What in the world wide web does a word like that mean? If you are anything like me, up until recently it sounded like something that had more to do with canines than it did organic food or traveling for that matter. As soon as I started researching my round the world (RTW) trip, though, the word WWOOF would pop up on website after website and in conversations with veteran independent travelers nearly non-stop.
I quickly learned that WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms, and it is a network of organic farms and volunteers working for first-hand knowledge, room and board, and a unique travel experience around the world. Now think about that for a second. A traveler gets to experience a destination instead of relying on expert opinions in guidebooks, all while saving money in the process. It sure sounded like a independent traveler’s dream come true to me, so I had to find out for myself.
Tips for first time WWOOFer’s
1. Select your spot
When I first started researching WWOOFing, I had visions of simply skipping merrily along from farm to farm in country after country with an overflowing produce basket under my arm. I assumed I would just sign up on a master WWOOF website somewhere, and voila, the opportunities would come flowing into my inbox from all over the world. After all , the WWOOF acronym sure looks like a global organization that would have a brick and mortar headquarters in a city like New York, Geneva, or Brussels and an accompanying website that speaks for all host farms around the world, right?
This is simply not the case though. Participating WWOOF host farms are listed on their own home country or region’s WWOOF website. Because of this, you must decide on what country or region you will be WWOOFing in first before you decide to take the next step.
2. Be prepared to pay
Each regional WWOOF website that I researched had a fee for joining, and it was not possible to contact potential WWOOF hosts without paying the fee. At first I scoffed a bit at the idea that I would have to pay to work for free, but the more I thought about it, obviously there are costs involved in running these regional WWOOF sites and organizations, and this is the way that they recoup some of these costs. Therefore, if you are a budget independent traveler, you likely will not be joining up with dozens of different WWOOF sites around the world. I decided to join one. How did I narrow it down to just one country?
3. WWOOF right off the bat
When deciding which country to WWOOF in, I would highly suggest picking a country near the start of your trip itinerary. New Zealand was the second stop on my round the world trip, and it offered many WWOOFing opportunities, so it was a natural fit. The main reason being that you will be able to plan the WWOOF at home during the relative calm before the storm. Once you hit the road, things can get very hectic very fast, and the odds of finding a WWOOF host and coordinating the communication between the two quickly diminishes. Another advantage of WWOOFing near the start of your trip is that it will give you an opportunity to catch your breath a bit in what can be a hectic part of the trip, the start.
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