My WWOOF Experience Part Three: Why I Left Early

Before reading this, you might want to check out the first two parts:

Now, the juicy stuff.

Confusion: What Exactly is My Job Again?

The first major issue on the homestead was communication. There was no clear work time and free time, which everyone found stressful. It wasn’t like we were given a list of assignments each morning and could just work on them on our own—that would have been fine.

There were times when we had a clear assignment. But in between, when I had assumed I was free to do as I wish, I would get the vibe like the owner thought I was being lazy. There was some passive-aggressive weirdness I didn’t understand, and at bird-village-animal-countrysidetimes, I almost felt like an imposition. No good.

Even More Confusion: What Exactly Are the Rules, Again?

There were other confusing issues as well. At one point, when my host was in a good mood, she welcomed me to use the shower at the main house. Seems reasonable, right? I would have understood if she didn’t want us doing that, but I’m a clean person, and if someone tells me I can take a hot shower, I’m going to. The only other option was bathing in the pond.

Everything went fine for a couple of days, but then my host suddenly seemed annoyed that I was showering at the house. She said I was doing it “too often,” but she wouldn’t tell me how often was acceptable. I am happy to follow any rules, but when the rules aren’t made clear, it’s pretty much impossible to stick to them. Especially when you get told different things at different times.

There were similar issues with the food situation. I’ll explain that part using an excerpt from a private journal post from that time. If you ignore all the horrific grammar and rambling speech, I think it sums it up nicely:

“at first it was like.. so confusing about wtf we could and couldn’t eat.. and I’d be hungry a lot and not know wtf to do and there were no clear answers.. I think I wrote about it before.. but for example I took some eggs and she was like “You ate THREE eggs?” and clearly it was like I took too much. And then I took an apple and it was like this big huge deal about how they couldnt afford for us to be eating apples.. I don’t know.”

It wasn’t like we were starved or anything. There was usually food, but it was never clear what we could have. Once in a while, they made food special for us, it was never enough to sustain me. I’m 110 pounds and have the world’s fastest metabolism. I need to eat a LOT more than some people, otherwise I get sickly, depressed, and start having blood sugar issues. I appreciated the food I was given, including a whole organic chicken that my host bought just for me. But overall, the way the situation was set up just wasn’t working for me, and when I coupled that with my desire to be back in Asheville, I decided I’d had enough.

I confessed my feelings of discomfort to my fellow woofers, and they were kind and understanding. It turned out that everyone felt like I did about the unclear boundaries and confusion over food. They told me that many other woofers had come and gone quickly for similar reasons. Two girls had apparently even made up a story about how they needed to go to town to get tampons just so they could make an exit without it being awkward.

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Me looking happy in front of a waterfall in the Asheville area.

Longing for Asheville, NC: Heading Off to Start a New Life

I’m socially awkward. So when it came to leaving my WWOOF homestead, I had two choices: make a run for it or say goodbye. There was a road out by the barn that provided another way off the property, so I could have packed my car and gone without notifying anyone. Instead, I decided to do the right thing and let my host know that I didn’t feel like the situation was right for me. I’m glad I did, because she gave me a hug and was very understanding. It’s always nice to end things on a positive note.

Overall, I am very appreciative of the generosity of my WWOOF host. It wasn’t what I had daydreamed it could be, but it was a special experience I’ll never forget.

 

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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.

 

Hit the Road and WWOOF: Five Things to Consider Before Woofing

If you’ve been thinking about joining WWOOF USA or woofing around the world, you’re probably the type that likes to leap at new opportunities. The uncertainty is part of the adventure, but you’ll have a better and more comfortable experience if you choose a WWOOF location with goals you believe in.

Halfway through writing Edge of Something More, I decided to do as my MC did and try WWOOF for myself. I didn’t find romance on the WWOOF farm, but had a number of cool experiences, including :

  • Peeing in the woods in the middle of the night. Yes, I enjoyed this, especially during the full moon.
  • Helping to build a greenhouse.
  • One of the guys liked to do photography, and we all got to be in a photo shoot.
  • Gardening. A lot of gardening.
  • Learning about chickens.
  • Spinning my practice poi in the grassy area outside the barn at night.
  • Going with my host to a theatrical puppet shDSCN2957ow in town.
  • Bathing with the entire group at a local pond. I kept my swimsuit on while everyone else went naked, but it was still freeing.

Choosing a WWOOF-USA Host: Five Important Questions Before You Go

  1. What’s Expected?

Unless you’re up for anything, get a clear idea of what your WWOOF host expects. The everyday stuff, like what time you’ll get up, when your meals will be, when you’ll have free time, where you’ll sleep/bathe, and what the work will entail.

I went into my WWOOF experience thinking it would be like a job with set hours. The expectations ended up being less clear, which wasn’t desirable for me.

  1. What’s Being Offered?

Accommodations can be rustic, so don’t make the mistake of assuming your WWOOF host will have the same standards as you. The same goes for food. My host provided, but I have a strong appetite and out-of-control metabolism, so I ended up hungry more than I would have liked.

  1. Do You and Your Host Have Compatible Lifestyles?

WWOOF locations are as different as people are different, and a variety of personalities end up woofing or hosting a WWOOF project. If, like me, you fear social awkwardness, check that your lifestyles mesh.DSCN3409

If you curse, it would suck to choose a WWOOF host that cringes at profanity. A recovering alcoholic might want to pick a quiet homestead where everyone practices meditation versus a large farm where everyone parties at night.

     4. Can You Commit?

Some WWOOF hosts ask for a commitment from their woofers. It’s nice to honor this, but don’t stay anywhere you’re unhappy. Sometimes, things change. I left my WWOOF location after about a week. The situation was awkward and I felt I had already gained everything I was going to.

Always do a phone or Skype interview with your host to make sure you’re okay with the vibe. Be your authentic self—you want to WWOOF somewhere you will be taken care of and appreciated!

     5. Are You Passionate?

An important part of having a p0111farmer-657343_640ositive WWOOF experience is passion for the cause. WWOOF work is tiring but satisfying if you love it. With all of the  locations out there, it makes sense to choose one with a mission that excites you.

Thanks for reading guys! I hope you all have awesome times with your WWOOF experiences.