Thursday, February 15, 2007

WWOOF, in review

Before I get to far removed from it, I thought I'd put up a review of my wwoofing experiences to assist anyone who is considering the program.

I think wwoofing is a great way to get to know local people. The ideal length of time to stay with a host, in my opinion, is two weeks. It takes one week to get to know the people and work you will be doing, and one week to enjoy it. By the third week I was sick of it. Farm work is hard, physically and monotonous at times, so certain muscles would get very sore, but by switching it up and doing different work on different farms I was able to let parts of my body recover. Pick macadamias is hard on your neck and back, while weeding garlic is hard on your knees, for example. For this reason, if you have any trade skills that you enjoy, such as carpentry, painting, networking, or web design, look for hosts who need this kind of work done. Not that there's anything wrong with farming, just that if you will be wwoofing for a long time it is nice to mix in work you enjoy. Maybe you enjoy farm work.

Also, I would recommend taking a break between wwoof experiences, say a weekend every two weeks. While woofing you won't generally get days off, and even if you do you're likely to be stuck out in the bush unless you have your own vehicle. So take some time off to see the sights, get into the city, and interact with other people who are not your hosts. I don't know about you, but being around the same four people for over a month without seeing much of anyone else makes me a little antsy. I'd recommend places that are withing walking distance to some kind of public transportation to get into town in case you want to get away. Many wwoof hosts are very rural, which is great if you like country landscapes and woods, but part off wwoofing is getting to see the area, and unless your hosts are willing to drive you place, not that likely, or you have your own transportation it will be tough to get around. Many hosts will pick you up from the nearest train or bus station however, so getting to and from your host is usually not a problem.

Pay special attention to your housing, too, as this plays a significant role in your comfort, both physical and mental. Generally accommodation in the same house as your host is preferable. This makes you feel very welcome, gives you more opportunities to interact with the family, and the rooms are usually in good condition. While the privacy of self contained or caravan housing my sound nice, it's never worth it. The hosts rarely inspect the facilities to make sure the roof doesn't like, the holes in the walls are plugged to keep out animals, or the mold is cleaned away. Or they do check, but don't care, since they're not living there. There is also a sense of isolation when you live apart from the hosts, which negates the getting to know the locals benefit of wwoofing. I often found myself wondering when I was allowed to enter the house, and when I should leave after meals. This is particularly tricky at night since your caravan or mud hut won't have it's own bathroom and you need to use the one in the house.

While wwoofing can make traveling less expensive, it may not be as dramatic as you think. In Australia I wwoofed at a bunch of different places in Tasmania over three months and took three weeks off for sight seeing. In Japan I've done no wwoofing for two months and have my own place and cook my own meals, but I've spent the same amount of money in Japan as I did in Australia! The transportation between hosts can add up very quickly, and all that work makes you want to play hard when you have the time off. Just something to think about.

If your planning to wwoof in Tasmania, please feel free to drop me an email or comment and I would be happy to go into more detail about the different hosts I worked for. Another program worth looking into is the HelpX network. HelpX is very similar to wwoof, except that it is not necessarily organic, it is free, you can read reviews of hosts (a big plus), and is limited to the English speaking world, while you can wwoof in almost any country.


Alison said...

To add to this review: There are just a couple things. The practical part of knowing what you are getting you self into is through email. When you contact the hosts be very clear in your questions. I was more timid than I should have been. But feel free to ask the host family what kind of condition the hut or caravan is in. Ask what the weather will be like and does the roof leak if it rains a lot or is there heat, if it's cold. Ask about Internet access if that is a priority. Also ask them about what there is to do around if you have some time off. Some places might only have bush walks while some have a whole city for you to roam. Just be clear and forward. It will pay of in the end. There is nothing like the first night at the place, and thinking- what did I get my self into.

But I do have to say that even the less desirable places were good experiences over all.

Dave said...

I couldn't agree more about communicating with potential hosts before hand. I manage a Noni farm on the Big Island of Hawaii which relies heavily on volunteer labor. We get woofers through all the time who only stay a couple days because "rustic cabins" and "plenty mosquitoes" can mean different things to different people. They rarely ask for details like, "Do the cabins have indoor plumming?", "NO.". "Can 6 inch long centipedes get in to my bed with me?", "Yes, but not very often." I put up a website with more information but its the responsibility of the WWOOFers to ask about accommodations and working conditions before they commit.

Anonymous said...

hi Matthew,
I am planning to wwoof in Tas. My friend do the wwoof before but the host ask them to work 8 hrs a day which treat them as employer,not wwoofer.could you provide the contact detail of the host who you recommend? thank you

Katina said...

Hi, I'm also heading to Australia and am interested in WWOOFing in Tasmania - any recommendations on farms would be great!

arielramira said...

same as above. would love any info on tasmania wwoofing!! i've been on the south island of new zealand wwoofing for several months-many good/bad experiences

Sarah Cruise said...

Hey thanks for sharing your experiences. I am planning on heading to Tasmania soon to perhaps do some wwoofing, I'd appreciate any hints, tips, suggestions or contacts you might have. Thanks again,

Anonymous said...

would be happy if you could recommend me some WWOOF farms in tasmania!