Work and Travel : Wwoofing in Australia

minyon falls, forest with trees and sky, clouds, landscape, new south wales australia, byron bay

What is wwoofing?

WWOOF is an acronym that started out at first as Working Weekends On Organic Farms. Now, it means a lot of different things as it turned out people liked volunteering. But basically that’s what wwoofing is : volunteer work in exchange for food and a place to live. It is in my opinion the best way to discover a place and a country while traveling, as you are totally immersed in the culture and life of the locals.

The idea is to work around 3/4hours a day for 5 days a week helping out the hosts, usually in a farm, or a hostel. But nowadays there is a lot of different people looking for helpers for various reasons. I’ve seen old people needing help around the house, people who want travelers over to help after the kids have left, I’ve seen a guy looking for help to build a boat! So you can definitely find nice people offering you work within your skills set, no matter what skills you have!

organic garden, gold coast, hippie community, plants, pots, sky, mountains, sign

Wwoofing is cheap and easy to find

I’ve found out about wwoofing years ago while browsing the web, and signed up on Helpx to check out hosts around the world and get my dose of travel induced dreams. So when my traveling time went on, I paid the 2 years plan (20$ for 2 years is pretty cheap compared to the amount of money you can save while doing it, and the overall incredible opportunities it gives you) and made the jump.

I’ve done quite a bit of wwoofing in Australia, and they were all incredibly learning experiences! It is definitely good for people who are open-minded and ready to discover new ways to live, and see their life improving.

First wwoofing experience : the Alpaca Farm

My first wwoofing time was on a tiny farm in northern New South Wales, about an hour inland from Byron Bay. I got to spend three weeks gardening and fangirling over the cute alpacas and the dogs.

alpaca, berthie the alpaca, animal, fur, grass, funny face

My job was just to help out the hosts, David and Rachel, with everyday tasks around the house. Mostly cleaning, feeding the chickens, ect. It came at a right time in my life as I had been traveling and struggling to find work around Australia for about 4 months. I also had never traveled that long before, and was starting to feel a bit tired and overwhelmed. My three weeks with David and Rachel and the animals fixed that!

Animals are a good remedy to loneliness

It got me ready for what was coming next! A good thing considering coming next was my farmwork! The first week started weirdly. We got caught up in floods. (The aftermath of a cyclone in Queensland the week before). And I pretty much got stuck inside the house (the roads were closed or flooded). With no electricity or internet for a few days. I spent a week trying to approach the alpacas, playing with the dogs and watching the rain fall over the lush landscape of northern New South Wales.

house, forest, farm, sun, trees

We also had to help out a family (my hosts’ friends) that lost their house and all their belongings in the floods. My heart broke for them and it was a real eye-opening about me and my own situation. After all I wasn’t lost or anything and I still had my whole life with me! So I had to stay happy and keep enjoying my travels. In case your wondering, the family got a new -safe- house and beside their home and materials, they didn’t lose anything too valuable as they got a bit of time to escape and save some stuff. NSW government also set up some help for the victims of the floods and they probably got something from that as well, so everything turned out well in the end!

Alpacas and adventures

Alpacas, mum, baby, harriet the baby alpaca, cute, furry, white

My favourite thing was of course the alpacas. They don’t like humans so much so it’s not easy to get to them but they are so cute! I had never seen any in real life before! They were four of them, including a tiny baby named Harriett (she’s the cutest).
In case you don’t know (I didn’t) alpacas are NOT llamas. They are a different species. They just look similar (and are both from South America. You can cross-breed them also) but alpacas are smaller.
What I think is cool about them is that you can house train them and keep them as pets (it takes time though) they also live about 25 years (that’s a long time!) and they can survive in any climate. Which is why you can now find some in a lot of other places than just South America.

Nimbin, australia, new south wales, doctor hooch, alley boys, weed

During my time there I also did a bit of discovering around and we went to a cool fall called Minyon Falls. It’s huge and beautiful. When you’re at the top, you can see all the forest and all the way up to Byron Bay. You can even see the ocean from afar (if it’s not too cloudy). I also went to the cool town of Nimbin, which is famous for being the hippie town of Australia!

falls, minyon falls, water, rocks

How to get over my fears

spider, walls, web
(This is a different spider. This one’s from Queensland and I CANT touch it still!)

