The first time I WWOOFed was when I left to Japan and Korea for three months. Alright, but what is WWOOFing actually?
Yeah, what is that?!
Why two ‘w’ in a word? Because it’s an acronym, which stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”, which began in the UK some 50 years ago (1971).
The name changed numerous times, and for a good reason to my opinion. The first version was ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’… Something sounds a bit fishy, I think.
Anyway, WWOOFing is mostly to work in farms (among other things, like hotels, animal station, shops, restaurants, animal rescue center but I suppose we can find mostly farm jobs) and in exchange you’ll get a roof and meals.
Two words you’ll have to know: WWOOFer, the one who go work and the Host, the one you work for. Each country has their own website and association, available in 130 different countries.
You will need to pay for each for now, as they are trying to create only one platform, probably to align with its counterparts, Helpx and Workaway, which both are pretty much the same thing but worldwide. Once you paid, you will get a list of hosts with the contact details.
Why would one want to go WWOOFing?
Of course, it’s much more than just working for someone and getting a roof and food. It’s an amazing way to share culture, thoughts, techniques etc.!
If you decide to go in another country, it’s a great way to live as close as a local would live.
Also, let’s stop beating around the bush, it is a very economical way to travel as well! Not only you do not have to pay for accomodation nor food, but your laundry (almost) always smell good. For some reason, the food is amazong most of the time. Sometimes you will have to cook but even though I am not a big cook, ingredients were always provided and I never felt pressured with any food I cooked.
Moreover, you get new experiences that maybe you would never have had back in your everyday life!
I did have some bad experiences and as soon as you don’t get comfortable with someone, if anything looks weird, contact the WWOOF association so that they can do something. Always warn anyone where you are. But give it some time sometimes. I didn’t get so comfortable with my first host but after I left, I realised how much I actually cherish those moments.
If you are still hesitant, for example, one of my host in Japan had a sentou (public bath with the mountain natural hot spring) and an outside onsen ; that was my shower! Isn’t getting to be in hot water while it is snowing like a dream?
Most of the hosts will show you around if they have enough free time (all of my hosts did so). That’s another very positive point of volunteering, you’ll get to know places you wouldn’t even have known otherwise. My hosts also brought me to friends’ meeting or Japanese New Year celebrations. Awesome, right?
When is the best time to start looking for a host and what to look for?
I like everything to be planned and known well in advance. Hence why I contacted the hosts 4 months in advance… Which is way too much! Most of them told me they had not enough vision that far away to know if they would need someone. The best time to contact a host is two months in advance.
If you know that you want to be in a certain place on a specific date, then you can arrange your trip in an easy way. If you don’t have any obligation, then I suppose the host will tell you how long they would like you to stay. It may probably change once you are there anyway, whether you feel good at the place etc.
Check the amount of work required, the tasks obviously and the number of days off! This is important because depending on the season, even if you work only on the mornings for example, it may be too dark to explore in the afternoons.
How many hosts should you contact?
What I did when I was planning my trips was to create some sheets (not necesarily google sheets, open office sheets are also just fine… I had to!). So I could also write if I contacted them and when and my preferences.
Yet, I would advise not to contact too many hosts at the same time in the same region so you do not get lost. If one host doesn’t reply after three days, contact the next one on your list. Thus, you won’t have to be in the uncomfortable situation of having to say ‘no’.
What to be aware of
Know that working more than 25 hours a week is unsual and to my opinion starts to be an actual job. Some may ask you to work for more and offer you a wage but that’s very rare.
As a WWOOFer, you need to be serious about the job and respect the rules of the house.
Also, if you do not feel safe doing a task they ask you to do, say it. Oh and, make sure you’ve got an insurance.
Which leads me to something very important! You will need a travel insurance and never mention wherever you land that you are going to WWOOF. It is often considered a job and you will need another kind of visa. If an address is required, you can just say you are going to visit a friend.
What should you bring?
Alright, you are all set, a host said ‘yes’ (yay!). You’ve got your ticket to wherever and now you need to pack your bags. Yeah, that moment where everyone stresses as maybe we are forgetting something major! But what is more important than the passport and basta? I was not thinking like that at the beginning of my trips, I thought I had to be ready for every situatuon possible on earth. Anyway!
I will only mention how to prepare your bag for volunteering as I already wrote another article (in French, I need to translate it) about a tourist bag. The best case scenario is to ask your host what they can lend you for any job they will ask you to do. Something I brought the first time I went WWOOFing, which was on the official WWOOF Japan website and recommended by my hosts, were boots… Like, working boots… I hated them!!! They were bulky, and the worst thing is that my hosts had spare boots my size.
Something you can bring along though are good gardening gloves, not too big so you can use tools. Make sure they fit you.
If you realise you need anything, you will buy it there. And that applies to most of the things actually. The lighter you will leave, the merrier. That’s a golden travelling rule.
WWOOFing, while not always easy, has always taught me so much. I had some difficult hosts to live with, yet it taught me things about myself and more about a lot of things anyway. These hard experiences are still uncommon. When I think about a trip I did and I’ve been WWOOFing, it is often one of my favourite memory.
Let’s make your own amazing stories to tell on WWOOF.net!
If you’ve got any other question, I will be happy to answer them. Go to ‘Contact me’ and send me a note! 🙂