a book review
WWOOFing North & South is Maragaret Halliday’s third book – and the second to be inspired by her world travels. The book is a detailed travelogue which jumps from New Zealand to her native Scotland, with all the experiences hung together by the common theme of WWOOFing. It offers a detailed account of not only Margaret’s geographic journey, but her emotional and personal journey too.
Margaret is an old-school globetrotter in her 50s, with walking stick and backpack – there’s no hint of a mobile phone or an email throughout – and she trusts in the good will of her hosts to give her the decent accommodation, healthy food, and sense of purpose that comes with all good WWOOFing exchanges.
And there are a lot of WWOOF exchanges detailed in this book. With more than half of the forty-seven chapters telling about a new place and a different host, they do become rather repetitive and the reader could get a bit boggled with characters and details that don’t mean as much to us as they do to the author. But then WWOOFing North & South doesn’t set out to be an adventure, or even really a narrative – it is a travelogue, offering glimpses of the feelings of a seasoned traveller amidst the more mundane details of the day-to-day experience of a WWOOFer.
Margaret does get homesick, she does suffer from some physical ills, but more often than not she finds starry skies, beautiful swimming spots, good friends, and the constant lure of the land (and not to mention toilet facilities of varying quality).
Margaret is a great proponent of WWOOFing who approaches it as much as a lifestyle choice as a cheap way of seeing the world. She’s committed to doing the work for her hosts that she’s promised to do, and she’s committed to pushing herself over the small hurdles that every exchange offers. As she says; her ‘preconceptions and judgements are constantly challenged‘ through WWOOFing.
Despite the book’s rather shocking and sad beginning, Margaret seems to rise above and make the most of the opportunities – even the occasional dirty room, empty fridge, romantic disappointment and personal disagreement don’t get her down for long because more often than not she receives a warm welcome in the home of her next WWOOF host. She even finds a home of her own through WWOOFing – and it’s not the one she expected. After intending to settle in New Zealand, then in an intentional community in Scotland, she ends up having just taken the long way home back to her native Edinburgh, more at peace with herself at the end of the journey than when she started it.
Thanks to Holly Cross for reading and reviewing this book for us.