This is also where I learned to tame my fear of spiders! I had a pretty much debilitating phobia of spiders, to the point I could have very bad panic attacks when seeing even a small one. To give you an idea, I almost ended up in a hospital once after seeing a tiny little one run across my apartment in Paris. My breath just went away and it took forever for me to breath correctly again. I also had night terrors dreaming of spiders attacking me. Not good lol.
While cleaning the house, I had to gently put the spiders outside and try never kill them.

Australia has too many spiders

It was very hard at first, but I wanted to stop being a coward and most importantly do my job well. So I focused on that instead of thinking “spiderspiderspideeeer” and, well, it worked! After a start of sweating and pushing them with the broom, I tried slowly getting closer and closer. After a week or so I could take them outside with my bare hands (so long as they are small). I know it probably sounds silly for a lot of you, but I am actually very proud of myself on this one. I’m still very scared of the very big and dangerous ones, but as far as tiny ones go I have no problems anymore. It was almost life changing for me, as I have had a few experiences ruined by this irrational fear. Now it’s all gone!

Second wwoofing experience : the Camel farm

baby camels, cute, funny, field, sky, clouds, animals

On our search for farmwork and ways to save money, my travelmate Meike and I ended up on a dairy farm with camels. While it was fun while it lasted, it’s not so bad we only stayed four days to be honest. It was a lot more work than what wwoofing is supposed to be. Also it was very boring work haha but we got to be around camels and a bunch of cool backpackers, so it was worth it still. Camels are absolutely amazing beasts! They’re like huge cows basically. We spent our mornings cleanup their poo and just hang around them.

Some of them were super friendly. They had names that were just their numbers, which I found a bit sad honestly. While they were very well taken care of, it was a bit sad to see these wild animals stuck between fences, but I can only hope they were happy still, being well fed and cared for.

Why picking poop wasn’t so bad

camels, cute, funny face, field, sky, clouds, animals, wwoofing

It was a dairy farm that was doing beauty products with camel milk. Which is why we had to spend so much time cleaning their poo. They can’t stay around it too long or they get sick/dairy is contaminated. That’s what we’ve been told at least! I just know I spent way too much time around camel poop lol. It’s actually not that bad. It doesn’t smell, it’s not that gross, you just pick it up with a shovel, toss it away and call it a day. On the plus side you get to hang out with the camels all morning! It turned out not to be the hardest job on the farm!

camels, cute, funny, field, sky, clouds, animals, mo, selfie, wwoofing, work

When we were not cleaning poop, we were labelling the products to be sold. That, for sure, is very hard. Stickers have to be very very well stuck, to one millimetre, except you have nothing but your bare hands and eyes to do it. Honestly it was very hard, annoying, boring, and I found myself thinking picking poop was actually better, because at least I wasn’t sitting on a chair pulling my hair trying to do such a stupid thing. I hated that if you fail even 1mm on the packaging, the whole pack goes to the bin.

So not only is it boring, but you hold the risk to lose the whole pack if you have one bottle with the sticker not that well placed.

Why I think this is so wrong

Products that are actually good and you can use, but we can’t sell them and have to throw them away just because of the labels/packaging. That is so much waste !! It broke my heart because I know that is how things are in marketing and it honestly makes my blood boil because why would you waste so much of something because of the packaging? You’re not using/eating the packaging but the product inside so why does it matter so much?

I still don’t have an answer to be honest, and it’s just one of these things that really makes me want to stop consuming anything ever again and just live out of thin air because really, whenever you buy something made or processed in a facility, you are essentially making things like this okay, and wasting so much plastic and other bad stuff for the planet. But, it’s really hard to fight, I know. There are ways to live a zero-waste lifestyle though! So we can make it. Just have to think and be careful of the way we spend our money I suppose…

We should think about the planet first!

I just felt incredibly bad being a part of such a disaster for the planet. I know just being alive is somehow already bad, but I believe we can and have to live consciously and be aware than each and every one of our actions has consequences that go further than our own little nose and little life. Knowing so many products were thrown away, I promised myself I would always try to not buy any of that expensive shit every again. That’s the best I can do so far.

barn, camel farm, cars, farm, sky, clouds, wwoofing
The barn where everyone was living

The housing/barn

We were living in a huge barn facing the fields of camels. It was nice but very cold, as it wasn’t closed, and full of mice. They stole and ate our loaf of bread on the first day. They also had a couple of cute cats, not helping that much with the mice problem lol. We were about six or seven backpackers, most of them from Germany, living in there together. Food was being delivered every Thursday because Coles was too far for us to go. So since we left on a friday evening, we never got to get food hahaha (we didn’t stay long enough). The farm was really in the middle of nowhere, about an hour away from Brisbane. It was beautiful to see the sunrise and sunset from the fields everyday. The shapes of the camels afar giving a very cinematographic feeling to the scene.

