We recently released a video about our experience with WWOOF, where we discussed all angles of our journey. If you haven’t watched it, we highly recommend it if you are seeking options and opportunities for learning a self-sustaining lifestyle.
But what I’m sharing today are some of the answers to questions that many have asked, and some have yet to ask.
You see, months ago, we shared with you our excitement about going off-grid and helping someone else with their mountain ranch. We talked about how we would be living on their land and learning new skills. In fact, it was going to be all about firsts for us in terms of experiences.
So, here we are several months later.
First of all, WHAT is off-grid?
It’s living in an area that does not have gridded utilities available and therefore, you have to supply your own utility sources. Cell phone, wifi and internet are not part of the definition, however there are some folks who live so remote off the grid, they have limited or NO access to these things.
HOW did we get off-grid?
We found an opportunity on the WWOOF site after spending time researching different farms and hosts.
WHAT is WWOOF?
WWOOF stands for World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers and is a place where farm owners, ranchers, homesteaders and land owners list ads for people to come and help them with their land to either share skills, teach a trade, take in free labor for projects and even provide retreat or commune type environments. The time frame can be for a few days to years and can include your children and, or pets depending upon the location. These landowners, or hosts, live all over the world and run anything from small personal plots of land to mega-million dollar ranches.
Different hosts provide different forms of payment or trade for work completed. Most offer 2-3 meals a day, or at a minimum of staple provisions such as meat, grains and vegetables from the garden. Most provide a place to live, either fully detached from the host or within their living quarters but some require you to bring your own ‘home’, such as an RV or trailer. These living conditions are often very primal when provided and are NOT necessarily intended for those who are seeking the amenities of normal homes.
Others offer additional means of payment, which may be access to produce to sell or working with non-advertised parts of the farm for personal use. Some have work hours congruent with daylight during the normal week where you work in tandem with others, some regular employees, while others just ask that you work on the projects they give you and manage the land as things require attention. I’ve actually seen a few they have very rigid schedules and require the wwoofers to be vegan and practice in group yoga and meditation (NOT something my husband and I even gave a consideration).
Essentially, this organization matches work needed with work offered for a trade. We paid for a membership which costs just under $70. The greatest takeaway is that YOU as the individual seeking work must do your due diligence in ensuring you ask all of the questions and the host member must do theirs to ensure they are crystal clear on the expectations and jobs they are asking folks to do.
There are so many horror stories about people showing up and being treated like indentured slaves. In fact, we watched one review of a young man who was essentially held hostage on the land and forced to shovel dog shit his entire time (NOT in the job description!!!!) and when a fellow wwoofer arrived, a female, the host told her she could do all his cooking and cleaning! She lasted 2 days and the guy stuck it out for a couple of weeks.
However, there are more stories of learning and skill acquisition than horror stories!
WHY did we decide to go?
That is a question we have answered countless times! From strangers to immediate family, when a person cannot process the freedoms of others, they start asking WHY. They become so bogged down with their own expectations they attach expected outcomes and behaviors, either vocally or energetically, to those doing it different.
We decided to make this journey because we were tired of dealing with people, noise, fake, visual clutter and the heat associated with living a ‘normal’ city life. Running two full-time businesses, maintaining a house that was really more of a motel-6 for which we had to play maid and maintenance and dealing with the governance of our lives dictated by others had taken its toll!
In one of our parting videos explaining our exit strategy, we had to pause because of an obnoxious mustang engine drowning out all sounds of nature. A perfect and timely example of what we were leaving.
In our town, my husband was tired of having to encounter the low-vibration and shallow communication of people and we were both tired of their demands, expectations and infiltrations into our space creating disharmony and conflict. People from his past walking into our home expecting, no DEMANDING he provide them with services became the norm and he was tired.
I was tired of the motorcycles jamming up my peace and loud neighbors having parties interrupting my sleep. I was tired of people staying past their welcome and bringing their agendas and conflicts into my space, creating conflicts for me and my spouse. I was tired of having to tell people to act appropriately!
The town we lived in was void of any natural beauty or resources. There was no recreation, no industry and no beautiful scenery to balance out the toxic and ignorant people. There were a handful of folks who we adored BUT they weren’t going to stay there forever and they had their own lives to live. The heat of the area was so excessive, with 8 months of stifling repressive baking and with the lack of nature, this migrated into the evening hours.
I mean, you couldn’t escape outdoors if you wanted to! I became depressed and actually suffered SAD in the summer months. Go figure. The energy of the town was toxic to our souls. We knew we needed to leave. He had planned on leaving about a decade prior to us getting married but the expectations of others held him back. Only once we began putting our minds to change did we begin to see that we deserved better.
HOW did we know we were ready?
