Our great adventure on the other side of the planet has almost come to an end. Four months ago, we left our beloved Belgium for a working holiday in the stunning New Zealand. On our social media you have all been able to follow our adventures in great detail and have witnessed all the amazing stuff we got to experience. However what our social media didn’t really show was that about half of the time we were actually doing WWOOF-jobs as well. But what is WWOOFing? Do we recommend it? And can you do it too?
What is WWOOFing?
Back in September, when we were doing our very first WWOOF-job in the Northland Region of New Zealand, we had already written a short post about this. Four months later however, we are a lot more experienced when it comes to WWOOFing!
First of all: WWOOF is an abbreviation for ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’. Does that mean that WWOOFwork is always farmwork? Not necessarily. There are all kinds of different hosts with different kinds of jobs, some are commercial farms, some are just individuals with a large garden where they need an extra hand to maintain it and then you have everything in between that. However what they all have in common is that they strive for an organic lifestyle and are open for a cultural exchange.
WWOOFing works with volunteering, so you will not get paid for your work! However, you only have to work for 4-6 hours each day and get free food and accommodation and an amazing cultural exchange in return. We have always been treated very well by our hosts who gave us plenty of food and drinks (New Zealanders love their wine!), great advice on what to do in the region, good talks and even brought us along on some cool trips.
How does it work? It’s very easy! First you have to buy a membership for a year to get access to the website where volunteers and hosts can get into touch. We, as a couple, applied for one membership which only costed us 40NZD (about €23). If you even only do one day of WWOOFwork you basically earn that money back by not having to pay for food and accommodation that day! On that website you create a profile and search for interesting hosts. The site works with reviews, so you can see how previous volunteers enjoyed their time at a certain place. Then you just contact the hosts you like and hope they need some volunteers for the time you would like to work there.
Pro tip: your profile and the kind of messages you send to your potential future hosts say a lot about you. Would you invite someone in your home for one or two weeks who doesn’t have any pictures, almost no information on his/her profile and just sends a short message like: “Hey, I’m in your region during that time period, can I come work for you please? Thanks!” You would be amazed at how many people do this. So if you want to have the best odds of actually getting the WWOOF-job you are applying for, make sure your profile is on point and you send a proper message. What are your skills? Why are you interested in working for them? Are you responsible and mature? These are the things your potential host wants to know about you.
Our WWOOF experiences
We made some unforgettable memories at our WWOOF-jobs, got to meet some very interesting people and are very happy we did every single one of these jobs!
As you have read earlier, our first WWOOF-job was in the Northland Region. We stayed in the remote town of Taipa at the house of a primary school teacher who also owned some lovely alpaca’s. Our jobs were very easy: cut gorse and clean the house from time to time. She also brought us along on some school trips to help out with the children. These school trips alone were absolutely amazing. It was an almost entirely Maori-school, so we really got to experience the local culture firsthand. In our free time she also brought us along on some cool trips in the region such as Saint Paul’s Rock or going winetasting. She also taught us a lot about the politics of New Zealand as the country had its national elections while we were staying with her.
Our second WWOOF-experience was something entirely different! This was in Blenheim in the South Island where we helped in a Bed&Breakfast with an awardwinning garden. This was perhaps the place where we had to work the most and the hardest, but we also got the most luxurious accommodation and some of the best food in return! Our work always had something to do with either the garden or the kitchen. We worked in the garden for at least four hours everyday doing all sorts of tasks ranging from some weeding to digging out plants and trimming the hedges. We also always had to help out with cleaning the dishes and preparing dinner. Our hosts brought us along to some cool spots as well like a very cool indie concert called Dharma Bums or the local farmers market. We had some great talks with them as well about Belgium or about some of the crazy stuff they had experienced throughout the years! (They helped a French guy cross the Pacific from New Zealand to Chile and had to start a rescue operation to save him as he was getting ill in the middle of the ocean!) They even asked us to do some housesitting over the Christmas holidays to watch over the garden during the hot summer days as they were visiting their daughter in Australia, something we gladly agreed to.
Even though we thoroughly enjoyed every single one of our WWOOF-experiences, our third one was definitely our favorite! We helped out in a lodge in the remote Marlborough Sounds on the gorgeous Queen Charlotte Track. It felt like being in the middle of nowhere and we loved it! We helped out with the day to day running of the lodge, such as cleaning the rooms, welcoming the guests, helping in the kitchen, et cetera. Whenever they had some work to do, they included us like when we needed to get eggs from a farm which was an hourlong hike away or when they had to move a freezer from the jetty all the way up the hill towards their house. Each day was different! We also had such a great connection with the hosts, we really felt like part of the team and part of the family. They taught us how to fish, how to sail a boat and we had some great conversations about life. We were actually quite sad when this WWOOF-job came to an end as we had such a great time here.
Our final WWOOF-experience was in Christchurch at an actual farm. As you can see, not all WWOOF-jobs are farmrelated as our first farm experience was only in December at our last job. We mainly had to cut up firewood or do some weeding, but there were some other odd jobs as well such as digging a ditch or painting the garden furniture. We had our very own little apartment here, which was great! After spending so much time in hostels it was a nice change to have our very own bathroom and kitchen for once. We learned a lot from them about the Christchurch earthquake of 2011 and how the city and the people have tried to recover from it ever since.
Do we recommend it?
If you hadn’t noticed it after reading this post: yes, we very much recommend it! You get some unique experiences you wouldn’t get any other way, a great connection with the local inhabitants of the country and as a lot of WWOOFers say: it’s a great way to give something back to the country you are travelling in.