© 2012 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Trang Chau. Information.
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

Winter "Vacation" With WWOOF – A Solo Travel Report

Volunteer Farming in British Columbia Canada

Text & Photos By Trang Chau

Spending a week at a Canadian farm was my first WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) experience. Sitting at the airport on a Wednesday night waiting for my flight to Vancouver, I hadn't much of an idea what was in store at my final destination. I only knew that I was giving my vacation time to work at something quite different from my normal urban routine. I was about to become "a willing worker on an organic farm" located on Bristol Island (really just a big sand bar on the Fraser River) near Hope, British Columbia. Hope is a town on highway 1 south east of Vancouver, a two-and-a-half-hour ride by Greyhound bus. I am happy to have experienced Greyhound. I am sure that Greyhound will not be my first choice of transportation in the future.

My daily chores were with horses.Hope is a small community with a lot of horse barns and a riding club. I chose Darlene and Kens' farm not because of the horses but because of the advertised chickens and garden. Unfortunately, due to the winter weather, there were only six birds left, and the garden was not yet ready for the spring crop. Therefore, my daily chores were mainly with horses.

I did have the opportunity to do a little weeding and removing dead corn stalks on a small plot. The soil was rich and soft, and I loved touching and feeling it with my fingers. However I could not stop asking myself why I have to pay Armando, my gardener, to take care of my garden at home. Strangely, the reality is that I like to do yard work once a while when I want to, not because I have to. Stomping in the mud and piles of manure, that was fun. Working in the cold and rain, my fingers got numb, my face felt cold, and my hair dripped wet, but I felt free like a child. I could get as messy as I wanted and not worry about dirty clothes. That sensation of freedom is something I do not have very often.

Nevertheless, after a week of lifting and emptying wheelbarrows full of manure, I am so sure that horses are not for me. I have never dealt with horses in the past, and I will try not to deal with them again, not because I don't like horses but because everything about horses is big and heavy, from the covers to the manure. Although I am not a beginner in handling garden forks or pushing a wheelbarrow, using those tools for horses is too much for a little person with a small frame like mine.

Despite the heavy horse work and shortage of chickens, all in all, I have to admit I had a great time staying at the farm. Winter scene near Hope British ColumbiaThere were moments I forgot where I was and why I was there, I was so busy immersing myself in a new way of life – the lives of a Canadian farming family. I loved the conversation during meal times. I enjoyed interacting with the people and the house pets. I had a lot of free time in the afternoons. I could retreat to my room in the attic to rest or read, or take a stroll in the woods or by the Fraser River. I went to sleep early and got up early, about 6am, usually before everyone else in the house. Those early morning hours were the best part of the day, just sitting alone in the living room by the window, next to a burning fireplace, sipping coffee and staring into the quiet outdoors. That was heaven, the most peaceful heaven on earth.

Did I have to go hundreds of miles from home, ride a dreary bus, and do such heavy work to find those feelings of peace and freedom? Did I have to leave everything behind to feel physically and mentally free? Maybe. It's like having a cleansing therapy every once in a while. After the cleansing, I feel ready and eager to go back to regular life.

If You Go

WWOOF information: www.wwoof.org

>> TC

Comment on this article

>> From Donovan D'Anna: Great article! I'd be tempted to go there and play with the horses based on your experience, but I'm sure I'd wind up with the chickens due to the laws of nature. I love your thoughtful conclusion, though I find a round of jokes with "Sam" in my neighboring cubicle sometimes suffices.

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