I’m gonna cut to the chase: everyone should WWOOF.
I’m gonna elaborate: everyone who wants a rewarding experience volunteering abroad should WWOOF. If you’re a budget traveler looking to backpack the world affordably, you especially should WWOOF!
What is a WWOOF volunteer?
If you haven’t heard of it, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a truly worldwide organization through which volunteers offer their time, effort, and skills for food and lodging. In other words, travel on the cheap and hang out on a farm!
That’s putting it pretty simply; there’s a lot of variation in WWOOF experiences. For example, some farms are totally organic permaculture, and some are tied to another community org (e.g. a green hotel or a language-learning school).
Some farms offer super cushy, warm bed in heated apartment lodging, while some offer a lumpy cot in a beat up tent.
Some require a few easy hours a day with a long lunch, while others are more strict because they are super reliant on WWOOFers for their farm and sometimes by extension, livelihood! Some are next to villages or cities, some are in the middle of nowhere.
You get the idea.
How does a prospective volunteer find a WWOOF farm?
You aren’t just going to be able to walk onto some nice old Irishman’s farm and ask for a garden to tend.
WWOOFers have to find farms themselves online, and email them well in advance to see if they’ll need them.
Luckily, each farm is described in detail on the WWOOF website, with pictures as well. It costs a small yearly fee to join the website and get access to farmer’s contact info, but you can browse all the farms for free before you pay. Though many countries have their own established WWOOF site (meaning one fee for an entire country), some of the smaller countries are lumped together.
If you want a comprehensive guide to finding an excellent WWOOF farm (not always an easy task), here is my guide to finding the right farm for you.
Why is WWOOFing great for budget travelers?
I have WWOOFed on four farms in three countries (Ireland, Greece, and Turkey). It was a super affordable way to enable long-term travel! Most farms want at least 2-week commitments.
Think about it: that’s at least two weeks in your say, 3-month trip where you have no expenses*. And since most long-term travelers tend to make rough (or exact, depending on how Type A you happen to be) X dollars/day budget, having spent basically nothing at the end of those two weeks feels pretty damn good.
WWOOFing is not an excuse to be lazy and eat for free while crashing on somebody’s farm.
You have to carry your weight.
Being clear with each farmer from the get-go about what’s expected is the best way to make everyone happy, and if you’re lucky you come away with a few awesome friends from all around the world: the farmers themselves and other WWOOFers!
Spending a couple weeks in one community is also such a great way to immerse yourself in the local way of life.
On just one of these farms, we met two adventurous French girls biking across the lower half of Europe, a local woman who invited us to her home and became our Turkish mom (even though we didn’t share a word of each other’s language), and a barn cat almost as big as my Saint Bernard. I learned something from each of these folks, both on and off the farm.
Whether it’s how to build a cob house, pick arugula, make a chicken coop pit toilet, or bake baklava, I will cherish these lessons for the rest of my life.
If you’ve always dreamed of getting to know the land in some part of the world, or immersing yourself in a certain country’s communities, maybe look no further than their local organic farms.
What are you waiting for?!
*$0/day is possible while WWOOFing, but a few farms charge some super small fee for food or only provide two meals a day. And some are near cool stuff that costs money, like National Parks. Or pubs. Luckily, we hitch hiked to wherever we wanted to go off-farm to spend said money, so that also cut down on costs.