Once upon a time WWOOFing was the best kept travel secret. But now the cat is out of the bag!
How many times have you thought, that’s it, I’m off, I quit, I need a sea change, I’ve had enough, let’s emigrate, I want to see the world, I want to make a difference, I need to put something back, working for the rat race sucks? Well, let me tell you all of the above are valid reasons to jack it all in and throw a swag on your back and head off into the big wide world in search of effort that rewards with more than a patronising pat on the back on pay day.
Of course many of us just fire these idealistic, idle threats off on a daily basis just to vent steam and to try to feel better about ourselves, as the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but if you really have an itch to scratch, to get down and dirty with nature, see the world from a local’s perspective and really do something positive with your time that will be at one with the planet, there are many ways to place a big ‘completed’ tick next to everything on the list. But! If you really want a one size fits all solution to take you round the world on a tiny budget, at the same time easing the strain of a planet aching under the burden of chemical farming, whilst all the time helping out farmers who really do need a bit of a hand, then WWOOFing is the silver bullet you are looking for.
Now that you have decided meaningful volunteering in return for a bed and a good square meal is the way to go, there are suddenly doors opening for you in every hemisphere, on every continent and in each corner of the world you want to see.
But wait there’s more! No, not a swag of steak knives, but instead the chance to work in a healthy environment, meeting likeminded people who will often become friends for life, learn about vast array of farming types, traditional and modern methods, gain skills that could at the very least build your character or even offer future career paths and the whole experience will keep you in dinner conversations for decades! (“Would you like to see my 4 Cazillion travel snaps!?!”)
Ohh, and did I mention, spending quality time in beautiful environments with no harmful chemicals? That’s the world of WWOOFers! With participating organic farms in almost 100 countries across the globe the chances are your dream destination is just a backpack away.
Making the most of your travels can mean many things, including saving money anywhere you can so you can spend your travel dollars on, well, travel; but it is always wise to cover all your bases and still keep a backup plan in place. You may think keeping an extra Tenner stashed in a shoe or instructions for reverse charge calling your favourite uncle is the answer. Realistically that may not cut the mustard when the chips are down and you are in desperate need of real help, the help of multi-lingual professionals, the help of a team of heavyweights with special skills and global reaching assets and resources that can be relied upon to swing into action with just one phone call from anywhere on planet earth.
The very nature of the backpacking or the WWOOFer style of travel certainly has the air of travelling on a shoestring and of course there are lots of more important things to spend your money on than travel insurance, isn’t there? Well, that really is debatable. Even if you only have a tiny roll of clothes, an outdated phone and a bar of soap in your swag, all of these things are essentials and have to be replaced if they are stolen, you lose them or they become damaged. But more than that, even though these material possessions may hold little value, the prepaid components of your travel are not always fully refundable, so if you cannot continue your WWOOFing because of illness or injury to yourself or a close family member, let alone cover for medical bills for yourself then all of a sudden travel insurance does appear to be a very necessary safety net, and when polices can start for a as little as a cup of coffee a day it’s hard not to see why protecting yourself on your trip is so important.
I have friends who met a little later in life and decided the best way to really get to know each other was to leave their kids from previous marriages to look after their homes in Brighton, England, and go exploring the world they had both dreamed of experiencing!
They had little resources in real terms but shared a passion for the great outdoors, travel with a conscience and a desire to right the wrongs of the modern, throwaway, thoughtless world. Well it’s a big call to find a way to fill those boots but fill them they did when they stopped into Suter’s Yard wine bar in Shoreham-by-Sea for a home time tipple and got talking to a Qantas pilot passing time between trips across the pond.
This likeable chap had been discussing a very similar idea with various people he had met on his travels over the years and the common denominator that came up again and again was WWOOFers. Even other ‘day-dreaming colleagues’ fantasising about giving up the mundane life of lifeless hotels on whistle-stop flying-visits to bustling, impersonal and lonely city centres dotted around the globe, are all talking about experiencing the real world through WWOOFing. An incredibly cost effective way to see the world and meet likeminded people along the way.
