I like to think myself an expert on the topic of traveling on the cheap, and one of the ways to do this is to take part in a WWOOF program. But I haven’t tried it myself. Yet! Thankfully, lovely reader Lindsey stepped in to tell us about her experience working on a farms in Portugal. How jealous are we?!As Ned and I washed the goat shit off in a cold mountain stream, I wondered what all the 18-35ers on that Contiki tour were up to. I bet they weren’t heading to sleep in a mouse-infested caravan using a valance as a bed sheet. They weren’t WWOOFing.
WTF if WWOOF?
WWOOF has been exchanging sustainable living ideas since 1971. They started in the UK, but now there are hosts in something like 99 countries. Basically, it’s a web forum where farmers needing help can connect with volunteers who want to travel, spread the love or simply learn a new skill. From scraping up chook poo, to making wine, to selling fruit at a local farmer’s market to shearing alpacas; I’m sure your agricultural (or just cultural?) dream can be fulfilled through WWOOF!For Ned and I, the process went like this: we paid 20 euro to join WWOOF Portugal and wrote ourselves a profile. We then gained access to the list of potential hosts and emailed any that sounded good with questions like: can we can stay, for how long, how much do we have to work, etc. Work and living conditions vary greatly from farm to farm, as one can imagine. You may be asked to work back-breakingly hard for a couple of hours a day, or it might be fairly cruisy. Some hosts say that they prefer longer stays, but most are up for negotiation. In retrospect, we felt that between 2-3 weeks was a good amount of time for us, but whatever floats your boat. On our last place, there was a guy from the Netherlands who had been there for five months after spending three years on a farm in Greece!
Now, I like to think of myself as pretty green – I sort my rubbish into appropriate bins, I take my reusable shopping bags wherever I go, I use that scratchy-yet-satisfying loo paper. What I’m not keen on that side of green that whispers “I’m macrobiotic, you evil meat-eater” and “I preach at you while you try not to gag on the smell of my dirty hair”. I actually like steak and believe my backpack’s “luxury item” of Moroccan Hair Oil is the best 100mls I’ve ever pinched off Mum.Thankfully, you can find a WWOOFing host to suit you, whatever you’re up for. So don’t panic about fitting some stereotype of hippy or hardcore farmer! Whilst cruising the WWOOF forum, and knowing what we’re like, Ned and I tended to shy away from any properties with names such as “Riverdance Moonsong Farm” or mentioned ukuleles and group trust activities. The program is about getting in and having a go, and if you choose your hosts wisely as well as keeping an open mind, your experience should be a positive one.
I recommend WWOOF to anyone looking for a personal challenge and a travel tale with a difference. Now put the “24 Countries in 30 Days” bus tour brochure down and back slowly away…
P.S. Check out the short film,“Because There are Goats” for a taste of a WWOOFing in Europe.