My WWOOF Experience Part Two: Bees, Barns, and Other Good Stuff

When I arrived at my WWOOF homestead in North Carolina, the owner and another worker were busy tending to a beehive. This made things a little awkward, because I couldn’t get close enough to talk to them, and there was no one else there. Being thankful for any act that could help the bee population stay the course with the rest of us, I was not going to complain!

I explored around the main house a bit, the inside of which was as interesting as I’d imagined an old North Carolina homestead to be. When I was done, they were still busy with the bees, so I sat and watched them for a while. That was when a few of the other woofers showed up. I was relieved. Backpacking taught me how to go with the flow, but it was still nice to be officially welcomed. I had just driven four hours, and I was hungry and ready to settle in.

Plucked from my Imagination: Life Imitates Art

As I was shown around the property, I began to see how similar everything was to the book. Of course the layout was different, but most of the elements were there. There were gardens and forests all around. There were hens. The other woofers were all nice, nature-sunny-summer-yellowwell-traveled, and intelligent in the same way I had envisioned my characters.

The place had a main house, a smaller house, a trailer, a few different garden areas, some hen houses, some grassy areas, and a big barn. The barn was where I would be sleeping—with a dude roommate.

I know this sounds like a good setup for a romance novel, but nothing of the sort occurred. The sleeping areas were far enough apart to be separated but close enough where we could still see each other and talk if we wanted. Yeah, super awkward. He was nice, so it ended up being okay. Not romance-novel okay. Just normal, polite okay. Life imitates art, but not that much.

WWOOF-USA: Roughing it … Sort of

There was a bathroom at the main house, but it was pretty far away and unavailable at night. At the barn, we only had the woods or the compost toilet, which I won’t describe in detail except to say that it wasn’t the most private setup ever. I didn’t mind going out to the woods, especially in the middle of the night. It was peaceful.

One of the options for bathing was a pond not far from the property. Pond water didn’t exactly make me feel clean, but the pond was nicer than I had envisioned. I was okay with it at first, but then I started waiting until I could shower at the house, which I was originally told I could do. There ended up being issues with that, but I’ll get into it on the next blog.

I’ll also wait to get into the food situation. It wasn’t as I’d hoped it would be, but it wasn’t like we were starved, either.

WWOOF-USA North Carolina: The Stuff We Did

My duties as a WWOOF worker were a little unclear at times, but when I was assigned tasks, they were always enjoyable. The list includes things like:

  • Caring for chickens.applegirl
  • Harvesting beans and produce.
  • Preparing food.
  • Building or fixing things.

I don’t remember every single assignment at this point, just that most of them were okay. I liked the core mission of the place, which seemed to be promoting sustainable living.

WWOOF-USA: What I Learned from My Host

There’s a lot I could say about my WWOOF host, but since I decided to keep this anonymous, I’ll just say that she’s a person with many great achievements under her belt, and I respected that very much. Once she was finished with the bees and could actually talk to me, she taught me all sorts of things about cooking and canning food, working in the garden, planting, and taking care of animals. It was inspiring to see the life that she had made for herself.

Check out My WWOOF Experience Part Three: Why I Left Early, where I share the negative aspects of my experience.

For what led up to my WWOOF experience, check out Part One: California to WWOOF-USA North Carolina.

 

My WWOOF Experience Part One: California to WWOOF-USA North Carolina

Disclaimer: Part one doesn’t actually detail my WWOOF story. It explains everything that happened leading up to it.

Other disclaimer: I’m going to keep my WWOOF host and all participants anonymous. This was a really long time ago, and I might not remember everything right. Plus, people change, and I’m no longer in touch with this WWOOF host or anyone involved, and I have no clue whether they would like to be mentioned online at this point.

Setting it All Up: Why I wanted to WWOOF

I wanted to go “woofing” long before I started writing Edge of Something More. The book became an ongoing daydream, a process that allowed me to explore what a (highly romanticized) WWOOF experience might be like. I was too locked in my circumstances to try it at the time, so I spent a lot of time reading WWOOF experiences online. A number of things made it attractive to me.