Ding Dong! A truly enlightening chance meeting led to that light bulb moment, and so without further ado Jez and Sue called a family meeting to tell Jezzer’s teenage kids how they had recently met, hit it off and decided to elope to the world of WWOOFFing.
Things happened pretty quickly from then, and armed with only their first-leg airline tickets to the USA, a handful of travel guides and each with a bag of clothes and basic essentials that I would suggest was only enough for a weekend away, they found themselves heading out to Gatwick to start their new adventure. On the way to the airport Jezzer’s boy Thomas starts quizzing them on their packing skills – “Have you packed your undies?” “Yes.” “And your passport?” “Yees!” “And your toothbrush?” “Yeess!!” “Can we contact you in an emergency on your travel phone?” “Yeeeeesssss!!!” “Have you got travel insurance?” ….silence…. “Er, noooo.” “And you tell me to be the responsible one, yet you fail to understand the importance of something so critical and think you can waltz off round the world with a tenner stuffed in your pocket, just in case!!” Thomas scolded with a subtle edge of triumph to his tone that screamed out loud I am right for once!
Maybe out of a sense of guilt or a sense of shame or perhaps both, they realised how right he was, they listened to Tom and hurriedly sorted a basic but flexible travel plan on the internet that would let them travel from country to country, right there and then while waiting in the departure lounge.
Yes you can do that, you don’t need to go to your local High Street, over the counter outlets, that charge top dollar for everything and you certainly don’t need to buy from your airline or travel agent who seem to try to add on all the overpriced extras at every step of the way of your booking; and often without you even realising you have been caught. Nowadays you can secure real discounts on line with travel insurance the same way as you do with downloading music or movies or books or clothes or even your weekly grocery shopping.
Landing in the USofA was an eye opener for the ‘never before been out of Englanders’ but with excitement, adrenalin and a tad of trepidation kicking in, they make their way to the rental vehicle compound to get their set of wheels.
A quick call home to Thomas was all they needed to do; not to let the kids know they had arrived safely, but to thank Tom for reminding them to get travel insurance before they left. They had the rental vehicle excess component included on their travel insurance policy and this meant they did not need to pay the additional premium at the rental offices to reduce the collision waiver excess to $0. It’s included in the travel insurance! Who knew?!? Before they have even driven the first mile of many thousands that lay ahead of them, the travel insurance had paid for itself and saved them even more besides and what’s more they didn’t even need to do anything at all to get in front!
Now then, let’s hit the road! Climbing aboard the left hand drive car presented a dilemma as to who was the best person to drive the first leg. Of course, Sue is used to sitting on that side in the car at home as Jez nearly always is the driver in the right hand drive car, so Sue is used to being on that side of their car at least, whilst Jez is more experienced driving day to day but of course driving on the other side of the road. Easy decision… So, Jez eased the gas guzzling yank tank out onto the wrong side of the road (!) and well, suffice to say the baptism of fire was over. Fortunately they now knew where the brake pedal was situated and with no real harm done they were just glad to be getting underway with Sue at the helm.
Making a bee line for the first stop on their world tour of WWOOFers was first priority as they were keen for a decent meal, a comfy bed and some good old fashioned hospitality; well-deserved and very welcome comforts after the red eye from Londinium and things they had heard come as standard at all WWOOF farms.
They were certainly not disappointed as Chuck and Jenny guided them to a parking space with a warm wave and tray of coffee and biscuits. Without further ado the introductions were complete and the general housekeeping expectations were laid out. Everyone was over the moon to acknowledge this mutual ‘labour for lodgings’ arrangement suits everyone down to a tee! Chuck and Jenny are right in the middle of harvest and need all the help they can get and being on a real farm in stunning surroundings means it’s no real hardship to offer a few hours a day helping out in exchange for dramatic views and fresh air!
