After my first winter in the Pacific Northwest, I had already decided it was time to spend my summer somewhere sunny and warm. I had heard about World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) from a friend and felt that it would be the most cost effective means of travel. And so, my two closest friends and I set out to find a farm that would be romantic, cheap, and provide enough vitamin D to counteract the six month winter that consumes Washington state. After very little deliberation we decided to spend a month backpacking around France and Italy while WWOOFing.
While I am here, in the future, to tell you that the trip was a success and we made it back to Seattle alive and with all our limbs, I definitely learned some life lessons along the way–many were acquired amidst uncertainty and unwavering self doubt. So for those of you thinking about WWOOFing let me offer up these humble pieces of advice.
Don’t Watch “Taken” Before You Travel
While I love Liam Nieson as much as any other red blooded American, I don’t love watching teenaged girls being sold into human trafficking rings. Granted, the movie takes several fantastical artistic liberties but the plot remains unwaveringly dire: Travel abroad and you will get kidnapped. This movie cast a suspicious shadow over every person we met. From the nice Scottish man who offered to take our picture outside of the Louvre, to the Italian boys who asked us for spare change–every one was a threat. More important than not watching this before traveling with two other young women is not allowing your parents to watch this film, I’m sure you understand why.
Confirm Where You Are Staying and Who You Are Staying With
Once we arrived at the train station in Lucca, an old fort town nestled into the hills of Tuscany, we quickly realized that we had no idea who would be picking us up, where, or when. After scrounging around for the farmer’s phone number we made contact and he informed us he would be there soon, driving his “teacup.” We later found out he mean” pickup.” Although we ended up safely settled into our villa apartment, we all felt like some more pre-trip preparation might have been wise.
Confirm the Parameters of Your WWOOF Exchange (i.e. Will they feed you?)
If you have already done your research you should know that one of the best aspects of WWOOFing is that you are working in exchange for room and board. However, when browsing your farm options READ THE FINE PRINT. Some farms ask that you work 4 hours a day while others ask you to work 40 hour weeks. While I commend those who really dive in and get their hands dirty, so to speak, having a 4 hour work day can also give you the liberty and time to visit other local areas. Lastly, some organizations will provide all meals while others may only provide lunch. This is an important detail if you are budgeting and, if you’re like me, and have an American-sized appetite after an eight hour day of gardening.