camels, landscape, sunset, sky, fields, clouds, animal, grass

Third wwoofing experience : The Gold Coast Community

springbrooke national park, national park, australia, queensland, beautiful, mountains, sky, clouds, fields

I finished my farmwork on the last day of September, after five months of very hard work, and a lot more muscles on my back. Needless to say, I was tired as hell. Something to know about me to understand, is that I got very sick as a baby. I spent a lot of times going through surgeries as a kid. Now, not only am I so small I still get mistaken for a teenager, I also have trouble walking, and I can’t run, bike or do anything too physical. So you can understand why farmwork was a lot harder for me than it was for most backpackers.

From hard work to relaxing and baby-sitting

For a long time I thought I wasn’t gonna make it and earn a trip to the hospital instead of a second year in Australia. Well it didn’t happen and I did make it! I just needed a lot more rest afterwards, to set up my mind and body for the next chapter of my life, as I was incredibly exhausted. I also had very little money as I got scammed while doing farmwork and barely manage to save anything in the end (but that is a story for another day 😉 ). Which is why I needed a quiet and cheap place to stay for a couple weeks.

springbrooke national park, national park, australia, queensland, trees, car, work,

Mountains and hippies

people, cars, sky, clouds, mountains, gathering, barbecue, wwoofing

That’s how I found myself, thanks to Helpx again, in a cute hippie community in the Springbrooke National Park on the Gold Coast. I stayed there for about a week. The property had a breath-taking view and this itself was a good help recovering. I would find peace watching the sunset over the mountains every evening. Loved it. I met an awesome guy named Matt, who kindly came pick me up at the station and we got to chat the whole time I was there. He was the main worker there and our job as helpxers was pretty much helping him with whatever was needed on the property. Weeding, cleaning, planting… I remember spending a morning picking up rocks under the sun, and being so covered in flies I couldn’t see an inch of my skin anymore! Welcome to Queensland eh?!

Mo is taking care of kids!

baby, kid, diaper, house, playing, wwoofing, baby sitting

I also had to take care of a little boy named Max. He was adorable and called me auntie Mo which I thought was cute. That’s another thing I never thought I would ever do. To be honest with you, I don’t like kids so much and don’t really know how to interact with them. But this one was a cutie pie and very patient with me hahaha.

I had to change his diaper once and felt a bit overwhelmed as I had never done it before. He made fun of me and helped me doing it right. Then he thanked me, told me I did a great job and gave me a little kiss on the cheek. He was the cutest. He also had a sister who was a few month old. So of course she was staying with her mum, I only had to watch over her a couple times to help out her mum. She was so cute and smelled so good. (baby smell is the best isn’t it? Why do we loose it while growing up, not fair! Lol).

garage, house, sun, walls, carpets, chairs, wwoofing

Once again I felt pretty proud of myself for doing all that and enjoying it that much. It was a fun time, and I met yet another bunch of cool backpackers. We also had a super cool garage to hang out in and smoke weed after work. Best way to relax and feel better after the very hard few months I had been through.

Wwoofing tips for beginners

Where to find work

Here’s some of the most famous wwoofing websites :

Things to know before your start

The best tips I can give you if you are willing to do wwoofing for the first time:

  • – Check the reviews of the hosts
  • – Always have a plan B just in case
  • – Try to always have a bit of money with you, again, just in case
  • – Be respectful and open-minded. People are opening their homes and lives to you. You have to be respectful of their way to live and adapt, even if it’s very different from what you are used to. That’s the point !
  • – Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s always ok to leave if you don’t feel alright where you are. If you feel uncomfortable with anything, if you don’t want to do the work you are asked to do, try talk to the family and see what you can do. Remember you can always leave if you have to, no one will be mad and you always have to think about yourself first!
alpacas, harriett the baby alpaca, cute, chicken, house, farm, furry, wwoofing

Wwoofing is awesome!

To sum it up, I think wwoofing is an incredible experience and it’s worth giving a try no matter where you are in the world! You will love it and learn so much about yourself, people, the country you are in, everything!
I am currently planning to do some more in Europe soon, so stay tuned for more stories! Feel free to share your own stories or recommend hosts in the comments!
Check the wwoofing portfolio for more photos as well 🙂

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