Be a farmer for a short time, anywhere!

I remember the moment where I felt like a proper lumberjack… Hauling huge 50 kilo logs trough a swamp in the middle of nowhere. Together with me was the farmer (a proper lumberjack), a Chinese guy, and 12 boy scouts. This moment is what you can call a wwoof experience.

I hear many people asking about wwoof, how to begin, what the do’s and don’ts are and how it is. Now I’ve been wwoofing about 6 years, and I had some great experiences. Also there were some less good experiences. I’ll tell you how to start, how to get in touch with the farmers and what to take with you. And I will advise some great wwoofing places!

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But lets say you would like to wwoof. Ok, good! How would one set that up? First you need to have a country where you would like to go to. But lets say you would like to go to sweden (I went there, and would go there again and again!). On the bottom of the wwoof international website are the other websites, like wwoof sweden. The organization is devided in different wwoof chapters all working together. On the wwoof sweden site there is a host list. You can see information, but for detailed information you have to sign up. Mostly you pay about 10 to 15 euros for a year membership. If you done this you can see the phone number, email and all that information from the farm. Now it gets exciting…

If the country is not on the wwoof list, they are probably on the wwoof independent list. These are countries who have too less farms to have their own organization. But they are still worth checking out! So you have found your farm you would like to go to. Now call them. Yes, just call them. I was a bit scared at first, what should I tell these people on the other side of Europe? Well, I told them I would like to come by for 2 weeks (stayed there for 5 months…) on this and that date. That was good. They had space for me. It can also occur that they are already fully booked, so call them in advance. For my documentary about wwoof  I had to call them 3 months before! If you do that, you have more chance they have space for you. But don’t call them too far ahead, I would say 2 moths is the maximum.

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And that was it. Now you have arranged yourself a wwoofingplace! I can advise you to call one week before you get there. In case they are not at home or forgot about you. Some farms can have up to 10 woofers at the same time, so its easy to get lost in the departure and arrival of new wwoofers. This call would also be good to ask for specific directions, if they can pick you up from somewhere (sometimes they do!), if you have to bring special things or other things you would like to know.

You got your tickets, cardboard sign, bike or freakmobile ready, now its time for packing! Do you need to bring certain stuff for wwoofing? Yes. You will be working in the field, with animals or in the bush. Take clothes that can get dirty. Proper dirty. I remember I went to a farm for 10 days, because it was apple season, and they could use people to press apples. I kinda forgot you get totally covered in mashed apples and your shirts will not be clean after that. I took a couple of shirts, all good shirts… Stupid… These shirts still have the apple juice stains in it… So take at least 2 shirts with you that can get really dirty. Same as pants and sweaters. Also hiking boots come in handy. There might be a time where you have to go trough mud, water or swamps. Or cow poo. Yes, you’re on a farm, don’t take your best shoes. Although you go to a farm with beds and sheets, I would always take my own sleeping bag and towels. You might end up with 10 other wwoofers so having your own sleeping stuff is no luxury. I would also take my tent and mat, but this is personal. I like to sleep outside whenever I can.

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Like I said before I have been wwoofing for 6 years and next to this I used helpxchange. Similar to wwoof, but there are not only farms, but also hostels, sheepherders… anything really. There were some wonderful experiences, but they all depend on your state of being and how open you are. I could share the experiences, but then I’ll be typing for hours and hours. But what I would like to share is the best places I’ve been around the world to wwoof or volunteer. Here my best two:

Rosenhill tradgard; Ekerö/Stockholm, Sweden                                                                                                                           For me this is heaven on earth. The people are amazing, the work is great and the overall ambience is beautiful. A place where you can heal, develop yourself, develop skills, make music and make apple juice in the autumn. This place is close to the city of stockholm so a night out is no problem. They have a bus you can sleep in (almost the same like the one from “into the wild”) a caravan or wooden cottages. They also have a yoga/meditation place and great food!rosenhill appels

Happy hippy hostel; Letovnik, Bulgaria                                                                                                                                      When we arrived we got offered a shot of own made rakia (type of liquor) and when accepting there was a: “welcome to the family” This is the essence of wwoofing in my opinion working like a family. This host is in a tiny tiny village on rural bulgaria, and a great place. The work i did at the time was building. After 1 day of 10 hours work in the burning sun (sometimes wwoofing can be quite hard) we got rewarded with a sauna and a dinner at a restaurant. Great place, great people, great atmosphere. Did i already say 1 of the owners is a chef and is making dinner every workday?hhh

So these are some of the nicest places I have been. I also had some nasty experiences, but this mostly had to to with not being in one line with the people of the farm. The most extreme case was in a farm in Bulgaria, where me and my travel partner were 18 hours when we decided we should leave. There was no handshake when we arrived, just a very short tour and we directly had to work. At dinner there was no real conversation mostly just rambling from the farmer, and the next day she totally ignored my travel partner. So we decided to leave. It was a hard choice to make, because these people take you in their house, but when she said: ah, its ok, the next wwoofers will be here tomorrow I really thought: well… screw you, we are not numbers!

