Hey there folks,
So this voyage has taken a bit of a delightful detour, if you will, for I’ve committed myself to Wwoofing in France for the next two weeks.
“What in blazes is Wwoofing,” you might ask aloud to no one in particular, to which I would reply (to no one in particular), “Why, tis a veritable hoot and a half of a volunteer organization I tell you!” So sit back, get on your dungarees, and prepare to be engulfed in my Camino Detour.
Wwoof is an international volunteer program that pairs you with organic farmers, the better to learn their lifestyle, tricks of the trade, and spend some time abroad on the cheap. Rather than earn an hourly wage for your volunteer time, you are rewarded with knowledge and experience (and as a Marxist, this makes me incredibly excited!). The idea is that eager folks will travel to these sustainable farms, work and learn something useful, and bring those ideas back with them to perpetuate this cycle of happy giving.
I had heard about Wwoof before, but it wasn’t until I was on the ferry from Ireland to France that I really got an earful about it from a young Frenchman, Pierre-Jean, who really introduced the volunteer program to me. He had spent three months abroad, mostly in the UK, working on such farms and learning a good deal of useful knowledge about sustainable agri- and horticulture. A bright young man, he only had positive things to say about the program. He met many great folks, spent time in foreign cultures, and learned all sorts of neat things: how to skin, cook, and tan a fox, how to build a water mill to power a generator, how to build (green)houses and other structures, how to create and care for a garden and farm, etc.
Pierre-Jean was on his way back to Toulouse to try Wwoofing closer to home; I was headed to France to walk the Way. Yet the two of us, after speaking together about our prospective motives, unexpectedly, yet wholeheartedly, switched places. Now he’s going to walk the Chemin St. Jacques whilst I’ve been Wwoofing for the past several days.
I have been in the small town of Lisieux, volunteering on a farm run by a pair of British expats. Thus far, I’ve chopped more than a fair share of wood (everything is cooked on a wood-burning stove), milked a goat, helped bottle homemade beer, survived the vicious goose attack, and even did laundry in the stream. Holy shit – this lifestyle is a lot of hard work, but it’s good, honest, and simple. We could really learn a thing or two from taking a step back from our modern conveniences and just admiring the simple beauty of the world around us; and trying to preserve it. So here I’ll stay for at least another 10 days. Just wwoofing it.
It is simply incredible how meeting someone can change your plans for the better, no?