So many people run into a similar dilemma while trying to travel indefinitely. Their travels are cut short because they’ve invested a large chunk of their budget into accommodation. In many cases, this single cost can account for as much as half of your budget depending on how frugal you travel. For many though, they question how they can mitigate this expense, which, in many cases, seems like an unfortunate and unavoidable cost of travel. There is no single, sure-fire way to do this, but there’s a lot of options. WWOOFing has only emerged quite recently. However, it is gaining traction and is popular amongst nomads due to its convenience and also its strong dedication to sustainability.
So what is WWOOFing?
Well, WWOOF is an acronym for World-wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms depending on who you ask. WWOOF is an international collection of farmers scattered 99 different countries, whom seek travellers to volunteer on their farms in return for free accommodation and food – most will not pay you with monetary compensation.
Most people will work a 4-6 hour day – starting early – and then spend the rest of their time exploring the region and meeting other WWOOFers. It gives people an opportunity to spend time in an area for potentially free, while still being able to experience a new culture, meet new people and friends and have a good time. After all, this program has not been established so find free labour, but to facilitate a cultural and educational exchange and the promotion of a global community aware of the necessity and value of organic and traditional farming practices. (As is stated in the organisations key tenants).
How do I get involved?
To get involved, you first need to go to their website and research farms in the location you are planning to visit. Be sure to do a thorough review of the farms to ensure you are comfortable doing the work and you’re capable of the work load. Every farm is different and the workload is entirely decided upon by the host.
To sign up for the WWOOFing program, you apply online and pay a small fee – $30 AUD for single persons or $50 AUD for couples. Get in contact with farms in the region you are wishing to travel too. And when you reach an agreement, start travelling with free accommodation.
A key aspect that makes this option so appealing to many is that both parties enter into an agreement knowing that it’s temporary. Most people will work for up to a month then move on to a new location, perhaps another WWOOF in a different country. This common understanding removes any awkward situations and potential tensions that could arise if both parties have different expectations about how long it will last.
Farms don’t pay for flights
A common misunderstanding that seems to have been started by a misinformed blog page is that some farmers will pay for your flights to get to their farm. This is incorrect. No farmer will purchase plane tickets for you. Most of these farms are small and incapable of such expenses. Why do you think so many require voluntary work?
WWOOF and ecotravelling
WWOOFing is a great way to ecotravel. All the farms involved in WWOOF are either fully organic or traditional but rely on organic products. The promotion of this kind of farming has increasingly been important for sustainable agricultural practices. In this case, permaculture or at least a quasi-permaculture. These farms have rejected the modern movement towards heavy chemical usage, large machinery, antibiotics etc. and chosen to keep to their traditional methods that may not be as productively efficient but are far more sustainable.
Sticking to these old method has not been as profitable but far more rewarding. Being able to provide everything you need to live in a small area that you own, not really needing to leave, there’s something brilliant about being able to make such a claim. Just imagine eating a great feast with your family, a marvellous work of gastronomical art, and everything on the table has been grown or raised on your farm; fresh oranges picked from the tree; rich tomatoes grown free of chemicals; all herbs grown the way nature intended; you’ve had complete control of what’s been put into the grown or fed to animals and ensured no nasty business goes on.
It may be preference or just all in my head, but organic food grown in this way and knowing that I’ve played a role in growing it, nothing tastes better. However, this is also the reason why many seek volunteer workers. It is a more labour-intensive type of work, with fewer profits. In order to source work they need to rely on a different form of payment. In this sense food is the currency. It’s no less efficient than cash, but for these farms it’s what they can offer – a simpler form of trade, similar to that which existed before big banks and stocks.
The support of these kind of farmers that, through all the hardships and pressures from agribusiness, have remained close to their natural ties require support if they’re to continue in the future. And it’s as easy as signing up for WWOOF. Travel to new countries, get ‘free’ food and accommodation, support sustainable agriculture and travel longer. If you have no issue with some early mornings and hard work for 4-6 hours, want to travel now but can’t afford accommodation, than what’s stopping you from WWOOFing now?