Written By WWOOFer Tamara Taylor
After the collective trauma of 2020, I dream of adventure. To pack my bags. Burst out of my neighbourhood and travel somewhere other than my own neighbourhood and my local park.
But this is the year in which “holiday at home” stands beside “unprecedented crisis” as clichés squeezing their way into our lexicon. And “holiday at home” is not such a bad thing when “home” refers to Australia, our beautiful wide brown land, rather than just the four brick walls with which I have become much more intimately acquainted in 2020. Even if holidaying at home means not leaving Victoria, as is an increasingly likely prospect, we hardly have cause to complain.
With some creative thinking and minimal planning there awaits on our doorstep a perfect opportunity to experience adventure, learn new skills, spend one’s holiday meaningfully, get fit, eat well, and have some good quality outdoor time and perhaps even help fellow Victorians recover from the bushfires of 2019/2020. And did I mention this is all possible on a shoestring?
WWOOFing presents just such an opportunity. Popular amongst backpackers who travel on a tight budget, it is yet to achieve acclaim as a means for city-dwelling Australians to experience Australia. Not just to travel, see it, sunbathe, surf its waves, or drink its acclaimed coffee…but to feel Australia and understand this country on a different level.
WWOOF – World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms –is an international organisation facilitating volunteer and cultural exchanges on Organic and Biodynamic farms worldwide.
After two holidays that were not to be, finances not as healthy as they might otherwise be and assurances that overseas travel is out of the question… With the sound still ringing in my ears of calls for help for the bushfire afflicted farmers, perhaps this is the moment to think outside of the holiday plans box and combine a family trip to assist those suffering from bushfires, whilst spending no money, and getting plenty of exercise, fresh air, and adventure, joining WWOOF as a family was to be our break.
This is all about an idea whose time has finally arrived.
I dare to feel a glimmer of optimism. A faint light at the end of the tunnel hints normal life may soon resume in some form. But rejecting the old normal and realising that we must not let it return – we must grab this opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our world for the better. This is echoed everywhere by those who realise we have been stuck in a collective rut, stifled by our communal bad habits and blinded by our routines.
We must grasp this moment to reclaim our world as ours and make it what we want it to be. Now the moment has arrived. I’m thinking big, I’m dreaming the impossible, I’m not going to let practicalities get in the way of my ambitious ideas. I want us to be the best we can be to make our world a better place, whilst learning skills, having fun, eating good food, plenty of exercise and fresh air without spending huge amounts of money.
I realise WWOOF is the idea whose time has arrived. WWOOF – World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is not a new idea – the organisation has been around for 40 years in Australia and there are thousands of members here. People, or couples or families wanting to volunteer on organic farms throughout this wide brown land of ours… farms offering to host willing volunteers “4-6 hours a day learning new skills in return for all meals and accommodation”.
The organisation is keen to emphasise this is not a vacation, it is not for those wanting a free bed, or those hoping to spend their holidays relaxing beside the pool. However, it is absolutely for those who recognise that volunteering is rewarding and fulfilling, and that giving back to the planet while making new friends in unexpected places is a bonus.
I could write pages about the virtues of WWOOFing and the immense rewards for our family, but what I won’t ever do is over glamorise it. It is not a holiday. And you will not be pampered. You are unlikely to be afforded the luxury of sleeping in until mid-morning, and I’d be surprised if anyone brings you breakfast in bed or serves you happy hour cocktails. But volunteering surpasses many other therapies in its ability to improve mental health, make you happy, relaxed, and confident.
In some new reinvention of normal…
This is the year when we holiday in Australia, rediscovering our own country, cherishing its own unique bushland, reconnecting, and implementing a new balance in our lives.
This is the year when we will look out for our farmers, lending them assistance following the hardships imposed by droughts, floods, and bushfires.
This the year when we will appreciate the remote corners of our beautiful state and discover how its many treasures rival anything that can be found overseas.
This is the year when many of us have few surplus funds to splash out on an expensive holiday.
But at the same time this is the year when we are desperate to break free from the confines of our houses and our neighborhood and rediscover the wider world.
This is the year as we emerge from our collective lethargy and find ourselves forced to embrace change or, at the very least, accept it.
With Easter just around the corner, why not find out more? wwoof.com.au
Read Tamara’s Journey to date: Article Written for Earth Garden March/ April Issue 2021 WWOOFing with Teenagers