This is a question that cannot be answered externally. Only YOU know if YOU are ready and willing. We had a person ask us this question who was a single mom with many kids and honestly, her question spawned some pretty harsh answers that are reality!
You are ready when you are ready. That’s it.
Do you have skills to live off of the grid? Do you have resources? Do you live a toxic lifestyle full of chemicals and medicines? Do you live a life of ill-health? Can you do auto maintenance? Can you repair roofs and fences? Can you run cattle off of the land? Can you chop wood and use a chainsaw? Can you carry water? I mean…the questions of capability are endless!!!!
We were ready, capable and knowledgeable. We were tired of dealing with droves of ignorant people and their baggage, their inappropriate interactions and their time-sucking behaviors. We minimized our life, sold off junk and created a lifestyle conducive to opportunity.
We knew once the opportunity presented itself, we were ready.
WHERE to go?
WWOOFing is a world-wide organization so our options were endless. However, our reality was that neither of us had passports to leave the country (imagine that…you aren’t really FREE if you have to pay for and apply for permission to travel, not to mention the crazy information and exact process you must follow just to get accepted!!!) and although I had an expired passport, my husband was not going to participate in another governmental song and dance performance of control!
We traveled a bit and had explored areas and climates we enjoyed. We knew we hated heat and we were tired of humid hot oppressive summers. We also knew -70 winters were not motivating! We drew a line across the middle part of the US and said HERE!!! We will live anywhere across HERE.
So we looked on a map of the United States.
Therefore, when the opportunity, the region and the perfect match for us as a husband and wife based on what we desired appeared, we were able to take it.
HOW did you select the perfect match?
A perfect match is really a fantasy. No marriages are fairy tale so what’s to make someone believe they have found the perfect opportunity? What is perfect, anyway? It’s a highly subjective unattainable marker for judgment and expectation!
So for us, we were looking for an opportunity that fit our MUSTS HAVES, our boundaries and possibly some of our extras or bonus exchanges.
We had responded to 3-4 dozen farms on the WWOOFing sight, some responding and some not. This occurred after ferreting through hundreds of profiles and opportunities. It was easy to mark off of our list the options that did not appeal to us.
This included using filters to remove things like:
Animal work only (Some livestock ok, but mostly interested in self sustaining food animals and work affiliated)
Southern tier environments
Vegans only (We eat meat. We love meat)
Rigid schedules or 7 day workweek
Mandatory daily meetings/practices/commune (No cults. No communes. No controlling hosts. No requirements to hedge us. Live and let live experiences only)
Taking care of domestic animals (NOT looking to take care of dogs or cats etc. Food source animals were a yes).
Outside of the US
Harsh climates or extreme cold or heat
Short term commitments (We needed long-term optimally 2-3 years)
No pets allowed (Our dog is our family)
Allowed kids (We aren’t kid friendly!)
Didn’t provide separate lodging (we weren’t interested in living IN the host’s home…we wanted to maintain our separate life as a married couple)
Didn’t provide food
Required health insurance
Long workdays (We were looking for 4 hours a day 5 days a week to compensate for a small living space and some food).
Had other employees on site or required socializing on a regular basis (Not looking for communal arrangements)
We wanted to work on building projects and some gardening. We were open to some small livestock, such as goats, chickens, meat rabbits or a single dairy cow. We wanted to be in a temperate climate. We wanted to take care of basic functional maintenance, assist or build project structures and grow food.
We were hopeful we would learn skills, knowledge and wisdom affiliated with off-grid remote lifestyles either directly through personal first-time experience OR being taught from the wisdom of the experienced.
Some of the respondents were tacky, sketchy and even omissive energetically. We knew they were NOT for us. There were a handful of legitimate opportunities that appealed to us. One in particular that we felt drawn to in terms of our needs and desires.
A husband and wife team living off grid part time who needed a husband and wife team to take care of their off grid property when they were gone (maintenance) while fulfilling a few project requirements for self-sustainability (chicken coop, chickens, green house, raised beds, teepee, winter wood, fencing repair and water line maintenance) showed up in our filtered suggestions. Their ad had been on the site for a long time so we reached out.
Within 6 months, we had spoken on the phone a few times, took a 5 day trip to their property to meet and experience what life would look like during one of the harsh seasons and had a conversation about what to expect.
After private discussions on both ends, we set a date for 5 months away. We closed our businesses. Sold off all of our material possessions minus a few necessary items including furniture, business equipment, appliances and everything we had that did not conform to an off-grid life.
And that is how we selected our hosts.
WHAT has the experience been like?
Because we are still living on their property, I cannot summarize the whole WWOOFing experiencing. What I can say is that it has been MORE than we could have ever imagined in terms of being what we wanted and needed.
