many people, I have dreams of traveling the world one day with my
family. Some families' travel dreams include long sabbaticals, while others plan
to enroll in volunteer programs with their kids to help immerse fully in the
Recently, I discovered WWOOF, which stands for "Worldwide Opportunities on
WWOOF is a work-stay exchange program, where a host farm
provides housing, food and educational opportunities for volunteer farm hands who, in return, provide about four to six hours of daily farm help.
"It's a great way to travel the
world cheaply," says Laura Newman, a recent college graduate who participated
in the WWOOF-ing program in Australia. "Buy a plane ticket to New Zealand or
Brazil or Washington State, and you're taken care of. No hotels, no major
groceries, restaurant bills and a small bag on your back. It's very easy, you
just need the time. You can WWOOF anywhere from one week to months. Some
farms are more particular than others. Some require a trial week to make sure
it's a good mutual fit before they let you stay for longer."
at time difficult, laborious work, experiencing Australian life on a farm was a
valuable experience, she says.
I was constantly surprised and impressed by how open our host families were to us being there.
"It proved to me what everyone always said—you
learn best when you do something with your own two hands, when you make
mistakes and when you have to challenge your mind and body at the same time," she says.
She worked on three farms during her
time in Australia, one that produced dragonfruit, another that produced
avocados and beets, and a third that grew macadamia nuts.
"We cooked and ate all of our meals
in the family home," she says. "They took us to their local farmers' markets,
to their friends' houses and to comedy shows in town. They treated us like we
were part of their family. … I was constantly surprised and impressed by how
open our host families were to us being there. We were doing them a great
service, but they all went above and beyond. I always thought growing food on
small farms to a large scale was too hard, but I was amazed to see how much
food continuously kept popping up. This kind of learning, learning that happens
over the dinner table or during hour three of weeding the endless rows of
beets, or by just observing and then doing it on my own, in my opinion, that's
the richest kind of learning."
program is open to people and families of all ages.