  • I was fascinated with the idea of showing up at a place and being accepted as a member of a community.
  • I was obsessed with the idea of “getting off the grid.” Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m focused on using the grid to build as much success as possible, but back then, I just wanted to vanish into thin air.
  • I always wanted to learn more about gardening, composting, and other “green” things. Composting in particular.
  • I felt like since I had daydreamed about this for so long, actually doing it would surely mean something amazing would happen to my life. Something like what happened to Devin.

CA to NC: The Journey and Not the Destination

Halfway through the writing process, I took a break to travel for a while. I went backpacking overseas first, and then I returned to the United States to do WWOOF.

When I packed my car and said goodbye to California, I figured it might be a long time before I came back. I didn’t know the experiences I had on the way would be so life changing. I left for North Carolina about a month before I was planning on arriving at my WWOOF location. I should have known better, really—a lot can happen in a month.

lightningJust a warning: If you want an epic experience, the universe will give you one, possibly sooner than you had planned.

I’ve driven across the county a handful of times now, but this first trip was one I’ll never forget. There were so many things.

  • Blasting classic rock during a huge, middle-of-the-night lightning storm in Arizona.
  • Coming over the hill and seeing the golden lights of Albuquerque just before sunrise.
  • Meeting some rapper guys outside my hotel who were following the same path as me on the 40 from Los Angeles to Kansas City. They had their car all tricked out and painted with their portraits on it, and they gave me a CD, but I lost it. I wish I could remember their names!
  • Having the entire front bumper fall off my car in Kansas City and fixing it with duct tape.
  • Stopping a couple weeks to hike and explore around Columbia, Missouri, where I experienced mysterious forests, good food, and some romance I had been hoping for.

All of these adventures were amazing, but they were distracting me from my upcoming WWOOF experience.

Asheville NC: I Didn’t Count on Falling in Love

After Missouri, I got back on the road for a couple more days and met up with another good friend in Asheville, North Carolina.

Although I’ve long since left Asheville, it remains one of the prettiest places I’ve come across. As soon as I saw it, I fell deeply in love. The cascading mountains, the lush woods, the waterfalls, the colorful little city, the pretty, crunchy people—it was everything I had been hoping to find. All I wanted to do was start looking for a job and apartment.

However, I had already committed to visiting my WWOOF location a few hours away, and I couldn’t back out now. I decided to try it for a few weeks, and then I would return to Asheville to get set up for my new life.

Check out My WWOOF Experience Part Two: Bees, Barns, and Other Good Stuff.

 

Tips for Traveling Light: What I Brought to Bangkok, Thailand

Backpacker romances are common, but on my 2009 trip, which took me through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, my only long-term companion was a small Osprey day pack.

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My trustworthy Osprey Waypoint Day–next to Vogue and J-Law for comparison.

The feeling of freedom that comes with having everything you need packaged into one small container  can’t be overstated. Your travel plans will play a big role in what you’ll be bringing, of course. Meeting a lover for a romantic trip around Europe will require different elements than an Australian climbing trip. Either way, lightening your load as much as possible will help you be comfortable.

Flying from Los Angeles to Thailand: Things I Brought

What you need for travel can be divided into two categories: official and crucial.

The official stuff is pretty obvious. Passport, cash, credit or debit card, any important paper work or visas.

city-people-woman-street

Where will you go with nothing burdening you?

Then there’s the crucial stuff. The stuff you need most. For me, these things included:

Basic Hygiene Products

Dental care, maybe a rinse cup, since you can pack smaller things like earplugs (also a good thing to have) or pill bottles inside of it. A good bar of soap (I prefer Dr. Bronner’s) that you can use for a variety of things, like washing your clothes in the sink.

Leave room to buy new products when you get there! I had a lot of fun experimenting with products in southeast Asia, but if you’re picky about your facial cream, your tampon brand, or the type of condom you like, you will want to bring your favorites from home.

