Need help with WWOOF and other stay-with-a-stranger programs
May 16, 2008 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Summer just started, and I'd like to either WWOOF or for 3-4 weeks.

I've seen the previous AskMefi literature regarding those two sites and read their respective FAQs, but I have a couple worries.

How long from the first contact till the actual visit begins? August 25th is when my summer ends. This seems like enough time, but I'm not sure because WWOOF likes to communicate via snail mail.

I would like to go to the city (by bus, if necessary) at least every weekend, if possible. My guess is that most WWOOF hosts are pretty far from the city, so helpexchange might be the better choice. However, WWOOF seems like a much better established organization. And many listings on helpexchange seem geared towards skilled workers or females. Are these assumptions correct?

Couchsurfing also seemed like a viable way to travel, but I want to travel for upwards of 3 weeks and I don't really have transportation from one couch to the next.

Perhaps relevant: 19, college freshman. Speaks English and decent high school Spanish. Unskilled, unless you happen to need a web developer. Interested in someplace outside of the US and Asia (except maybe Tokyo).

And I'm always interested in reading about positive and negative experiences.
posted by theiconoclast31 to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: wwoofing varies according to the country, since each organization is run by different folks. A few years ago in Denmark and Sweden, you had to order the wwoof "book" (basically a few photocopied pages) via postal mail. But once you had the book, it was far easier to email or call farms that you were interested in than to mail a letter.

Also, the wwoof organization basically a network of farms who have added their name to the wwoof directory. It is extremely decentralized, so you organize your visit with farms. You have to negotiate if there is space, how long to stay, how to get to each farm, what type of work, etc.

I haven't heard of helpx before. Curious to know if others have any experience with them.
posted by kamelhoecker at 10:25 AM on May 16, 2008

Best answer: I WWOOFed around western Canada for 5 months in 2004.

I called my first farm about a week and a half before my expected arrival. I think I had called one farm before that, but they were 'booked' up. The farm was located about 150km from Calgary- close enough to bus, or even swing a ride with friends of the boss.

Second farm called only 5 days ahead and hitch-hiked there. We called on the way, and our bosses picked us up where we were left off, within 15 min of their place. It was a 15 dollar bus ride from there to Vancouver, as a recall.

Anyone I WWOOFed for after that was a friend or business partner of a boss.

It shouldn't take too much preparation for a 3 week trip. Since I was living out of a bag for 6 months, it took a little more planning and supplies (about a month), but it is an extremely rewarding and cost efficient way to travel. I highly recommend it!

Good luck!
posted by sunshinesky at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2008

Best answer: on couchsurfing I ran across this woman's profile once, who also hosts people through WWOOF. I don't know if there's an advantage to doing anything through - I suppose it's an organization? - WWOOF itself, but her family's organic farm sounded like a lot of fun and combined with the cs hosting it would seem that "not months in advance" is okay planning.

Kobe (nearest to her) is a fantastic city (I like it better than Tokyo), and it's 1 hour from Osaka, 1.5 hours from Kyoto, and 3 hours from Tokyo.

Since you also mentioned cs in specific: Just go somewhere that has, like, trains, and stuff, and you'll have no problem getting between couches. This opens up all of Japan and most of Europe. Also, you'll find that many hosts on couchsurfing are incredibly generous, and would drive out to meet you, especially if there aren't other options. On the "request to surf couch" email there's even a box for "transportation: how are you arriving? do you need to be picked up somewhere?" I love using couchsurfing, and have had absolutely no bad experiences (so far).
posted by whatzit at 2:30 PM on May 16, 2008

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