After familiarising themselves with their basic but comfortable living quarters that will be called home for the next week or so, Sue gets Jez to run out to the car and grab their rucksacks while she has a good old fashioned relax, on the good old fashioned verandah, putting the time to good use researching local sights and attractions they can visit in the afternoons when their chores are complete. Bending into the back of the car dragging the bags out delivered an unexpected and certainly unwelcome start to the whole adventure as the unmistakable twinge of a strained back says “Hey Jez, thought you was going to have it easy and enjoy yourselves on this trip?”
The bags were certainly not heavy, and the pain seemed to be more than deserved after their relatively long but smooth drive, so after finally managing to make it back to the room, by part walking, part shuffling crablike along the walls, holding anything that Jez could grab onto and of course without showing the discomfort on his face which would show the world he wouldn’t be in any condition to tackle a normal walk in a park let alone the harvesting he falls onto the bed in agony and calls out to Sue who is still blissfully unaware of what has occurred, let alone the gravity of what this may mean to their plans.
At this point it would be an understatement to simply mention that they were more than a little relieved to remember Thomas’s advice, which had already saved them a small fortune when starting their trip, by not needing to fork out extra cash for the rental vehicle excess waiver, so I’ll paint a picture for you of a man laying on his back crippled by excruciating pain, unable to roll to his side, unable to stand and surely unable to dress or undress, to take care of basic ablutions such as taking a shower or worse using the toilet, and then a frantic partner not sure what to do, who to call, how they can get help, how they will be able to continue their trip or if they are really stuck how they will get home.
Enter stage left.... Easy Travel Insurance! As Jez and Sue were smart enough to take a 17 year old’s advice they have access to a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week emergency assistance team who can be called upon for help or advice on the smallest of things or in this case for help in a real hour of need. One phone call from Sue secured a lifeline that was more welcome than you could imagine and from that moment a team swings into action who firstly arranged an ambulance to attend and make Jez comfortable before evacuating him to the nearest hospital. Now of course like so many hospitals around the world they all insist on a swipe of a credit card before they will even issue a ‘Band Aid’ so thank the heavens the emergency assistance team were also able to arrange payments up front so Jez and Sue did not have to give their ‘Flexible Friend’ a work out too. The cost of an ambulance trip alone requires a small mortgage and as for the cost of hospital treatment in the USA, well it is well known to be slightly overpriced. (He says with tongue firmly in cheek!)
As the next few days pass Sue has returned the hire car and moved into a motel near the hospital, all organised, arranged upfront by the emergency assistance saints and angels and Jez, well still in a great deal of agony has been poked and prodded by the best doctors in the state and has been zapped and scanned by medical equipment that is unrivalled around the world. The prognosis is simple, Jez has strained ligaments in his back.
Well, that sounds ok then doesn’t it? A reasonable person would agree but here is where it gets interesting, there is a dilemma that needs to be addressed. Jez is not really able to travel, at least not by getting a cattle class ticket home whilst bearing this pain, they certainly can’t get back to help the understanding and very sympathetic Chuck and Jenny with the harvest and they need to decide whether to stay and wait it out or get back home to the ‘I told you so’s’ from Thomas.
Luckily their travel insurance offers help and solutions for not only these conundrums but also goes further by making all the arrangements to whisk them away to safety, with ongoing care when they are back home, and also with help rescheduling this trip when Jez is fit and well again. I must say I do like a happy ending!
Want to find out more about WWOOFing in Australia or other great WWOOFer locations around the world? Follow this link for the WWOOFers website.
Terms, conditions and acceptance criteria apply. Cover limits apply as set out in the policy wording. This material contains general information only and may not suit your particular circumstances. Before deciding to acquire any insurance product, you should obtain and consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement to decide if a policy is right for you. Insurance issued by QBE Insurance (Australia) Ltd ABN 78 003 191 035 AFS Licence 239545. eReliance Pty Ltd trading as Easy Travel Insurance, ABN 48 147 939 277 is an Authorised Representative 0012131 of QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited
*Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn 1 Qantas Frequent Flyer point per $2 spent on eligible QBE Travel insurance products. (Terms and conditions apply)