A Few Changes of Clothing

I brought about six pairs of underwear and three pairs of socks, and I rolled them down really tight. You don’t need a lot of socks in Asia; flip flops were best for most occasions. My t-shirts were small and flimsy, so they could be rolled down super small as well. I had two skirts and a pair of shorts, and thank God I didn’t forget a sweater. Southeast Asia is warm, but it can be chilly at times. Middle-of-the-night train rides, for example.

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A Combination Lock

This one is really important! I’m glad I had my lock. There were many times when it protected me or gave me peace of mind. A tool with many uses–you will see!

A Journal and Pen

I had two journals, one that I brought from home, and one that I got in Laos. With my journal, I also brought a few pages from the guidebook I thought might be helpful.

Things I Didn’t Bring that You Might Want

I didn’t bring:

  • Protective stuff (pepper spray, etc)
  • The guidebook, at least in its entirety
  • Makeup
  • Pillows/sleeping bag
  • Extra clothes
  • Phone/camera
  • Computer
  • A rain jacket
  • Medication or supplements
  • Other things I didn’t think of (tell me in the comments, please. I will edit them in!)

What Happened and What I Think Now

If I had it to do again, I would bring a camera, and although I did okay that time, I would never travel without my computer these days.

I’m glad I went without more clothes or makeup. The sea water and sunshine were good to me. Life was simple. During the romantic moments and so many others, I felt beautiful.

Thanks for reading! These blogs are a work in progress, so I will update if I can think of anything to add. If you like this blog or found it helpful, please let me know by commenting or following. I follow back authors on Twitter! 🙂 @ms_andiloveall

Andi

P.S.

I cheated and bought a second bag in Vientiane, Laos, about halfway through my trip. It’s purple with beautiful embroidery, and I still use to this day. I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes it’s good to let baggage go, and sometimes, it’s worth taking on.

 

 

Fifty Shades of Grey [Film] : More Than I Expected

The other night, I finally got around to watching this. I’ve yet to check out the book and want to now, even though some of what I read about it turned me off a bit. I thought the movie was unique and fun.

What I Liked

I was impressed with the level of kinkiness, because it was intense enough to be hot but vanilla enough to appeal to a lot of people.

I thought Christian was okay. He wasn’t really my type, but I still enjoyed it. He was generous. There was a lot of assertiveness with his communication. He was direct from the start that he wasn’t looking for a typical relationship, and he even tries warning her that she might not like it. He has the power to manipulate her into it, and he doesn’t work it as hard as he could, choosing instead to be honest about what he has to give. He’s shut down emotionally because of his abusive past, but he’s also caring. It makes you see the spark of hope inside of him.

Anastasia’s cool quality is how open and brave she was about it all. It’s hard to buy that she’s never liked a guy before this, but who knows what her issues are … It would be cool to see her explored in a deeper way. I liked that she didn’t sign his contract without thinking about it. She seems to have pretty good boundaries and stands up for herself.

What I Disliked

  •  It was kind of weird how she went on the interview for her friend. Is that normal? It seems really awkward to me.
  • Some of the music was creepy. It made me feel like a psycho killer was near, and I’m not sure why they wanted to portray Christian that way. Unless he is a psycho killer, and I just don’t know it because I’m years behind on this story.
  • I hate heights, so romantic plane/helicopter rides are only so-so for me. I like the epic gesture, but I would so not be down for that, especially that terrifying plane. I might be okay with a private jet–but only if I didn’t have to look out the windows!
  • I hated when she yelled at him after he spanked her. I don’t blame her for not wanting it, but she asked him to do it and didn’t safeword. I guess these things happen, but ugh. #traumatic

This wasn’t the best movie ever, but it was sexy and interesting.

This was a good place to leave off because you can see it going either way for them. If they both work on it, they could help each other. It could also get really toxic.

Respect to E.L. James for creating an idea that appeals to a number of core desires. Wanting to healed, admired, pampered—and for some, imprisoned or even punished. The desire to lose control. It’s like a sweet salad of delicious concepts.

Rating: 4 Stars for concept, cinematography, and sexiness. Acting was okay; Dakota Johnson impressed me more than I was expecting.