freedom · Step 4: Cutting Costs

Free Vacation: Highlights

When I was broke, I had lots of adventures. For less than $1500, I had a year in Europe. With $300 I also spent half a year in Mexico and Central America. But when I figured out how to get on track financially, and committed to doing so, some of the adventurousness disappeared. I had a house to maintain, tenants to care for, and a child with disabilities to raise. These were my priorities, plus after a decade of traveling I had reached my “saturation point” and had no more craving to do it.

Until my kid was 10. Suddenly, I was itchy again. New people! New cultural practices! New ideas!

But a specific form of traveling tugged at my soul more than any other: a working vacation on an organic farm. I had done this a fair amount before I became a parent, and I wasn’t sure how I would manage this with a young one in tow. But as he aged, so did my yearning. And so it was that, after a year or so of waffling, I took my kid on his first WWOOFing adventure!

Bliss.

Gorgeous meals prepared for us, with several ingredients straight from the farm itself.
Conversation about genomes, health recovery, spirituality, politics, religion, art, hearts, and more.
Sleeping in a tipi.
Freedom from electronics.
Time to read two books!
Helping a sixty-year old woman in her decision to fulfill the dream she’s held from her childhood.
Being with a couple of very cool artists.
Listening to the farmer sing in operatic soprano!
Witnessing and hearing about how one couple navigates their differing dreams.
Getting into the soil: moving our bodies, digging our hands into earth.
Raising our first terraced bed.
Planting slowly and precisely, blessing each seedling.
All of us working in our pajamas.
Laughing—a lot!
Leaving behind newly-growing organic food, and self-replenishing soil, for my farmer friends and others.
Hours of solitude, while knowing we would soon be connecting happily again.
Snacking on strawberries and lettuce direct from the plants.
Kid getting to operate a tractor!
Waking to a rooster’s crow.
Falling asleep to the strong rush of natural water.
New friendships.
Learning a song I’ve wanted to learn for over a year.
After a second long workday, resting under the peach trees with my son—telling a story about when life gave me one message three times in a row such that I was required to listen—while watching two hummingbirds soar and dip above the flower garden.
A dog’s over-the-top joy to find us each morning.
Happy hugs.
My son’s sheer joy from start to (an hour before) end.
An invitation to come back and harvest for ourselves, to play again, or to just enjoy the property.

And lowlights? Well, we had to leave to get home!

A truly refreshing, peace-inducing, inspiring vacation, at no cost (except the $7 in return gas money).

Want to know more?

A WWOOF host “farm” may be a working farm, an intentional community, a bed and breakfast, a retreat centre, a single family home with yard in a city, or any other set up. The work may be digging, registering guests, planting, cleaning, mulching, entertaining children, chopping wood, cooking, setting up the property’s website, you name it. Anything arranged between you and the host that lives out the creed “many hands make light work.”

In many, you will work in the morning, read or nap or go for a swim or bike ride in the afternoon, hang and converse in the evening.

All offer three nutritious meals per day, accommodation, hands-on education, and some hours of company.

As noted in my book, you can preview (free) a list of WWOOF farms for the country you’re interested in traveling within, or purchase access to the full catalogue of farms and each one’s contact info, or you can contact organic farmers in the area of your choice. Having paid several hundred dollars in WWOOF fees over the decades to date, this year I’ve so far chosen to do the latter. I Google organic farm for my region of choice and, if their website indicates that they might, I ask if they accept volunteers.

A great farm will usually send you clear information upfront about what it can offer and what it expects. One farm may want people of great heft and energy to do hard physical labour up to eight hours per day. Another will let a volunteer choose from a variety of light or heavy tasks, and wrap up after 3-6 hours. Accommodation may be inside their home, in your own tent, in their trailer or cabin, and so on. Some will accept children; some will not. Some offer transportation from a local bus depot; others need you to arrive independently. Each offers different diets, depending on how the farmer’s household generally eats. Some are open to guest workers for a day or so; some prefer a WWOOFer to stay a week or a month or longer.

Farmers and travelers are responsible for ensuring their own safety when committing to shared life and space, relying on recommendations through their networks or established WWOOF listings. Some countries may require a work Visa for WWOOFing. Contact the WWOOF organization in the country you wish to visit for more information.

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