Do you want to live in Hawai’i for free?!
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as you might think. I lived and worked on Maui for 2 months by WWOOFing. To refresh your memories, WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and provides people with the chance to take part in work-trade programs all around the world. In exchange for room and board, volunteers work part-time as farmers. I’ve written about this program and other alternative ways to travel the world before.
This time around, though, I want to talk specifically about my experiences WWOOFing, and share with you the pros and cons of living in Hawai’i for free.
The Manual Labor
Pros: Learning how to make living things grow and thrive is a valuable skill, and a rewarding experience. Hauling rocks uphill to build walls for new garden beds is excellent exercise. You’ll be able to post cool facebook statuses such as “today I chopped down a banana tree with a machete,” and you’ll leave the farm feeling strong.
Cons: Hauling rocks uphill to build walls for new garden beds sucks. It is hard, dirty, and not the least bit glamorous. Working outside will inevitably give you cuts, bruises, sunburns, and stubbed toes.
Communing with Nature
Pros: The natural beauty of the Hawaiian islands is unlike anywhere else on earth. Your eyes will be treated to mountain and ocean views daily. Beaches and hiking trails are both within walking distance of your jungle home.
Cons: Bloodthirsty mosquitoes, poisonous centipedes, and a single bathroom, which you share with 15 other people and is uphill from your cabin, will make nature less appealing. Sometimes you just want to be indoors, but everything is open air or else shoddily screened-in.
That Tropical Climate
Pros: It’s warm all year long, and picturesque palm trees abound. You’ll put on a sweatshirt when it gets below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and spend every other day at the beach.
Cons: You know how you can’t go indoors? You also can’t get away from the humidity. And neither can your electronics. Prepare to be slightly damp for the duration of your stay.
Inconsistent Internet and No TV or Cell Phone Service
Pros: This is not a problem for most hippies, and it allows ample time for other pursuits such as gardening, hiking, and painting. Getting away from screens feels good, and being “off the grid” might appeal to you.
Cons: It makes blogging difficult. Your family and friends might start to wonder where you are.
Pros: Drug culture is alive and well on farms around the world. If you’re into that, WWOOFing could offer a fun, safe environment for you.
Cons: If you’re not into that, you may start to wish you were. But seriously, while not all WWOOFers smoke/drink/dabble in psychedelics, if you’re not interested in being around that lifestyle, ask about a farm’s drug culture before moving there.
Pros: You’ll meet cool, new, like-minded people. Learn skills, adjust to your new home, and explore Hawai’i with them. Cook together in the communal kitchen, party with them — it’s like college without the studying, summer camp without the counselors!
Cons: Just because people are interested in living in Hawai’i and gardening doesn’t mean they share all your ideas and values. Be prepared for the problems that arise when sharing space with a large group of people — some people won’t clean up after themselves, others will hog the shower, others will blast the hippie soundscapes they call music at 8:00 am when you just want to drink your coffee in peace before spending 3 hours weeding, mulching, and flipping compost.
If I focused on the cons in this post, it’s only because they make for better punchlines.
I’m so grateful for the experiences I had on Maui and the farmily (!) I met there. I wholeheartedly recommend WWOOFing to anyone open to learning new skills, making new friends, and getting out of their comfort zone.
The experience won’t be without its “cons,” but only you can decide what those are. And, I’m sure the “pros” will make up for them.