Teresa’s tale

May 27, 2017

Teresa Donohue has been WWOOFing for three years and we first became aware of her when she gave great advice to new WWOOFers on our forum. Here are some excerpts from her  reflections on those three years. You can read her full story here.

My decision to try WWOOFing came about (like for many people, as I later found out) at a time of confusion; a turning-point; perhaps because it’s a great way to instigate change. To literally shift yourself into new surroundings, seek new company and swap normality for something totally different, can really do the trick in gaining a fresh perspective. Having run away from an internship, I was feeling increasingly disillusioned by my current career path, was weighed-down with self-doubt and badly in need of direction… So, I chose north, and the wilds of the Scottish highlands.

such pride for my salad seedlings

In May 2014, I boarded the Caledonian sleeper train in London Euston, for what would be my first real stay in Scotland and my first ever WWOOFing experience… Now, nearly three years and over twenty hosts later, I’ve WWOOFed my way from Scotland to Wales, England, and most recently over to Ireland, and I’m not entirely sure it’s over yet! After my first experience I knew I’d found something worth holding on to and exploring. And the more I explored, the more I was curious… so I kept going…

…Many of the hosts I chose were small, market-garden enterprises such as community groups and box-delivery schemes. I went wherever I was most drawn towards – the sea and rural, isolated areas, including several islands (Scotland is good for this) – where I hoped I could get the most ‘raw’ experiences of nature. I remember how awkward and alien it all felt in the beginning; using hand tools, planting out delicate seedlings, spending long periods of time with my eyes to the ground and my hands in the soil. But I was lucky that my first hosts gave me a great balance between instruction and independence, satiating my hunger for both learning about the garden and exploring the countryside…

… It was such a refreshing and fun way to learn, at the same time as being useful. And as time went on, I really began to feel my physical effort transform into tangible, edible rewards – a kind of job-satisfaction I’d never experienced before!..


extra little things make WWOOFing a very special experience

… As I continued my travels, I found that staying long-term in a place could be particularly enriching; to see the seasons progress, and get a deeper understanding of the cyclical nature of farm work through the year. WWOOFing then also becomes so much more than just about work, through the close bonds that form with people over time. One family I stayed with welcomed me into their home for over three months, and included me in everything from birthday outings, to dancing around in the living room…

…And it’s perhaps these extra little things that, although hard-to-define, are what makes WWOOFing really special. Many hosts too, appreciate and even seek out those unique qualities – like the motivation, ideas, company, and novelty that volunteers bring to their lives. ‘We can’t go out and see the world, so we invite the world here, with us’, one host told me…

…The flexible nature of WWOOFing allows everyone to make of it what they want, and perhaps helps cultivate a little more trust in a world. For me, it’s been a gateway into other ways of thinking and being, and has helped me connect and find my place in the world through self-discovery. In learning to look after plants and animals, I’ve cared for my own personal development…

…WWOOFing and wandering all over the country for the last three years has helped untangle a lot of the root agitation that set me off in the first place, about who I was, where I was going, and to what purpose. And (when I’m asked what I hope to achieve) my answer is that honestly, I think I’m already doing everything I want to be doing – right now. The world is so full of colour, and variety, and my only aspiration is to carry on exploring, for as long as it makes me happy.

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