WWOOFing as a post-school remedy

Feb 1, 2024

by Amelie Flora Harper-Stanford

My name is Amelie, I am nineteen. I live in Forest Row, Sussex, where I enjoy going on walks and navigating the day with my local community. I am a big creative and I value the region of the planet that I have grown up in. I love parties, adventures and philosophy. I am grateful to be alive in these times. 

This article is about my journey from finishing school and discovering WWOOF. I see WWOOFing as an opportunity to return to organic-based world systems, and to unite individuals, both travellers and farmers, in times of need. I will share about the exchanges, collaborations and artwork that I made on my adventure, as well as what I see WWOOF having the potential to be for young independent travellers like myself.

WWOOFing was my alternative choice to university, and I see it as a remedy for the schooled mind. I realised that the school system was not the experience of life which I would want for myself.  WWOOFing found me by word of mouth. The more I interacted with WWOOF, the more real it became to me; right up to the point where I was walking within the vibrancy of the farms I had chosen from photographs on the website. As I spoke to the hosts, I realised that they felt familiar, as we shared the same faith in life.  

I chose WWOOFing because I also wanted to pursue my creative outlets. It can seem hard to let go of the mindset of work as negative, and life after school as being trapped in the system. We are fed the belief that we are not free humans, but instead chained to a financial burden, that there is no real time to pursue the creative impulses and pleasures which are inclined to us. Through the gateway of WWOOFing I taught myself the truth of life.

Before I visited Portugal, I decided to make coins out of clay and paint them individually. These simple creations became tokens of appreciation to the places and people I met. I even had my handmade coin accepted by my taxi driver. As he accepted, I felt something of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance remembered between us. I think this celebrates the common solidarity in human crafts, above the hysteria of cash money. I was pleased to see that it is possible to navigate the working world in this way.  

Example of clay coins used for exchange and gift

I am going to show you a perspective of mine into the meaning of the word ‘currency’. The word comes from the Latin word “currere”, which means to run, or to flow. I think this suggests that currency is something non-physical, giving our energy, as we are doing constantly. In volunteering, we are giving our energy freely. However, volunteering is a fulfilling experience because of this. I was fed daily by the energies of other people, homemade food, arts, nature and freedom. The work could be tough, but it was real and all engaging. When making free decisions and giving to others, true currency flows.  

Learning new skills from people I met – like gardening, juggling and guitar – felt like a meaningful  exchange. I found like- minded people and even made a joint podcast. I was given the present of a  sketchbook, and in return I drew a picture of the giver’s house for him. I sang to an old lady as she  walked up a hill; the lady gave me a box of eggs from her chickens. These are some examples of the free currency which we use every day. I enjoyed musical jams and opportunities to express  myself and explore my musical aspirations. I learnt how to make bread. Being immersed in places  which are bursting with creative solutions to the world’s crises is fulfilling and energising.  Volunteering in an organic world works me into my organic form.  

My idea of travelling as an artist is to constantly interact with my travels in an artistic way. This is  what led me to painting a mural for a place I was WWOOFing at. I also noticed that other people  had left pieces of art, with their names on, in the room I was staying in. I like the idea of decorating the world as I travel through it, and recognising the trails of others.

For young people: WWOOFing gives us the freedom of choice – to go anywhere on the planet (with willingness to volunteer) and be supported in what we are doing – I realise that I have homes  everywhere, with people who exchange inspirations and kind words. I felt really safe at the places  I was staying at. With WWOOFing, you are never far from home.

At my second WWOOFing destination, I helped my host, who was Dutch, to organise a gathering in his village. The purpose was to join alike minds, in support of his eco village project. Together we made posters and shared them out at a local market. At the market, I expressed my delight at the sight of each of the stalls, and was blessed with some traditional Portuguese bread for free. We prepared for the gathering and made soup. The people who attended were guided on a walk, to show the free energy water pump and home built rocket mass heater. The attendees gave  feedback and most likely have helped to spread the message about my friend’s eco-village. We also translated the project fliers into English, so that I could take some to distribute further on my travels.  

Self-sufficient projects over the planet are fabulous. WWOOFing connects and unifies these humbly glorious, rustic utopias together in a supportive grid. The branches of the WWOOF tree grow strong, with roots which are written in our biology; leaves and flowers of expanding practical imaginations.  

I want to speak some more now for individual WWOOFers. We are on a constant journey together. We are always weaving our individual stories into the planetary tapestry. If WWOOF is the Big Tree, connecting hosts worldwide, then WWOOFers bring unique talismans on the branches. The creative ideas, interests, crafts, stories and dreams of each of us are important, because we are all pieces making up our world. Collecting contacts whilst WWOOFing feels like building a book  of familiars, wherein we can help each other if in need. (As we feed into the WWOOF tree, as  WWOOFers, we reap for our personal trees). WWOOFing connects us in common faith. What we do, what we choose, what we offer whilst WWOOFing and travelling, is our currency. (I imagine a section on the WWOOF website for WWOOFers to promote their social media, for the sharing of knowledge and entrepreneurship)  

I hope to see and be involved in further focus and unification of WWOOF destinations. WWOOF is a place to share information, skills, and perhaps even resources, if other global systems no longer suffice our needs. People who are offering skills have a place with WWOOFing to share them and be recognised. The more people who choose to travel and volunteer, the more people will find out about their true individual positive impact: on their personal lives, the lives of those around them and on the life of the planet.  

In the hills of São Marcos da Serra with serendipitously met friends

Finally, I want to express my insight into the value and utility of WWOOFing for the current world  situation. There is a new focus, of celebration and peaceful living, on this planet. What we have inherited as human beings – in our abilities, in our interpretations, inclinations, our nature – is a deep and magnificent Peace, which is indestructible and untouchable by foreign mechanical hands. It is in physical work, tradition, habit, and art. WWOOF is something rare which frames and celebrates this reality. As more kapla sticks of chaos are added to unnecessary mainstream systems of excess and misguidance, the power of this realisation of a simple, peaceful reality intensifies. As we work more in line with nature, everyday becomes a festival – the joyful world around us is remembered, because we live simply and with nature. In WWOOFing, in turning our attention back to what is simple and obvious to our nature, we are bypassing the world’s riot, and quietly slipping back into the secret theatre of eternal human victory. What we have always had in richness is reestablished on the mantle of how the world is defined.  
Overall, WWOOFing feels like stepping through the frames of paintings at an art gallery. I learnt about taking care of myself whilst enjoying other people and my surroundings. I got to share my  artwork, to experiment, to give the pre-meal prayer. Solo WWOOFing gave me the space I needed to get to know myself in physicality, my undiscovered impulses, to step further into my dreams of  what is possible. It is wonderful to have come into contact with WWOOFing and to have given myself this adventure, and I am sure I will continue to WWOOF in this new year.

Amelie contacted us and offered to write an article about WWOOFing, feeling inspired, having just experienced it for herself and wanting other young travellers to discover the potential of WWOOF. Thank you so Amelie for writing such a thought provoking and insightful article. Here is a link to Amelie’s website where you can connect and collaborate.

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