Think Global, act Local;
How to travel the World on budget and Expand your Knowledge of Sustainable practices
Within the realm of sustainability, trustworthy education is perhaps the linchpin holding all things together. Apart from education, sustainability can be a vague concept; but education absent from experience often leads to an overall attitude of defeat or confusion. There are many avenues for educational experience with regards to sustainability, but if you have a mind for adventure, WWOOF may be the perfect program for you ( Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms ) WWOOF is both an exchange and a network. It is a network of host families and volunteers from all over the globe, and an exchange of basic labor for food and accommodation. Through online profiles one can choose their country of travel, find host families, and apply to work on their farm from 1 week to 3 months ( or longer) depending on preference. In reality, WWOOF is an amazing opportunity to live with incredibly generous families, learn about a variety of sustainable projects, and work alongside fellow travelers often from different countries. If you have a willing attitude to work, a respect for culture and community, and a curious mind to learn; then WWOOF is a unique opportunity for you to travel the world while gaining perspective on a wide-range of environmental issues. This is exactly the path I chose two years ago.
Traveling is my addiction. When I started learning about international development and the rise in awareness regarding global warming, I decided I needed to become more environmentally savvy. I didn't consider myself completely environmentally naive, but I had never planted my own garden or even recycled ( sigh. shameful I know.) So, like anyone with a curious mind for the world, I hopped on a plane to New Zealand with a plan to work on organic farms via the WWOOF network. Needless to say, at first I was not extremely helpful within the gardening department. One evening, my first WWOOF “mom” asked me to go out to the garden and collect basil to make pesto. After several minutes of me wandering around the green plot of land, eyes squinted and brow furrowed, I shamefully sulked back into the kitchen to admit I didn't know what basil looked like; at least not separated from store packaging with the large “Herb” section label. Seriously.
All of this to illustrate, even if you have zero experience with something, most families are willing to accommodate as long as you're willing to try. One may assume the WWOOF network is solely intended for the college aged nomad, but that couldn't be further off target. WWOOFing is for everyone! From retirees, couples, families, or individuals, WWOOF offers unique experiences for all humankind.
The growing pressure to re-think current living patterns in favor of more sustainable practices can often make one feel like a fish swimming against the current. No matter how popular the word “recycling” or “natural” may become, there is still a common stigma that sustainability is meant for the exclusive few. In truth, the cohesive awareness of sustainable practices is spreading throughout the globe. Sustainability often expresses itself through unexpected and unique forms, especially considering many places throughout the world have not experienced modernization and industrialization as the Western world has. With just a quick look at the slums of Kolkata India, or the bustling markets of Cambodia, one can understand these places; these people, may have a different perspective on sustainability than the common viewpoint. It is for this reason education is so important to the development of a sustainable lifestyle. WWOOFing expands on this concept, and provides depth as you're introduced to the beauty of creativity expressing itself through various ways of living.
So, if this concept is interesting to you, check out this article posted on CNN. It gives some visuals as well as personal testimony of what it means to be a WWOOFer. It also gives some valuable, very practical advice as to how to plan effectively for a WWOOFing journey. Also take a peek at this inspirational story of taking knowledge learned abroad back home and applying it to “the local”.
Now, pack your bags and prepare for the learning experience of a lifetime. The possibilities are literally endless and the knowledge you gain from working with different culturally minded individuals will guide your behavior come stateside, or wherever home may be. If the plight of the earth seems burdensome, take heart, and learn from thousands of host families from around the world who are applying their knowledge and cultivating inspiration meant to be shared.