One benefit of studying abroad in the Southern Hemisphere is extra time — a normal semester is four months, but because my classes in New Zealand started in the beginning of July and exams ended mid-November, I started school two months earlier than Temple and was also able to extend my time abroad for an extra five weeks with no rush to be back in Philly. I’m lucky to be able to spend six months abroad rather than the usual three or four.
An extra month and a half abroad free of academic responsibilities, however, begs the question of how to fill it. Personally, I decided to spend a week volunteering at Unreasonable Lab New Zealand with my internship in Christchurch (mentioned in a previous post) and then two weeks WWOOFing before saying my (hopefully temporary) goodbyes and packing up my life. If you’re wondering why I haven’t written any posts in a while, WWOOFing often features limited Internet.
WWOOFing stands for both “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” and “Willing Workers On Organic Farms.” The basic premise — WWOOFers work for a few hours each day in exchange for accommodation and sometimes food from their host. Usually, this happens on — you guessed it — farms. In New Zealand, however, people use the term “WWOOFing” to refer to other types of jobs in hostels, childcare, or small businesses as well.
I’d wanted to give WWOOFing a try for a while, and it’s a good option to travel cheaply. I impulsively decided to work in a hostel in The Coromandel, a beach paradise on the North Island of NZ and the “hippie capital of New Zealand.” The hostel I worked in, called The Lion’s Den, was homey and friendly, and in exchange for two hours of cleaning/gardening every morning I got to sleep in a bed, do my laundry, go to the beach (one of the top 10 in the world!), check out some cool hikes and Coromandel landmarks, and meet people from all over the world. (The Lion’s Den is also the name of an adult video chain in the States, but that’s not important.) My hosts, Abby and Sy, were so welcoming and I really felt a part of the community in Coromandel Town, where they live.
In hindsight, WWOOFing was the perfect experience to cap off my time in New Zealand. I’ve been lucky enough to attend uni and intern here, and form lasting friendships with many Kiwis.
Living in The Lion’s Den gave me a taste of the true backpacker life, though — and backpackers are a very common sight in New Zealand. I met a lot of solo travelers, a lot of wandering souls, my rad WWOOFing partners Frankie and Hank, and three super cool English guys who were living in the hostel as well (George, Ash, and Jez — there’s your shoutout. Hope you appreciate my American vocabulary). There is no doubt that I have the travel bug, and WWOOFing gave me a taste of what I’ll hopefully be doing after I finish my degree.
WWOOFing jobs are available all over the world, as are Helpx and Workaway gigs (similar “work for accommodation” opportunities). Naturally, you have to be wary of being taken advantage of or treated poorly, but overall WWOOFing is a great way to meet people and travel inexpensively. I highly recommend it as a life experience, if nothing else.
Things are winding down — as I write this, I have T-minus five days until I fly back to the States. Luckily, I’ll be visiting my cousin in California for a little while before I head to Philly — anything to keep the travel bug satisfied a little longer!