It should be fun, so let this also be a reminder that you are not a slave; a apple and carrot is not a lunch. Especially not when you work for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a difference to a helper and the owner of the farm in my opinion, the owner of the farm should be happy that you would like to spend your time helping him/her. But then again, I’ve had 14 hour workdays… And I did it with joy. Because the people were thankful, and this is more worth then money. Oh yeah, and they took us for a ride on their sailboat the next day 🙂

If you have any more questions about wwoofing, the farms or you would like to have some tips, don’t hesitate to ask me!

Cheerio, and happy wwoofing!

For more adventure / outdoor / travel stuff you can like my Facebook page!

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Without-a-map: Day 2 … to .

This story is about my attempt to travel from Maastricht (NL) to Coo (BE) and back in 3 days, without a map. Maybe you want to read the first part or maybe you want to know why I do this. But for you who keep on reading I can tell you how I woke up from the last night. Full with energy, and ready to cycle to Coo! At this point I didn’t really know where I was, but knew which village I wanted to go to. Directly I knew asking people for directions was the best thing to do. Now my French is really bad. Or, better to say, there is no French. So it would be a matter of talking with my hands and feet. Within 2 hours I was on 180 degree curves going up, and I knew it was the right direction.

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At 9 in the morning I started cycling because I had no idea how far it would be towards Coo. The day before I just cycled 2 hours, and crossed the same bridge 4 times, so of this 2 hours, 1,5 was really cycling… I HAD to reach Coo quite early today, otherwise I wouldn’t get my deadline of being back in Maastricht at 16:00 the next day. The hills were getting steeper, the forrest became more dense and i noticed the area just became more beautiful. Things were going well!

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The map I’ve drawn for myself was working pretty well. In every village I asked a person for the next village and how to get there. Mostly I pointed to the way I thought was right, and said the name of the village, with a question mark behind it. That seemed to work pretty well. The best thing was that all the villages seemed to be just 3 or 4 kilometers apart! This meant I rapidly from place to place on my map, and if nothing weird would happen I might arrive in Coo in the evening!

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It was a bit further then I thought and saw that it was not possible to get to Coo in the evening. This evening I wanted to have a nice place to make a camp, somewhere in the forrest, and I wanted to make camp before darkness would fall. There is nothing nastier then setting up camp in the pitch black darkness. By this time I was in the true ardennes, and knew there must be beautiful places to camp. I set off to the forrest, made camp, cycled a bit around and sat down for a well deserved glass of wine. I cycled 11 hours up and down in the hot autumn sun, and was exhausted but satisfied. In one and a half day I almost reached my destination without a glimpse on a real map!

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Tonight would be a meal of kings, made on my little stove. Bacon, beans, onion, carrots and spicy sauce. It smelt really good, and I think I was not the only one who thought that… It was pitch black dark at the place where I set camp, and all of a sudden I heard a loud roar about 50 meters away. The roar went trough my bones and all my senses were immediately working for the whole 100 percent. I heard the animal walking, and don’t know why but I turned off my headlight. Now I was sitting in the pitch black dark, and couldn’t see anything! The animal came closer and closer, and I felt my heart beating in my throat! After some seconds I heard the animal was so close, so I turned my light back on, and shone the animal straight in the eyes. It was a huge red deer! It wasn’t further then 10 meters away from me, and when I stood up, the deer slowly walked away… Now I don’t have any experiences with these kind of animals, but when you’re alone in the forrest, in the middle of nowhere, it makes your heart pump faster! For the night I decided to put my bike in front of my bivouac so no animal could get in, and I had at least some feeling of safety.

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It was pretty easy to find my way towards Coo. Everything just took a little more time, since I had to ask people for direction every 30 minutes. And in French. But it worked out, the people where helpful and somebody even drew me a map of how to get to the next village. It seemed traveling without a map wasn’t too bad, as long if you find your own way to get around.

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I would reach Coo, thats for sure, but would i make it back in time? Two days were left, and for sure I wasn’t taking the same way back! But that will be for the next time!