WWOOFing: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Dirty

If the term ‘WWOOFing’ immediately makes you think of cute puppy dogs, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

The international organization WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic FarmsWWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) are the volunteers who stay with host families and provide work in exchange for food and accommodation.  I have had both positive and negative experiences WWOOFing across France and Australia.

The primary goal of WWOOFing is to share diverse agricultural ideas between cultures.  The WWOOFing organization is quick to point out that WWOOFing is NOT a way to travel for free.  You will be expected to work for 4 – 6 hours a day.

The tasks vary from farm to farm.  Once you join the WWOOFing organization for the low fee of $25, you will have access to postings from farms throughout the country of your choosing.  In these postings, the owners of the farms will explain what they do and what is expected of you.  Some farms only want volunteers for a week or two while others require commitment of a few months.  Once you find a farm that appeals to you, it’s important to contact them directly.  Introduce yourself in an email and explain why you want to volunteer at their farm specifically.  A few phone calls later, you’ll find yourself at your first friendly farm!

My first experience WWOOFing: Atherton, Australia

Although the floods had destroyed their potato fields, my hosts still found plenty for me to do.  From cleaning the house to mucking out stalls, I was adopted into the family as a temporary member.  The scariest thing I had to do was swat lethal spiders out of the rain gutters.  The most disgusting thing I had to do was hose down a horse’s trough full of dead birds.  However, my hosts relieved me of any duties I felt uncomfortable completing.

I stayed in a small RV outside of the farm house.  On Wednesday nights, my hosts took me into town to play poker at their favourite pub.  We boycotted work one Saturday to enjoy the local horse races together (cover photo).  Although I wasn’t practising “organic farming activities”, I loved my time in Atherton because I felt at home.

208165_1884168377142_1029355022_2202537_2673875_n

The second stop: Childers, Australia

The atmosphere at my second farm was completely different.  Although I was given a room in the house to myself, I only used it to hide in.  There were two other volunteers sharing the living room.  My hosts stuck me in a metal shack sorting tomatoes.

A few lonely days later, I got a taste of the sun working outdoors—and immediately wished I was back in the shack.  Picking tomatoes and fixing fences is hard work.  The sweat on my legs mixed with the dirt, covering my body in mud.

The worst part of my stay was the unfriendliness of my hosts.  They were constantly fighting with each other.  They left us volunteers to fend for ourselves whenever we weren’t slaving away at work.  The entire experience would have been different if they had only taken us somewhere, anywhere, during our stay.

aussie,bali,nz 312

My third and final try: Normandy, France

My host was a single woman whose fondness for animals outweighed her desire to find a man.  I spent two weeks speaking French and caring for geese, ducks, horses, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, peacocks, and cattle.  I did various activities that ranged from cooking lunch with fresh garden ingredients to peeling and re-painting wooden fences.  I was even head-butted by a goat.  Twice.

My host was constantly asking for help.  I spent a lot more than 6 hours a day working.  I lived in a small mobile in the large backyard.  My host took me to a farmer’s market one weekend, but other than that, we stayed at the farm.  I enjoyed my time in Normandy, but I found it lonely living on a farm miles from civilization with only one other lady who didn’t speak my first language.

Take 4 la ferme 010

Every WWOOFing experience will be different.  It all depends on where you go, what you have to do, and—most importantly—who you are with.  As does everything.

I highly recommend trying WWOOFing a few times during your travels to take a break from hostelling and see your destination through the eyes of a hard-working local.

Have you WWOOFed before?  Are you planning on it?  Please share your experience and your opinion!

Happy Travels.

My Friend Roy: World Poetry Day

This is my favourite original work of travel poetry.
It’s inspired by the incredible true story of my Scottish friend Roy.
As you read, allow yourself to vicariously experience Roy’s adventures.
Enjoy, and Happy World Poetry Day.

BFMRUzICUAAjvkK

My friend Roy is different, he’s a little bit strange
One day he left home and hopped on a plane.
He doesn’t own much, but what he has is his
He’s got where he’s been with one-way tickets.
He’s been everywhere from Sydney to Rome
He’s experienced the world all on his own.
He’s lived on the streets, in the sky, on my mind
He’s squandered his money, but spent well his time
He’s learned and he’s grown, he’s done and he’s seen
Of all that he’s found, he’s brought back one thing
He’s forgotten views, and cities, and dates
Because it’s the people that make the place.
It’s not where you are, but who you are with
A place to call home is simply a myth.
It’s the breeze, the waves, the pulse of the streets
The friends and family and strangers you meet.
Roy knows not where he goes, but he’s sure why he does
Because home’s not a place, it’s knowing you’re loved.

