When you’re travelling around a country such as New Zealand it’s easy to feel like you’re following the same tourist trail as everyone else. As you drive along the roads reading through your Lonely Planet Guide Book there’s countless signs pointing to waterfalls, viewpoints, historical sites etc etc. And if you take the time to stop and check these things out, you’ll usually find you’re just one of many trigger happy tourists snapping away on your camera.
Usually the best experiences you can have are the ones that get you off the beaten track and spending time with the locals. With this in mind I decided to sign up with WWOOF NZ. The organisation stands for ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’ and gives volunteers the chance to stay with Kiwi families and experience their way of life. The types of hosts you can stay with are vast from large organic farms, to small family gardens, to vineyards. And it’s not always strictly organic, there’s also a section for Cultural Exchange hosts meaning you can find all kinds of weird and wonderful hosts in the WWOOF database.
When you stay with a host you are expected to work four to five hours each day, and in return you get three meals and accommodation. It’s obvious that WWOOFing is a great way to save some money while you travel, but really you get much more than just a free ride. One of the main reasons I wanted to WWOOF was so I could learn more about sustainable and organic ways of living. Before now I’d hardly ever stepped foot on a farm, and other than my mum growing some strawberries and tomatoes when I was a child, I don’t know anything about growing your own fruit and veg. Depending on the host you stay with, there’s lots of new skills you can learn and take with you to use later in life. You could learn how to make
wine, hunt, build a garden patch, find out how good horse shit is for vegetables, bake your own bread, the list can go on and on.
I haven’t WWOOFed as much as I’d have liked to in NZ. But it’s something you can do practically anywhere in the world, and I’d advise anyone to try and work it into their travel plans, no matter where they are.