What is WWOOFing?
Whenever I tell people that I am going to go “wwoof,” they often look at me quizzically. That is the moment I assure them that I do not talk to dogs, but rather work on farms in other countries. “WWOOF” stands for world-wide opportunities on organic farms. I am not necessarily interested in farming in terms of a future job, but I would like to have my own garden and live sustainably. I love being able to eat produce from my own backyard. I am also interested in healthy eating and many hosts are either vegetarian, vegan, or eat all raw foods.
I first had the opportunity to “WWOOF” before studying abroad in New Zealand during my junior year at the University of Puget Sound in 2011. I had chosen Puget Sound in order to play volleyball at the collegiate level, study abroad and receive a liberal arts education. I majored in communications and how that has to do with “WWOOFing,” I don’t really know, but at this stage in my life I am just trying to explore as much as I can.
I booked my flight a month before the semester began and decided to fly into Auckland and make my way down south to Christchurch. Travel is not entirely where you are, but about the people you meet and I definitely met some interesting and amazing people. The first guy I met used to be the editor for the television series, “Zenon the Warrior Princess,” lived in a beach town (population 200), spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on race cars, planted his garden in bathtubs because the sand absorbs too much water, and was trying to get a job with the U.N. I stayed with a yoga instructor and an iridologist, with a counselor and a public speaking therapist, with a couple who owned a café, and with an old British couple who ran a bed and breakfast/equestrian center. I learned things I could have never learned from being home or from sitting in a classroom. I also met other “WWOOFers” from all over the world.
One of my favorite aspects of my travels was staying in hostels because they are cheap and you meet a lot of interesting people. Hostels have their own culture. From experience, everyone is really open to meeting new people, exploring the area together and maybe even extending their travels with a new friend. I recommend splitting a trip between WWOOFing and staying in hostels to get a taste of both worlds.
The WWOOF website lets you know what to expect at each farm. Generally, you are expected to work four-to-five-hours a day and have the rest of the time to explore. Accommodation ranges from tents to guesthouses. I’ve stayed in a giant teepee, a house truck, a tent on a bamboo structure, guest rooms, and a luxurious B&B room to name a few.
After graduating from college last spring, I paid off my student loans by working on a guest ranch in Colorado. Afterward, I decided to try “WWOOFing” for in Costa Rica on a farm called, “La Joya del Sol,” (Joy of the Sun). I only lasted two weeks because I contracted a terrible bacterial skin infection that spread across my face and arms. The host was an American raw foods chef and he kept telling me that I would be fine but some of the other American ex-pats told me to go see a doctor immediately. One family brought me to the pharmacy to get antibiotics and antihistamines and I decided it was time to go elsewhere to heal.
I am leaving “WOOFing” behind now to start a new job in January in San Diego. I will be working for Teqspring, an entrepreneurial incubator company. Essentially, Teqspring guides entrepreneurs in “incubating” their ideas and helping them go public. I have had so many different jobs that range from art museum to fishing boat, French café to fitness center, supplemented by what I have learned from travelling and “WWOOFing,” and I now feel confident handling an array of business ideas. I challenged myself to take on many different jobs because at some point the seemingly random skills you acquire become not so random and in fact may set you apart from others. Like Steve Jobs said, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back.”
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To learn more about WWOOFing, visit wwoof.org.