My Travel Playlist

The various modes of transportations (buses, planes, trains, hiking, etc) most travellers endure on a daily basis offer more than enough time to plug in to some stellar songs.  I tried to make a list of my top ten, but ended up with my twelve favourite traveling tunes.  These songs are always on repeat while I’m on the move.  The fitting lyrics and rolling melodies have accompanied me around the world. Enjoy!

1. Hello, I’m in Delaware – City and Colour
2. Sofa – Ed Sheeran
3. Ghosts – Laura Marling
4. Big Jet Plane – Angus & Julia Stone
5. Go – Avalanche City
6. Boston – Augustana
7. Atlantic – The Midway State
8. Headphones – I’m from Barcelona
9. Girl Named Tennessee – Needtobreathe
10. Farther Along – Josh Garrels
11. She’s Got Something – Greg Holden
12. After Today – Sanctus Real

Of course, there are many other incredible songs that can form the background music of your travels. This playlist is geared towards my personal taste in Indie Acoustic music.
If these songs are new to you, just clink on the title to listen on YouTube. If you love them, let me know! If you hate them, tell me what you listen to while you travel?

Music is a consistant comfort as you travel.  Even when your entire surroundings are unfamiliar, unpredictable, and lonely, your music stays the same. Country connects me to home; Punk Rock reminds me of my friends. Whatever you listen to while you travel,

Keep it playing.

Scuba Diving in Bali

I opened my eyes in a different world.

I was stunned by the shock of colour. My hand slammed against my face, futilely attempting to cover my dropped jaw. My mouthpiece hit my teeth. My mask filled with bubbles. I lifted my head above the waves, breaking the barrier between my old world and the new one that lingered below. My PADI dive instructor surfaced beside me.

“Don’t panic,” he told me in a thick Balinese accent. “When the mask floods, press here.” He pointed above his eyes. We both lifted our air valves and released the pressure, sinking slowly into the lukewarm water.

A giant turtle waved at me as he swam past. A school of shimmering silver fish circled my ankles. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could make out the other diver’s forms, dark and dreary against the vibrant clash of colour.

I could barely believe the abundance of sea creatures surrounding me. They came in all shapes and sizes. The ocean teemed with unimaginable forms of life.

Had this always been here, while I lived my life above, unknowing and oblivious?

We dove lower, kicking our feet steadily behind us. In my skin-tight wetsuit I felt streamlined and fish-like. I traced the lines of the reef’s cliff. Purple and yellow coral danced in the current like lilies in the breeze. Though I wasn’t physically exerted, my heart pounded ferociously.

The murky darkness parted to reveal a gigantic shipwreck. We were nearly 15 metres underwater by this point. The pressure was squeezing my ears.

We swam closer to inspect the damage. Small black buds were thriving off of the decaying wood. Rusted red metal gunnels clung to the former frame. Despite the large holes in the bottom of the boat and the missing mast, it was easy to recognize its former glory.

The entire atmosphere was eerie—forgotten, lonely, silent, submerged. I wondered who had sailed on the grand vessel, if any skeletons lay buried beneath, and whether or not their ghosts would appear.

We swam on through schools of jacks, bump-head parrotfish, seahorses, stingrays, yellow boxfish, and blue-banded angelfish. Nemo scurried past me. My giggles exploded into a fit of small bubbles.

My jaw kept dropping. I had to remind myself to breathe. My oxygen supply diminished steadily.

A brilliant ray of sunlight broke through the navy waves. The water was illuminated in a stunning sapphire blue. Every hue was intensified.

As we began our ascent, slow spirals of colour followed us up. We paused to regulate the pressure in our sinuses.

My eyes ate up the view hastily. I was relucant to return to my oxygen-rich reality. The low numbers on my dials coaxed me up to safety.

I threaded my hands through the soft bubbles above me, finally emerging through the waves. A white catamaran waited to escort the three of us back to Kuta Beach. Bali was another world I could barely explain or believe – another world I was simply entranced to explore.

Six Secrets About Stunning Switzerland

The most multilingual and unbiased country in the world is home to amazing food, endless outdoor activities, and unbeatable landscapes.  In order to take full advantage of this nation, there are six secrets you need to know about.

1. Drinking Water – The best bottled water in the world comes from Swiss Glaciers.  From the Evian source to countless outdoor taps around town, Alp water is the clearest and coolest in the world.

takeonr 017

2. Hiking – Switzerland is the perfect setting for incredible hikes.  They vary from leisurely to expert.  Don’t bother planning a route before you arrive because all of the trails are marked with colour-coded signs.  Mountain climbing will grant you some of the most astounding valley views in the world.

