WWOOFing and the Hardships of Travel

Wow, what a dramatic title, am I right?

This trip definitely did not start out the way I expected, but when does travel ever really go as planned? The trip from the US went so wrong it was funny, but I think that so many “wrongs” in row mixed in with a lot of homesickness really did get to me. Let me explain.

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At this point we were in Auckland ready to board our bus to Whanganui. As three of our bags were still en route to our WWOOF location, we had a slightly easier time lugging our bags the the bus station and then into the storage compartment of the bus. I think the Universe just wanted us to start building our bag-carrying strength now so that we’d survive later.

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The bus ride from Auckland to Whanganui took about 8 hours, with a few stops in between. It was quite nice seeing the sprawling green countryside, which was filled with farms. People aren’t lying when they say that the country has more sheep than people.

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Finally, we arrived in Whanganui, where Phil picked us up. Let me explain WWOOFing.

WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms)

WWOOFing entails finding a host, who usually works on a farm or has a garden to take care of, who provides lodging and food in exchange for about 5 hours a day of work. This work can range from weeding to carpentry to picking, depending on the host. The goal is to learn about new cultures and ways of life while traveling. You can find more information on their website, or New Zealand’s WWOOF program website, http://www.wwoof.co.nz/.

The plan was to WWOOF for the three weeks before starting school. I was wary, as I am not known to be adept at farming or “roughing it,” but I wanted to travel with my friends and I was open to new experiences. Our host is quite an interesting man. As he showed us around his garden, I was quite overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge required to keep up a garden. He told us about how he had wanted to begin living off the land, and only brought his goals to reality about two years ago. Long term, he plans on building more community gardens and teaching people the logistics and benefits of growing food and herbs, which was very inspiring to hear.

He had told us in advance that he would be leaving us alone on the farm for a few weeks so that he could go to the south island and learn more about raising bees more efficiently. However we were unaware that he also had a day job as a carpenter, so he wasn’t able to teach us much about what we would be doing while he was gone. We realized that because of that conflict it would be difficult for us to learn much during our stay.

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He is a really down to earth and cool guy, and taught us a lot about vegetarian cooking and how to mix flavors from the garden. While I was terrified of getting stung, Leyla and Kristin suited up and learned about bee keeping.

He also happily played us some guitar, as he enjoys jamming with his friends and guests, and would improvise songs from whatever was going through his head. While he had a lot of great advice about living for the land, he didn’t have much advice about the bed bugs we found in Kristin and Leyla’s room/shed, so we ended up cramming in my room/shed for a few nights, which did have some cool wall art from its previous residents.

I think the reality of our situation hit me after a few nights. I felt uncomfortable, and didn’t know what to do about it. My anxiety and homesickness hit me all at once. Talking about it now, I feel embarrassed. I probably could have pushed through, but I felt an intense desire to be in my dorm, in a place that felt safe and comfortable. Luckily, I am traveling with the most easy-going duo, and we decided to pack up and travel onward to Wellington. I’m very grateful to have supportive people with me, even though a lot of that thankfulness is currently masked by stress.

One of the perks of our location was its proximity to a beautiful black-sand beach. It was much too cold to swim, but the washed up tree branches and soothing waves were inviting and peaceful.

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You know what’s great? Food. Here’s a chicken burger.

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Anyways, from my experience so far, travel sucks, and it really is getting harder and harder to stay positive, even though I know that I will get there eventually. At this point we’ve been moving from hotel to hotel, as airbnb has been making it very difficult to book a place, but soon I’ll be in a place where I can unpack ALL of my stuff, and leave it unpacked. My stress and emotions are making it hard to enjoy Wellington, which is very interesting and lively and pretty. Once we are settled, though, I know I’ll be able to experience it fully. Then, hopefully, I’ll once again become the positive, energetic girl I was when this trip began.

For now, I think I’ll just eat some fries (chips) and watch YouTube.

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