Are you looking for a way to learn new skills while traveling the world for cheap?
Voluntourism, more specifically agritourism, while working on an organic farm may be just the ticket.
The movement, known as WWOOFing pairs volunteers with host farmers around the world. You pay for your travel and the farmer puts you up once you get there. In a non-monetary arrangement, you trade your manpower for a chance to learn all about organic farming in a beautiful location of your choice.
Read on to learn all about how you can make WWOOF travel work for you.
What Is WWOOFing?
The acronym WWOOF originally stood for “Working Weekends on Organic Farms,” but has morphed into “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” over the years. The organization started in 1971 and is the brainchild of Sue Copeland.
She wanted to recreate her experiences as a child in the countryside and arranged a visit to a nearby farm where she was given lodging in exchange for helping with chores around the farm. The weekend was a big success and found that others were interested in participating in “working weekends” as well.
Today, there are over 15,000 WWOOF-ers registered in America. There are over 2000 participating farms in the USA. The WWOOFing organization is also available internationally in more than 90 countries worldwide.
WOOFing participants only have to pay for their travel to the destination farm. Once they are there, lodging and food are taken care of by the host farmers. It is an exchange program where no money changes hands, only services.
Anyone can over the age of 18 can join the program and take advantage of WWOOF travel. Those who are under 18 can also participate if they are accompanied by an adult.
Tips for a Successful WWOOF Travel Experience
Below are seven ways to maximize your WWOOF travel experience for both yourself and the host farmer.
- Set Clear Goals: It is very important to have a very clear idea of what you want to accomplish or learn during your WWOOFing experience. Maybe you want to see how people live in rural parts of South America or in Australia. You will then be basing your searches on farms in that part of the world. If learning wine-making, beekeeping or square foot gardening is what you are after, location will matter less than what is actually on the farm. There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing your host farm. Having a clear sense of what you want out of the experience will make that decision easier.
- Have a Plan: This is one trip that you don’t want to take lightly. Not having a plan can turn any WWOOF travel experience bad. How long will you be WWOOFing? A couple of weeks? A few months? A year? Plan at least 4-6 months in advance. If you want to spend the summer WWOOFing, you should start looking for a farm no later than December. When corresponding, Be sure to give the farmer ample time to respond. Be patient and thorough. Do not settle for a farm that you may not like.
- Be Prepared If you are going to a foreign country, be sure to consider the language that is spoken there. While staying at a farm where English is not the first language spoken may be impractical for some, others may find it a great way to learn a second language. Be prepared with all necessary documents when traveling out of the country. Farming is very hard and dirty work. Make sure you are in decent physical shape and can handle the demands of the job. You want to dress appropriately for the situation. Definitely, do not pack your best attire for your workdays. Bring sturdy clothing that will protect you from dirt and bugs and heat.
- Pack Accordingly: Your host will provide all of the tools, but it is wise to bring a pocketknife of your own just in case. You will also want to invest in a sturdy pair of boots, some gloves, and a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. Are there things that you cannot live without that may not be provided by your hosts? Farming is hard work, you may find yourself discouraged at some point during your experience, be sure to bring a few things from home that bring you comfort. Are you especially into your morning routine which includes French pressed coffee? Be sure to bring your own French press or you may find yourself disappointed. Bring some of your favorite shower essentials and a nice moisturizer. You will want to pamper yourself at some point, farming is hard work!
- Have Realistic Expectations: Farming is not easy. Many who run farms are used to living in much less comfortable surroundings than we are in the city or suburbs
- Be Flexible: One thing is for sure, farming is not a typical 9-5 job. Things can and will change quickly on a farm. Be ready for them and flexible when they come. Do not expect fancy lodging. Some farms have large homes on them where you will be put in a spare room with familiar comforts such as wifi. Other farms may be way off-grid and you could be pitching a tent and using a composting toilet. Be sure to know what you are getting yourself into
- Do Not Slack! Some farms will only require you to work a few hours in the morning, others will expect a full days work. Communicate with the farmer beforehand so you know what is expected. Be able to handle the workload, and once you get there commit your all to getting the job done. The farmers are counting on your manpower, so make sure to do your best and deliver on your end of the bargain.
WOOFing can be a great way to gain experience in farming and travel the world on a budget. WWOOF travel can be a life-changing experience where you make lifelong friends and learn invaluable skills that are in-demand in today’s changing economy. For more great ideas on traveling on the cheap, keep browsing our blog today!