Affordable Travel
Image Source: Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Travelers around the world can agree, budgets are always a concern when traveling. And international travel can become especially expensive between visas, transportation, and lodging. But as agricultural tourism has begun to expand, the options for travelers have grown.

Agricultural tourism and ecotourism are methods of traveling that focus on the environments, cultures, and wellbeing of people native to the areas that you are traveling through. Specifically, ecotourism focuses on trips that allow travelers to come in contact with endangered and exotic ecologies, like rainforests and reefs. These trips can result in a greater understanding and sympathy for the ecologies and environments of other countries, as well as a renewed interest in preserving them.

Meanwhile, agricultural tourism functions very similarly. By immersing yourself in the culture and day to day lives of your hosts, you have the opportunity to learn about the production of various foods, the lives of people in other cultures, and ways to build a stable global economy. With that said, WWOOFing is a type of agricultural tourism that benefits both the traveler and the host families — exchanging goods and services for help from the volunteer traveler. 

What is WWOOFing?

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers On Organic Farms. It is a non-monetary exchange program where travelers volunteer their labor at organic farms in return for board and food. WWOOFing exists throughout the world and has even inspired some people to continue working with their local organic farms after they’ve returned from abroad.

The work-exchange program was created in the 1970s and is now one of the largest providers of work exchanges in the world. The work is quite varied and isn’t necessarily limited to doing work in a field or processing crops. The assignments are tailored to what a given farm needs, which means that you can have an entirely different experience and impact at every farm that you visit.

At one farm they may need someone to help cook. At another, they may need people to help with construction on the farm. In all cases, you will be exposed to the day to day lives of people in other cultures, support organic farming, and build a unique relationship with food and agriculture practices. 

What Are the Benefits?

For travelers who are looking for an authentic experience in another culture, and especially one that can connect them with the outdoors, WWOOFing can hold many benefits. The most obvious of these is the reduced cost, as hosts will offer a place to stay and your meals throughout the day, cutting down on your per diem costs drastically. You will also help foster a healthy global economy, and build relationships — especially if you gather a number of people for group traveling at the same time.

This type of travel is also a communal experience and can bring insights into the source of food and the processing practices seen throughout the world. You have the opportunity to see not only how the food you eat is grown, but develop a better understanding of where your food comes from in general. With so much processed food across the world, this is a unique opportunity to connect with the creation of food and the people who grow it.

The other major benefit of traveling like this is that you get to experience another culture. However, these are not relaxing vacations, and you have to be ready and able to do some potentially hard labor — but spending time living with the everyday people of another culture can provide you with a truly immersive, educational look at cultures around the world.
Things to Know Before You Go

WWOOfing is not for everyone, and you should make sure that you know the specifics of what you are in for before arranging your trip. There are very few eligibility requirements for WWOOFing and for the most part, anyone can volunteer to work on one of these farms. Currently, there is a demand for volunteer labor in Europe and Australia, as well as places such as New Zealand and Nepal. You should be aware of the language and cultural differences beforehand, and make sure that you are comfortable with the area you’ll be traveling to.

Finally, there are some associated costs with WWOOFing. There is no international organization for it, so you will have to buy a membership for each country you are interested in visiting. You will also need to be able to provide your own transportation, both to the country of choice, and any local traveling you will be doing while you are there. While this cost is minuscule when compared with the food and lodgings you would otherwise have to pay for, make sure you are ready for every cost you will be responsible for while on the trip.

As travelers look for new and immersive opportunities, they are also confronted with the monetary barriers of international travel. Any opportunities that can help bring down the price tag of an international trip, while offering the chance to experience a unique aspect of another culture, can be the difference between taking a trip of a lifetime and staying at home. With WWOOFing you don’t need any previous farming experience, just the willingness to work and learn about a whole new culture.