Nearly 50 percent of all Canadians spend time volunteering at least once a year.
But many more likely would if they knew that they could stay in an exotic location for free in exchange for their volunteer work.
That's exactly what WWOOF has to offer. In exchange for work on an organic farm, volunteers get room and board, and the chance to enjoy the culture and beauty of the farm and the local people.
However, as with any travel, it can be dangerous for a number of reasons. You could get hurt and rack up medical bills, or you could lose out on your investment for one reason or another.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about WWOOF, and why you should get travel insurance before you go.
What Is WWOOFing?
If you're just starting to plan your big summer adventure, you might not know what WWOOFing is quite yet.
WWOOFing refers to individuals who choose to participate in WWOOF. The acronym WWOOF stands for "World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms."
WWOOF is a volunteer program that encourages individuals to work on organic farms and learn about the culture and importance of sustainable farming methods.
In exchange for their work, WWOOFers get free room and board. This includes their housing and utility costs during their stay. Depending on the host farm, it may also include some or all of their meals.
WWOOFers get to learn about what it's like to live and work on a farm. Farmers educate them on organic agriculture methods and why they are so important. Volunteers also learn about the culture of the region or country where the organic farm is located.
What Kind of Farming Is Included?
WWOOF farms only have to be organic; the type of farm isn't a strict requirement. This means that the farm could specialize in beekeeping and producing honey, winemaking, vegetables, or any other type of farming.
WWOOF started in the UK. The acronym originally stood for "Working Weekends on Organic Farms." The program was designed to get city dwellers out into the country on weekends, in exchange for work on farms.
Today, there are more than 2,000 farms around the world that are participating in WWOOF.
How Does WWOOFing Work?
Anyone over the age of 18 can participate in WWOOF. In the U.S. and a few other nations, those under 18 can still participate, just as long as a parent or legal guardian participates as well.
Participants must first go online and register with a WWOOF organization in their country After applying for membership and being accepted, you'll then be able to view farms, community gardens, and other properties that are participating in WWOOF.
From there, you can contact a host farm that you are interested in working with and talk with them about the details of their farm. Farm responsibilities, work hours, and accommodations vary from one farm to the next.
Once you come to an agreement with a farmer, you can start your adventure! You'll be responsible for paying to travel to the farm. Then, in exchange for work, you'll receive your lodging and often food as well.
Typically, volunteers work between 4 and 6 hours a day. In your free time, you can explore the surrounding area, learn about the culture, or explore other aspects of the farm.
Most volunteers stay at their chosen farms for between 2 and 3 weeks. But those stays can be as short as 2 days for those short on time, or as long as 6 months.
Why Do You Need Travel Insurance Before WWOOFing?
While WWOOFing can be a great, inexpensive way to travel to new and exciting places, it isn't without its risks. Just like going on a high-adventure vacation or even a laid-back cruise, the unexpected can wreak havoc on your plans.
If you don't have travel insurance, you could be stuck paying to alter those plans, get medical treatment, or otherwise get back home.
There are an endless number of reasons to buy travel insurance prior to your trip, but these are 5 of the most important ones to keep in mind before you start WWOOFing.
1. Travel to and From WWOOF Locations Can Be Expensive
WWOOFing can be a great way to experience foreign countries and new cultures on a budget. Having your room and board covered could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on the length of your stay and where you choose to visit.
Plus, you'll get to experience the local culture in ways that you would never see if you chose to stay in a hotel or resort.
But unless you plan on volunteering at a local farm, you'll likely be shelling out some money to get to your chosen location.
This can include pricey plane tickets and bus transfer or plane tickets to get you from the airport to the region where the farm is located. You'll also need luggage, and possibly hotel stays before or after your WWOOF session.
If you miss your flight, get sick back home and can't travel, or your initial flight gets canceled and you can't make your connections or utilize your booked hotels, you could be out hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Travel insurance will protect your investment so that you can get your money back or reschedule your trip if something gets in the way.
2. Farm Work Can Sometimes Be Dangerous
As a WWOOF volunteer, you'll perform simple, easy-to-learn tasks around the farm. The program is designed for individuals with no farm experience. If you do have a certain skill set, your farmer might have you perform more advanced work.
But on a farm, as in any working environment that involves animals, tools, and machinery, accidents happen.
While travel insurance won't cover extreme sports like paragliding, it will cover many of the tasks you could be performing on the farm.
You could trip in a field and sprain or even break your ankle. You could cut yourself on a piece of farm equipment. You could get bit by an animal or stung by an insect and experience an allergic reaction.
When these things happen, you'll want to ensure that you have medical coverage to get you the treatment that you need.
Even if you have medical insurance in your home country, it won't do you much good in a foreign location. And having a medical emergency overseas can be very expensive without insurance.
Travel medical insurance will help ensure that you don't rack up thousands in medical expenses that you'll be stuck paying for once you get back home.
3. Many Farms are Off the Grid or in Rural Areas
While getting treated in a hospital in a country that you aren't a citizen of is expensive, it's nothing compared to having to be medevac to a hospital.
Many WWOOF farms in foreign countries are located in rural areas or are even off the grid. This means that the nearest hospital could be hours away by car or bus.
When you need medical attention fast, your only option may be to get air-lifted to the nearest hospital. That couple of thousand dollars medical bill from a hospital visit could suddenly become tens of thousands of dollars.
It isn't just accidents on the farm that can cause a medical emergency. If you have an underlying medical condition, whether you know about it or not, it could also land you in the hospital.
4. There are Plenty of Opportunities to Lose Your Passport
From your travel to get to your farm to the shared living space and plenty of day trips in your off time, you'll be faced with an endless number of opportunities to lose your passport.
And if you travel to cities or busy urban areas when you're not working on the farm, you may even run the risk of having your passport stolen.
If this happens, you'll be stuck rushing to get a replacement from your nearest embassy. This will cost you, especially if you need to get a replacement as soon as possible. Travel insurance with coverage for a lost passport will cover those costs and get you a replacement fast.
5. Natural Disasters Can Alter Travel Plans
Sometimes it isn't within your control to make your travel plans.
If a natural disaster strikes during the time when you were supposed to be traveling, you'll likely get refunds from hotels and airlines.
But if a natural disaster occurs weeks or months before, the farm you were supposed to be working at might not be operational quite yet. Unfortunately, you'll still be on the hook for those flights and other travel arrangements. When you get to your location, you'll no longer have your farm to stay at, forcing you to pay for accommodations.
A natural disaster or fire can occur at home as well, keeping you from traveling.
If you have travel insurance, you can get a refund on your travel plans so that you can reschedule and still enjoy your organic farming adventure!
Finding the Right Travel Insurance for Your Summer Adventure
Finding the right travel insurance for your WWOOFing adventure can help keep you safe and allow you to protect your investment.
You can travel and enjoy your stay without worrying about paying for a medical emergency. You can rest assured that if your travel plans have to change because of a natural disaster or other covered cause, you'll get your money back so you can reschedule.
If you're still not convinced about why travel insurance is so important, check out these reasons you need it next.