WWOOF WWOOF


As you may be able to tell from the title, I'm now well on my way to hippydom, having completely now rejected the idea of work in Victoria and now fully immersed in the WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) project. It has a $45 annual fee, something that I've already paid, which goes to demonstrate my level of commitment. I've emailed, probably hundreds of farms so far this afternoon. And probably 2 hours since I started that process, I already have 3 offers (and 2 rejections) on the table.

Here's my thinking:

The job situation in Victoria had got to the point that I was applying for jobs, I quite simply would hate to work. Going back 8 years and washing dishes. Data entry. Working in the dollar store. Working a job advertised as "something you could do in the school holidays" in the cinema. I would have detested getting out of bed in the morning. And you have to remember the reasons that I came travelling. I came so that I wouldn't have to get involved in that lifestyle of monotony. That lifestyle of longing for days off. That lifestyle of questioning my very existence. And had I got any of the jobs that I'd resorted to applying to, then that's what I would have become.

So influenced by a few fluke circumstances. Like the guy I had a chance encounter with in the stairwell last week. And the fact that I have an extreme sports camera I need a use for, I needed an alternative, sustainable, lifestyle for the medium-term. I needed something where I could have experience that I couldn't get back home. I needed something with variation. Which is why I decided to WWOOF.

"WWOOF WWOOF."

Basically, in exchange for board and food, you go and work on a farm somewhere, 4 or 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for placements ranging anywhere from a week to a year. The rest of the time, is yours. And here's my vision. Here's how I see things.

I gave in a recent blog, the reasons that I don't want to live in a city. So my plan, is to go to a farm for a week or two. Work there, meet new people, gain new experiences. The farms I've emailed this afternoon range from typical organic family run farms, to Buddhist retreats of somekind. Yoga farms or some crap like that. Basically, any hippy ideology you can think of, there's farms for it. And I've only applied for the Gulf Islands so far.

So I will work on a farm for a week or 2. The one phone call I've received so far this afternoon (as opposed to email), was from a guy on Galiano Island. Well I'd work for him for a couple of weeks. Say, 14 days. I'll have 4 of these days off. And the other 10, I'll have ½ days off. So in my spare time, I can go hiking. I can go snorkelling. Many of these farms boast bikes and canoes that I'll be able to use. Just have a fun time. Then, after 2 weeks, I'll move on. Go to a different farm. Inititially this may be on another Gulf Island. But my longer-term vision, unless I get too settled anywhere, is to WWOOF all the way up Vancouver Island, on as little money as possible. Hitching all the land-parts of the journey. Perhaps having to pay for ferry journeys if I can't figure out another way, once I get to the top of Vancouver Island, but then continuing on, up through BC, and up into the Yukon. Maybe even on into Alaska. As this isn't classed as work, I won't need a visa of anykind to get into the US.

So for the next 6 months maybe, I'll be living with a different family for a week or two, experiencing their weird little lifestyle, exploring the local area, and then moving on. Perhaps this will lead onto paid work. Perhaps not. At the very least, it'll lead onto farm experience, which can only go to aid me in my future travelling. But what I do know, is that it'll be an experience. Which I may not have been able to say about washing dishes in some city pub.

And this is no pipe-dream. This is no 'way off into the future' idea. I've already sent off a butt-load of application emails this afternoon. And like I said, I've already received 3 positive responses. I have 5 nights in this hostel left. And I plan on starting this little idea, after those 5 nights.

Yesterday I even went to a dive shop to scope out how much it would be to get equipped with snorkelling equipment. An idea put into my head by having this extreme sports camera that I could no longer use for skiing. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like a great idea, hence why I've been applying only to the Gulf Islands. Desolate beaches on remote islands. Sounds perfect.

Well this dive shop quoted me around $500 to get myself kitted out. I was thinking about the $300 range, so a little pricey. But I saw this as when I first arrived in Pano, and it looked like I was going to have to pay $1,000 for ski equipment and I ended up getting getting out for more like $200. Or when the first extreme sports camera I looked at was over $400, but I found a better one for $150.