The husband and wife team has their own life and needed a couple of self-starters to just jump in and start. They had their own business a few hours away and do not have the time to be present for us most of the time. We are blessed to have them accessible for questions and concerns, and of course for social opportunities when they are on property. They provided materials and an idea of what they want and we provided labor. There was also the opportunity for additional help in managing extra large projects. A win-win match 100%.
The hosts were super generous in terms of allowing us to live our life on their land as if it was ours as well. They opened their acreage and its resources to us, encouraging us to connect to all of the land as if it was part of us. The flowers, the animals, the food, the views and the magic!
They allowed us to document our experiences….and yes, we obtained permission before we committed and explained to them we maintained a vlog and blog. One of our first YouTube videos included our hosts (with their permission) in a very real off-grid experience that we could expect once we moved here full-time.
Of course, their privacy was of the utmost importance, so we hedged our experience slightly to prevent them from having to be identified. We had to use creative words both impromptu and in writing to maintain respect for their privacy. Respect was critical in this aspect.
The hosts have been generous with providing food such as greens, fruits and tea and some meats, as listed in the ad as well. Not that we are focused on an ad, but the fact they ARE WHO THEY SAY THEY ARE was total refreshment in light of some of the reviews and experiences other wwoofers had put out there.
Our arrangement as project builders and caretakers is working beautifully and we have been here 3 full months! We have 98% accomplished two projects and are approximately 75% done with the third, all of which were specifically listed in the advertisement.
The work is not easy, but we knew that coming in. Patiences and adaptation are the two major aspects of the experience. However, it is FULLY rewarding and the stresses are very little in comparison to city life! We’ve learned many new skills, had many new experiences and have grown as a couple exponentially!!!! And we are still growing, learning, adapting and experiencing.
We live remotely and minimalistically. We stay dirty and happy, like little children. Our belly’s are full. Our hearts are open. Our muscles are activated.
We aren’t missing out on anything.
HOW do you live?
Like everyone else!
We brought our own solar panels to provide electricity for the minimal needs we have. We boil water for heated needs and we have a filter for our drinking needs. We use an outhouse, but I have a chamber pot for nighttime. We haul our trash to the dump once every few weeks. We bathe from a bowl in a sink, but have access to heated showers when the water system is flowing freely (weather and season dependent). We have some refrigeration and freezer access away from the cabin, so we can purchase limited amounts of bulk meats and store them. This allows us to have access to some cold items. Cooking in the summer is on a propane stove we brought with us. In the winter, we have a wood stove that serves as our heater and a small oven as well.
Growing food is a little more challenging because of water access, soil and wildlife. However, as part of our journey, we are absolutely learning the ins and outs of the growing process and have implemented many strategies…some that are effective, and some that are not. As soon as we finish the green house project, we will be able to extend the growing experience not only by length BUT as a means to prevent many external attacks on the crops themselves.
We live perfectly and have everything we NEED.
WHEN do you rest?
We have the opportunity to rest and enjoy the land daily. Because our hosts are generous of heart and giving of resources, we are able to sit after a day’s work and absorb the beauty. We can nap if we desire. We can take a day or three to get away and enjoy some of the opportunities of the local or nearby area.
We have taken a few day trips just to enjoy the beauty of the area and some local ice cream! Those experiences will only grow as my husband and I feel more confident with being able to break away and explore nature both off the property and on.
HOW do you generate income for food and incidentals?
This is different for everyone. As part of exiting mainstream society, we had to exit mainstream income sources. I run an online fitness and wellness business that provides enough income for frugal necessities. The only bills we have are auto insurance and cell service.
I am still growing my online business and we are expanding our online presence through YouTube, Podcasts, Instagram, Facebook and even our WordPress Blog. Three months ago, we didn’t have the presence we have today. It’s a full-time effort on my part to ensure we are generating income so often times, I am working on our business while he is working on a project. Patience and adaptation!
Those are the highlights of our WWOOFING experience and our transition into the off-grid life.
If you have followed our journey since day one, you will know we live on someone else’s property and are experiencing so many firsts at the gratitude of our hosts who openly and generously share their land and resources with us.
As a WWOOFer, I would say the experience is not cookie cutter and there are many horror stories on both sides of the coin involving WWOOFers. It’s imperative to know your limits, expectations and needs prior to even reaching out to a potential WWOOFer or host.
The beauty is that when matched as closely as possible, the opportunity becomes a pleasant experience and one they opens doorways for personal growth.
We don’t know how long we will be here, but the commitment to long-term is part of our agreement. We are learning skills that will help us once we purchase our own property as well as learning the resources of the land and how we will deal with different environments and situations.
If you are exploring options for making the leap to off-grid, I would recommend adding the WWOOFing website to your energies of exploration.
It’s been a beautiful marriage for us this far and the gains have been exponential!