When I told my friends and family I was going to Australia to WWOOF, they first thought I acquired an unusual obsession with dogs. “No no no, I’m not going to the other side of the world to woof with puppies.” WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. “So, you’re going to Australia to be a farmer?” Though I sensed their mocking tone, “YES!” I decided to put my love of nature together with my desire to learn more about agriculture and added my long overdue voyage to the land down under and realized that a WWOOFing trip across Australia would be a perfect fit (for my post, post graduate undecided and over-schooled self).
From what I had heard, WWOOFing was pretty popular in Australia. And after arriving, I met many travellers doing the same thing as me, either as a cheap way to travel when money was low or in order to get a Work-Holiday Visa Extension. I even met some previous WWOOFers who just never left, becoming permanent Australian residents (my parents’ worst fear). Their reaction was much different from what I received in Canada. Instead of confused “What the…?” faces, the response was always excited reminiscent faces, “Where have you been so far?” “It’s a great way to travel, isn’t it?!” And, you know what, it is.
So, why WWOOF?
I have only been in Australia and WWOOFing for about 3 months so far, but I feel like I’ve seen and experienced much more than the average backpacker. Instead of cookie-cutter tours that are sold to tourists, WWOOFing has introduced me to many incredible hosts who show me their side of Oz. On top of drinking at hostel bars, I’ve drank at the local Musicians Club jam session, and while discussing Australian politics over dinner, and at a Christmas-in-July celebration with new friends. I’ve WWOOFed by paradise beaches and on run-down resorts; in small island communities and secluded hinterland villages. I’ve stayed with old friends, new friends and complete strangers. I’ve had long conversations with history buffs, yogis, artists, conspiracy-theorists, nudists, self-sufficient farmers and hippies; with young impressionable adults just starting to travel and older adults who have already travelled the world. I’ve walked through clouds of butterflies and moths on route to nighttime beach campfires and daytime beach oyster searches. I’ve learned how to make Kombucha tea and halloumi cheese; lived with giant spiders and giant birds; have been woken up by the eerie chanting of yogis; practiced yoga during sunset with fellow Japanese WWOOFers; watched shooting stars and full harvest moons on secluded beaches; been swarmed by chickens, spied on by cockatoos, body checked by goats, stalked by cows, delayed by cassowaries, almost nose butted by pigs…
…and the list goes on.
So, why WWOOF?