Take onee 013

3. The Matterhorn – Ever notice that funny triangular-shaped mountain on the golden Toblerone box?  The chocolate bar originated in Bern,home of the iconic Matterhorn Mountain.  It is easily viewed from the surrounding ski slopes.

geneve 004

4. Chocolate – Local Swiss chocolate is internationally renowned for being the best in the world.  There are funny names boasting unique tastes and questionable ingredients in every grocery store.  My personal favourite is featured above: Kagi-fret.  These fluffy wafers were so light I could gobble down an entire box without the slightest stomach ache.

574576_10200149176118386_1465536161_n

5. Paragliding – Throughout the summer months thousands of small sails fill the sky.  The mountains are a perfect launching ground for paragliders.  A single trip can cost anywhere from 75 francs to 200 and lasts approximately 45 seconds in warm wind and 30 seconds in winter.

574496_428421223866080_81454060_n

6. Canyoning – This extreme sport involves sliding down waterfalls, jumping off cliffs, and zip-lining across rivers.  It’s best to explore this playground with a trusted company and tour guide that will ensure all safety precautions are taken while maximizing your adrenalin rush.  My full day excursion cost 120 francs and was worth every penny.

From Interlaken to Zurich to Geneve, I love Switzerland.  If you’ve already been, please share your experiences.  If you’re planning on going, please ask questions.
Happy travels!

My Top Twelve Most Exotic Eats

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever choked down?  We all love to giggle and gross each other out over the prospect of eating something unusual.  In most cases—specifically my top five—I was pleasantly surprised by these cultural delicacies.

IMG_0682

12. Hot Chocolate, Italy
– When I sat down at a small cafe in Venice, the last thing I expected to recieve was a cup of melted chocolate.  It was thick, rich, and unbelievably delicious.

11. Duck, China
– The way they serve dishes in Beijing is anything but normal.  Eyes, beak, feet – they cook and serve every part.  I tried not to gag at the dinner table.

10. Kangaroo Jerky, Australia
– To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t tell the difference between this stuff and regular beef jerky.

9. Mince Pie & Irn Bru, Scotland
– When I first tried Irn Bru, I hated the sugary, orange drink.  After 3 months in Scotland, this national beverage paired with a savoury pie became my lunchtime special.

8. Balinese Fried Rice, Indonesia
Sticky rice covered in vegetables and topped with a fried egg has never been so simply delicious.

222730_10150159938028366_521198365_6772113_8182332_n

7. Marmite, New Zealand
– The Kiwi brand of Vegemite is just as disgusting as Australia’s.  Those who indulge in this salty breakfast feast spread a thin layer over toast and butter.

6. Black Pudding, Scotland
– Severed with a Scottish Full Breakfast, black pudding is a small, circular patty of fried pigs blood.  In a word: grotesque.

5. Cow Heart, Algeria
– Fried up and hidden in a hearty soup, this dish was surprisingly tasty.  Despite the apparent arteries, I had seconds.

4. Haggis, Scotland
– I tried Haggis without knowing what it was—and I loved it.  Afterwards, I was informed that I had just enjoyed ground-up organs.  But hey, what do you think is in a hot dog?

3. Poutine, Canada
– Although this dish is served all over the country, nothing beats Quebec’s poutine.  Fries covered in gravy and cheese curds: need I say more?

Wurzberg to Eelsingen 067

2. Gluhwein, Germany
– 1/3 Orange juice, 2/3 Hot wine, topped with cinnamon.  There are countless different flavours throughout the German Christmas markets.  Visitors sip this incredible beverage to fend off the cold while parading the stalls.

1. Tim Tam Slams, New Zealand
– My favourite treat I’ve ever tried.  Take a Tim Tam—a small chocolate wafer—and bite off opposing sides.  Proceed to use the cookie as a straw for your hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.  Once the wafer begins to melt, throw your head back and catch the warm chocolate in your mouth, thus completing the “slam”.  Perfection.

253606_10150643094555534_655575533_19165479_5499005_n

What should I try next?

My Destination’s Biggest, Baddest Bucket List

When I first received an email from the CEO of My Destination, my immediate thought was: scam.  6 months around the world FOR FREE and $50,000 waiting for me when I return home?  Yeah, right.  Throw in a pony and you’ve got a deal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I couldn’t get the competition off of my mind.  I caved a few days later.  Creating an original video could be fun, and travel writing is kind of what I do.  What did I have to lose?

Vote for me

I’ve been through more than a 20 year old should ever have to handle.  In the last couple of months, I fractured my spine, was forced to return home from France, and lost my father.  This competition has been a freeing distraction from my troubles.

Here’s where you come in.  In order to have a shot at winning, I need you to watch the following link and, if you enjoy it, to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Google Plus, or Stumble Upon.  It’s just one click.  One link.  I don’t ask for things like this normally.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH MY VIDEO

                With your help, I won’t just travel the world.  I’ll change it.

Thank you!