Well that was yesterday. So this morning I hunted down this sports warehouse in a shady area of town. Speaking to people and finding my way, it was down this side-street, barely even noticealbe from standing right outside. But inside, it was this huge warehouse of new and second-hand equipment. And I picked up a full-body wetsuit, long-arms and long-legs, for $39. That compared to over $300 for the cheapest wetsuit yesterday. Well I still haven't found a snorkel and mask priced to my liking. The best so far is snorkel, mask and flippers for $75. But even that would total out at $114. Not a bad discount, so I'm having a fucking great day!

The stress and dejection of the job hunt is long gone. And in it's place, I'm relaxed and happy. I'm working towards something that I want to do now. Rather than begging for jobs that'd be as fun as eating my own tongue. Life, all of a sudden, is good.

I do have the dilemma right now of a full backpack, so for everything I buy, I have to get rid of something else. And a wetsuit is pretty bulky. So I've decided I'll be shipping some things home. The Winter gear that I don't need anymore, but is too valuable to just give to a charity shop. Well I needed a box obviously. And there are so many used boxes in the world, why the hell would you ever need to buy one? So I asked at the hostel what they did with all their boxes. And they throw them into a dumpster out the back that they share with Tim Horton's to be recycled. I've been unemployed now, less than a month. Yet in that time, I've done zero laundry, my hair has about 6 months growth since I last cut it, I haven't shaved since I gave up job hunting, and now I'm rooting through dumpsters at the back of the hostel. I think that I settled into this whole hobo routine a little too comfortably. But I found a great box though! Try buying that in a stationary store and it'll cost you $5.

What the wider implications of this latest development will be though, I have no idea. I'm travelling making no real plans, having no next move. I want to teach English in South America at some point. I know that much. But that is just a pipe dream right now. But right now, a possible route for me would look something like this:

map

But suppose I do end up WWOOFing all the way up to Alaska. What then? I could come back down and continue onto South America. Or, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eastern Russia is now much more accesible to Westerners, and you can even get flights to Vladivostok, from Anchorage. Vladivostok being the final stop of the trans-Siberian railway (in Russia). And the trans-Siberian railway is one of the few things I've said I definitely want to take this trip. So this could realistically make my new route look something more like:

map

All hypothetical of course right now. But it's possible. If I do end up in Alaska, it's a long way to hitch back down to Bolivia! Bumping into this guy in the stairwell could be the catalyst that changes my route from the first route, to the second route. It's always the smallest things that snowball. They can become life-altering.

And who knows how all this WWOOFing, presuming that I pull it off, will alter my views on life. I'm a city boy. Raised in the city. Nearly always lived in the city. How will staying on farms, some of whom boast to be wholly self-sufficient by growing and rearing their own food, and having solar power, or steam power, or wind power. How will living with a bunch of hippies like that, impact my views? I don't know. I just want to go snorkelling so this head-cam wasn't a waste of money. But it'll be something completely new to me. Very possibly no Internet. Some of them only offer you a tent to sleep on in their garden due to lack of space. I've got not beef with that personally. If I'm willing to root through dumpsters then I'm willing to sleep in a tent. But for the next 6 months this may be my life. Perhaps even longer. And for the first time since I arrived in Victoria, I'm actually looking forward to living. I'm nervous and excited at the same time about just going off to live with random hippies. But I'm not begging people for work I want to do. I might not be earning this way. But I should be able to live a very, very, low-cost life. Especially living with hippies. I'll never have to do laundry again! And it'll be experience. I'll meet people I'd never meet in the city. I'll see things I'd never see in the city. And I'll be able to snorkel my way up the West Coast of Canada. All of a sudden I have a reason to get up in the morning again.

It'll be different. But why the Hell did I leave England if I'm not willing to do anything different?

Just supplementary to the "Sicko" blog that I wrote a few days ago, have a read of this BBC article. And also think back to the Tony Benn Interview in the 'Sicko' movie if you've seen it. And think how Benn so eloquently puts, that in the 30's, we're in the worst recession, perhaps in history. Mass unemployment. And yet all of a sudden, the government finds the money to have a war. To go and kill some Germans. And compare that with this BBC article. And again, despite governments the world over claiming to be doing everything they can to combat climate change, it takes the UN a decade to get $5bn to develop renewable energy. But what was the size of the US bail-out package? The package, giving to the people, who were the reason that we were in this mess. $700bn or something like that? Giving this to people whom will divide most of it in bonuses.

