It all started when we decided to escape our job looking after a gorgeous guesthouse in the South West of France.
“Why on earth would you leave?” I hear you cry. Well, it was the picture perfect job until the boss/owner/designer/reality TV star arrived for a whirlwind of a visit. “The food was too bland, and by the way there wasn’t enough salt in the quiche” she told us. It was a real kick in the guts after we had slaved away in the kitchen for the four days she was there, as well as keeping the house clean, acting as her personal assistants, trying to source a couple of ducks for dinner (two hours before the dinner guests were due to arrive), and mucking out the stables when we had a spare minute. As Madame was going to spend the summer in residence, we decided to throw in the towel before the warm weather arrived.
Luckily we had a back-up plan hidden in our sleeves. I had always wanted to give wwoofing a go after experiencing wwoofers on our farm in NZ when I was a child. Now we had the perfect opportunity to try it out.
We set off with a mission to keep our spending within our 2000 € budget leaving us only 10 € per day. We also wanted to:
- learn more French and languages of any other country we traveled to
- learn how to keep bees and make cheese
- learn more about farming and food in general.
Six months, 9 farms and a few countries later, I can proudly say we have achieved all of the aforementioned goals bar one. Despite our attempts to stay on budget it was practically impossible not to go over. We ended up spending just under 3000 €, an average of 15 € /day. Not bad I reckon.
Some highlights (and low-lights) include:
- Taking numerous bleating baby goats on a beautiful drive in the foothills of the French Alps (although unfortunately for them they were about to become Easter dinner).
- Being screamed at by the wealthy Milano woman: “Yan! Always standing! Help!” (she had difficulty pronouncing Ian’s name).
- Experiencing the real Tuscan tourist free country side and tasty wood-fired bread oven treats in Pari.
- Bee stings, an authentic Italian Mama in the kitchen, and sleeping under the stars while the fire flies put on a show for us high in the Calabrian hills.
- Being scorched by the Sicilian sun then soothed by the chilly waters at Fiumefreddo beach.
- In Germany a mosey on the Mosel river led us to delicious wines made from the steep vines.
- Living in a yurt for a week.
- Cleaning the dairy shed at a Black Forest dairy farm.
- Returning back to our first hosts at Les Seilhols to rest our weary wwoofer bones at the end of our journey.
Most importantly, it was the people that made our journey amazing. We will never forget the generosity we received from our hosts. At almost all of the farms we stayed at we were made to feel at home. It is not simply an exchange of labour for food and accommodation and that is one of the great things about Wwoofing.