each country is different in terms of what kind of background checking and references they require from both host and WWOOFer so make sure you’re aware of your host country’s vetting process, if any. Generally speaking, WWOOFing is safe, but these are still strangers you’ll be staying with so take precautions like you would in any circumstance.