Or how about the Iraq war. What was the financial cost of that, illegal war? Have you ever noticed, that when it conveniences them, or when the rich are in need, government seems to have an endless treasure chest of funds. But yet when the people need money, the don't seem to have it. In the US, people are having their water cut-off. After Katrina, is was donations that saved the people. And as Sicko demonstrates, people are being left without sufficient medical help, whilst the government can still find the money to invade Iraq and give $700bn to business.

Or how about in the UK. A similar bail-out for business. Again, funding for a war in Iraq. But don't we now have university fees because government could no longer pay them? People are losing their houses. But where's our bail-out? I'm noticing a significant theme that government always seems to have access to funds when it conveniences them. But for something trivial like, I don't know, fighting global warming and perhaps securing the existance of human life on this planet, it never seems to have any funds. Despite the promises. Has anyone else noticed this?

And just for comical value, here's another article. I think my views of this are pretty obvious. If you're too fucking mental to take off your headband, then I'm not sure you should be given firearms and the power to arrest. However you make your own mind up.

And also this week, I've discovered Twitter. Kind of like the Facebook 'what are you doing now' bit at the top of the page. But, I've been able to embed that within my homepage, so now any Twitter updates will be added to this website. Plus there's a few buttons near the bottom of the homepage, just below the site updates bit. Well it'd help me out if you could click on these as well.

And despite soon to be embarking on a new hippy lifestyle, I'm at that time again, as seems to happen at this time of year, when I'm getting more and more sceptical about the use of any kind of mind altering drug. That includes alcohol. Last year I targeted 100 days with no drinking. I ended up doing 125. This year I don't think I'll be setting any such targets, because I'm so nearly at the point of giving up drinking, for good.

I've been saying for years that by age 30, I'll have stopped drinking once and for all. Not because I feel I should by then, but I just anticipate getting tired of alcohol by then. As you age, the hangovers get worse and the memories get fewer and far between. The negatives of drinking, the hangover, gets bigger. Whilst the positives of drinking, the fun memories, gets smaller. And I'm nearly at breaking point right now. It's just at the point of not being worth it.

The last time that I had a proper nights drinking, was the mountain ops party at Pano. I don't remember it, and I'm pretty sure that I did some stuff I don't know about, and don't want to know about. You just get that feeling from people. And then a few nights ago, me and Ivan (Mexican), went to Christian's appartment (Chilean), for a couple of beers. That couple of beers became about 10 beers, and some kind of marijuana muffin. Which isn't something I'd touch normally. Hell I don't recall taking marijuana since Mexico. And that was only because I was drunk. As was this. But I think this muffin was still sat in my stomach the whole next day, just slowly digesting, because I couldn't do a thing all day. And when I drank a potent energy drink to try and combat it, I was fucking buzzing. Fucking tripping out on this weird combination. Which was fun. But I don't remember most of the night drinking. And then it took me over 24 hours to recover. And you know, that's just not worth it. And that's a common theme.

My personality means I'm not someone who'll just have one or two beers. If I have one, I'll have twenty. And then I'll spend all my money, won't remember anything, and I'll have a cunt of a hangover. Now I'm not saying now, that I'm never drinking again. I'm not even going to set targets like last year. What I am saying, is that I am so, so close, to just giving up alcohol for good. I had a good run. It's been what? A decade of drinking. A decade of debauchery. But I'm in extra-time right now. When the low out-weighs the high, that's when you know the party's over as they say. And I think the party's pretty much over for me now. Living with the hippyies, it's time to find another way to keep myself entertained.

Well I better go. I have a lot to organise in the next 5 nights. The change since the start of this blog, is that I now have 6 offers on the table (and 3 rejections, because they already had someone, not because I'm retarded. So they tell me). So I need to start prioritising these. And then I have a lot to do to get ready, for what is essentially a new lifestyle. I need to pretty much cull most of my belongings. Of all the things that I don't need, I need to ship home, throw away, or give away all of them. I don't want to be wasting time carrying things like thermal underwear of smart shoes around with me. Then I have to actually appreciate, I don't yet have a place set up to go to yet, despite these offers. And I need to get out and buy the rest of the equipment I'll need. I only have a wetsuit so far. So no time to waste.

All being well though, on the 6th night, I'll be living with the hippies. It'll be different.


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