Sustainability

Is Wwoofing Worth It? Advice From Someone Who’s Done It

by Keith Langston
Updated March 24, 2023

is wwoofing worth it

Exciting adventures in new places, learning skills, and meeting people from all over the world…wwoofing is a unique experience like no other.

For Americans, wwoofing typically flies under the radar, which is understandable since the country doesn’t encourage gap years the way other nations do, hindering many from journeying out into the world. But for those who discover it, wwoofing can turn into a once-in-a-lifetime travel journey.

Arguably the ultimate form of sustainable tourism, wwoofing is a way for you to give back, help the planet, help small businesses, and make memories you’ll never forget.

What is wwoofing?

Wwoofing stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms and its a program where you can travel all over the world to help out at various small businesses that host you. While most host sites tend to be farms and gardens, there’s actually quite a bit of variety, from vineyards to eco resorts, cattle ranching, co-op communities, and more, all looking for workers to come help out.

The best part is that wwoof hosts are required to provide you with food and shelter. Depending on the host, you’ll be staying in a cabin, yurt, tent, barn, or sometimes even in the family home. Every host is required to share what their boarding arrangements are in their posting on the wwoof website, so you’ll always know what the sleeping arrangements will be once you arrive.

How does wwoofing work?

Wwoofing hosts are located all over the world, from the USA to Australia, South Africa, India, Bolivia, and more. Because of how many destinations there are, your best bet to get started is to ask yourself what country/region you want to visit and then go from there. Every country has its own wwoofing website, but beginners should first visit wwoof.net – a giant master site offering tips, advice, webinars, and more. Wwoof.net also has a fantastic destinations page that can link you out to the various wwoofing websites around the globe.

 

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Some countries also charge a small fee for “membership”, which basically just means you get access to the website’s chat and booking feature so you can get to know a host and arrange a stay. Prices vary, but are all quite cheap, with the most expensive being $72 for the whole year. While this might seem annoying, it’s important to remember that the fee helps employ a group of staff who monitor the site and verify hosts, ensuring a safer experience.

Once you’ve found a host you like, simply reach out and ask what they’re looking for and what dates are available for new visitors. From there, you and the host decide on dates and workload based on what feels right for both of you. After that, book your flight (which you will have to pay for) and then head out! Many hosts offer transportation from nearby airports and train stations to their homesteads, so it’s always good to ask your host how transportation will be handled.

Is wwoofing worth it?

Here’s the tricky part…the quality and enjoyment of your wwoofing experience is 100% up to you and the host. Personally, I had a great time. I was able to live up in the Northwest Territories for three months, watching the aurora borealis almost every single night. We grew our own food in a garden and greenhouse, fried up fish we caught in the lake, and I got to meet a group of incredibly interesting people.

However, when I lived in New Zealand one of my friends did a wwoofing experience there. After four days at his wwoof farm, he was back in Auckland telling us about how his host had them all sleeping in tents out on the farm and didn’t allow them access to any indoor spaces on the property. He returned tired, miserable, and smelled awful.

To some people, that might seem like a fun adventure or a way to bond with others through commiseration…to me, that sounds awful.

How do I make sure I get the wwoofing experience I want?

The dialogue you have with your host before arriving is extremely important. If you don’t want to sleep in a tent for three months, be sure to visit a host who has cabins and provides hot water to wwoofers. Some wwoofing experiences are more rugged than others.

Some require more work. Some hosts see wwoofers as new friends, while others view them as labor. It’s all about research. Read their profile on the website, read the reviews past wwoofers have left about them, and don’t be afraid to message them to ask questions.

 

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Most countries’ wwoofing websites also offer tons of helpful search filters to make sure you find a host that’s right for you. You can search for vegan-friendly hosts, pet-friendly hosts, search by a host’s language (which is especially helpful if you’re wwoofing in a foreign country), and more.

What are the best wwoofing destinations?

Again, this is totally up to the individual. One of my friends worked on an organic coconut farm in Bali and loved it. The island is warm and tropical and thanks to its massive tourism industry, it’s easy to navigate while speaking English…but some people might be afraid of dengue fever or “Bali belly”.

I did my wwoofing experience in Canada, and it was unbelievably amazing and rewarding. Canada is such an underrated destination in my opinion and, in general, Canadians are super hospitable and friendly…but they also get -40 degree winters.

 

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My point is that the world is a massive and varied place, and every destination has its own quirks, pros, and cons. To most people, going to Europe is the bucket list vacation they’ve always wanted. For me, Europe is a boring, stuffy, and rigid place that doesn’t interest me in the slightest. So there really are no “best” destinations for wwoofing, it all depends on what you want and what you like.

Is wwoofing safe?

Safety is a very reasonable concern, especially when doing something like wwoofing – where you’ll likely be a solo traveler joining a group of complete strangers and then working and living alongside them. The good news is that, in general, wwoofing is quite safe. Since hosts get vetted before joining the site and wwoofers can leave comments and reviews, if someone is causing trouble, it’ll become obvious pretty quickly.

Having said that, there are some basic safety practices to keep in mind. For example, the country you wwoof in can matter a lot, especially if you’re part of a marginalized community. You can wwoof in Nigeria and Pakistan, but if you’re part of the LGBTQ community, those destinations will likely be less welcoming than if you chose to wwoof somewhere like Hawaii.

 

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The good news is that there are also wwoof hosts who are openly and expressively LGBTQ-friendly and welcoming. Again, it all comes down to using a bit of common sense and doing your research.

The Takeaway

I loved my wwoofing experience. It’s an awesome way to make travel cheap since your food and lodging are covered. It’s also a great way to stay somewhere long-term without needing to apply for a work visa (since you aren’t earning income). I stayed in the NWT for three months, which really allowed me to settle into a routine and get to know the forest with an intimacy that a short vacation would never allow.

On the flip side, not everyone has a good time at their destinations. The best tip to ensure a good experience – especially for beginners – is to only wwoof somewhere that has a lot of good reviews. If a farm is new and doesn’t have many (or any) reviews yet, they’re probably fine people…but you don’t want to be the guinea pig who has to find that out. Stick with the popular destinations that have stellar reviews. Those locales might have a waitlist until an opening comes along, so plan in advance.

If you remember to research your destination and engage in a dialogue with the host before arriving, you’ll likely have a great time that you’ll always remember.

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