Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Wonders of WWOOFing

One of the biggest challenges for the penniless and perpetual traveller is just how to keep this wagon a’rollin’. Fuel is our biggest expense, both for the van and for ourselves, so without a fixed income, how do we eek out the little we have left over from building our home and stay on the road? 

One of the answers is to get off the road for a little while. Before we left the UK we got a WWOOF membership for Germany, which cost €30. For those of you who don’t know, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an international organisation that puts willing workers in touch with farms of all different types. There are homesteading families, community farms and commercial ventures, and they offer free food and accommodation in exchange for your time and work. 

Bob on the farm

WWOOFing is the perfect solution for us - for a week or two, or maybe longer, we don’t have to spend any money, we have somewhere comfortable and convenient to park the van, and we get an opportunity to see projects and communities in action and learn the skills we’ll need in the future. 

After spending a week at our first spot, we realised that volunteering on a farm fits in well with the FREEDOM junkies’ philosophy. We talked in the first post about the energy that gets freed up when you start to break free of your addictions, and how that needs to be channelled into something more healthy and positive. In Berlin, we indulged in food - all the delicious cheap vegan food we could get our hands on! It was a treat, because we knew we probably wouldn’t have it that good again, and because we knew it would come to an end in two weeks. It felt great, but it’s not a long-term solution. Working on the farm gave us an outlet for that energy that felt both healthy and positive (and was the perfect antidote to all those wagenbugers!) 

Firstly, it’s good old fashioned physical exercise. Digging, shovelling, spreading shit - getting your body moving and working boosts your dopamine levels, and after always getting those levels up by using things outside of yourself you’ll need to make a conscious effort to do what makes you feel good. There’s something incredibly satisfying about falling into bed at the end of a day’s hard work, every muscle in your body aching - the exhaustion of a job well done. 

It still counts as exercise if you're sitting down

You can obviously exercise any which way that works for you. But before you rush off and spend loads of money on a gym membership you won’t use, let us recommend a little time in nature. Being in the garden, spending time among the plants and getting your hands dirty seems to lift the soul in a way that you could never get from running on a treadmill. Feeling the sun on your face, listening to birds, smelling warm earth - a few hours weeding is a full-blown sensory experience that will leave you with pleasantly aching muscles and a feeling of satisfaction that’s hard to get from lifting weights. 

Finally, volunteering in exchange for the most basic of things - food and shelter - takes you outside of a system built around money and into a world where the most important things we have - time and energy - are valued as they should be. Helping people, sharing knowledge and putting your energy and efforts into something bigger than yourself is a vital part of accepting that there is something bigger than yourself. Addiction is a selfish way of being - the focus is always on getting what you need, regardless of the affect that can have on the people or world around you. Volunteering shifts that focus away from the ego to something else, something positive that can change the world for the better. 

What started out as just a way to save money and learn some new skills has become an integral part of our journey towards freedom - plus a chance to cuddle a cat! 

Kitty in the van - life complete!

WWOOFng isn’t the only way to travel and volunteer; there are other sites like Help-Ex or Workaway. They usually work in the same way - every country is separate, so you need to pay for each different country you’ll be travelling in, but the memberships are valid for a year, so you have plenty of time to make the most of it. Once you’re a member you can see the contact information for the places on the list, but you can read all the other information without paying first, so you can have a look at what’s on offer and make sure there are places you want to go before you commit to a membership. 

Our Top WWOOFing TIPS:

There are thousands of different projects, so take the time to find the ones that interest you the most - there’s no point in working for free if you’re not going to enjoy it or learn what you want. 

Try and get a clear idea of what’s expected of you in terms of working hours. From our experiences it can be stressful if you’re not sure because you just end up worrying that you’re not working enough (or working too much!). 

Make the effort to see and enjoy the places you volunteer. You’ll probably end up somewhere beautiful that you would never have been to otherwise, so explore. Lots of hosts offer to take you places on your days off, or at least recommend places to go, so take full advantage of their local knowledge. 

The beautiful lake we visited on our day off


-the FREEDOM junkies-

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