Travel Does Not Cure Anxiety.

travel anxiety

Backpacking is booking a flight to Bali on a whim, dreaming of The Yoga Barn and walking through the Monkey Forest. Everyone at the yoga retreat in Cambodia encouraged a trip to Bali. Your mom wants you to go. You haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love, but you know a thing about heartbreak and could use a chat with a monk and a juice cleanse. Your Instagram following could use a boost and what’s $3 a night for accommodation? Sigh. Shrug. Pleasant ‘mmm.’

Backpacking is uncontrollable sobbing in your hostel dorm, sending a flurry of contradictory messages to people who are on the other side of the world, who are ready to go to bed or go out for the night. Something, which you’ve been sure was ‘hormones’ the past two days, has a grip on each of your lungs and each of your eyes, relentless. You’re out of balance and out of control and wondering at what point you’re going to have to accept your personal definition of “failure” and book the flight back home.

Backpacking is both of these events happening at the same time.

Continue reading “Travel Does Not Cure Anxiety.”

This Isn’t Just a Story.

“I got into this business because I love stories. They comfort us, they inspire us, they create a context for how we experience the world, but also you have to be careful because if you spend a lot of time with stories, you start to believe that life is just stories. And it’s not. Life is life. And that’s so … sad … because there’s so little time … and what are we doing with it?”

Princess Carolyn opens the Season 4 finale of Bojack Horseman with these questions. If you wait too long to hit the pause button, you’re quickly ushered away from the drama by the ridiculousness of the adult cartoon, which features a wild amount of animal puns and some of the most devastating plot lines I’ve watched on television. I’ve already talked my coworkers’ ears off about the pure genius of this television show, so I’ll spare you.

Continue reading “This Isn’t Just a Story.”

Weird Ways to Make Money As a Writer

I’ve got an exciting update: Andrew and I have planned our route! We’re doing a circle for about 5 1/2 weeks, hitting Bangkok, Koh Phagnan, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Dalat, Chiang Mai, and Pai. Phew!

Having this part of the planning completed has revealed the reality of other parts of the trip for me. Namely, oh my god I have to go fly to Australia and get a job and not run out of money but maybe stay in Southeast Asia for a bit first and get a job I need to get a job it has been 2 weeks since my last full-time job oh my god. 

Continue reading “Weird Ways to Make Money As a Writer”

Turning Fear Into Gratitude

It would be too simple to say that I’m scared of the dark, but let’s go for it.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve spent hours in bed awake at night, fearing that someone would break into my home while my eyes were still open. This fear has followed me into many spaces, including my apartment when I’m home alone and my childhood home that had multiple stories. I know these fears are not irrational – they feel quite silly to admit – but my fear has started to get in the way of how I want to live my life. (I make eight hours of sleep a priority, and I can’t achieve that when I’m tossing and turning, worrying about how much I’ll be worrying when I’m camping or sleeping in strange hostel beds in stranger countries.)

On one of my more recent adventures, fear latched onto my heart, brain, and body, while I was camping in Mississippi. Just picture this. You’ve set up camp around 10 P.M. without seeing a soul as you drive into the campsite. There’s a lit bathroom across the path, and an RV displaying hanging lights in the distance, but the rest of your vision is unpopulated. There’s no cell phone service, either. I don’t think it’s outlandish to say that I had shaking fears for hours of getting murdered.

Again, I know that my fears, to a point, are rational. I don’t assume that my fears are unique or speak to anxiety that particularly needs attention. As I picture my death and obituary, or picture being face-to-face with someone who wants to break into my home and cause me harm, I constantly tell myself that I’m thinking irrationally. I don’t do anything irrational due to my fears. (I’ve dragged my boyfriend to sleep in his car, rather than a tent, only once.) I’m writing about fear because I think it presents an interesting opportunity to have gratitude.

I really should be grateful for my health, the sunrise, and all that I have been given, every single day, without a reminder. We all should…but that’s not always how we see things. Gratitude can be tricky: it usually takes a misfortune for anyone to pay attention to the positive things we’ve been given. Often, we are grateful only after we’ve compared our lives or situations to others…something that is otherwise an ineffective and dangerous thing to do.

While I work on taming these fears to the point where I’m only momentarily scared of an axe murderer in an otherwise peaceful and beautiful campsite, I’ve added a new mantra when I get especially nervous or afraid.

“Tomorrow’s sunrise will be so beautiful.” 

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I thought of this mantra once afternoon when I had quite the headache after trying a headstand and could not stop thinking about internal bleeding in my brain (bear with me here.) I can’t use a mantra that will outright tell my brain that my fears are wrong; it’s not going to be effective. So I’ve decided to slide in a positive message between every few thoughts. This message is not only positive, but it travels into the next day. The mantra sets me up for a morning of gratitude. Gratitude, as I’ve learned recently, is an absolutely refreshing way to start off the day.

I woke up in Mississippi to a sunrise over a lake near our campsite that was new to us in the daylight. My sun salutations were charged with gratitude. Rather than rolling my eyes at worrying over absolutely nothing, I was able to start my morning off on a positive, humble, thankful note.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m still working on taming my fears. After all, my future plans involve traveling across the world alone (again) and eventually making a bus or a campervan my home. So let’s figure this out together. What are your mantras when you’re scared? How do you handle anxiety in the dark? Let me know in the comments!!

Thank you for reading. Namaste!

January 15, 2017.

I apologize if this post reads as frantic or a bit rushed.

I’ve been pressuring myself to share the moment I’m living in with you; there’s no Beat Broke Backpacking without my loved ones, faraway friends, and anyone who stumbles upon this blog for whatever reason. The past few weeks I’ve been challenged to think about why I want to go further with this project. What are my intentions? What am I willing to compromise? Can I sum my mission for Beat Broke Backpacking up in a sentence? How has that changed?

(More on that below.)

I have also felt pressured to share because each moment disappears so quickly. Since the New Year, I’ve hit so many turning points that I need something for nausea.

I’m writing this from yoga teacher training (we’re on lunch break.) I could go on and on in additional posts about my love for yoga (and I will, and I have) but I’ll have to focus.

You know that beautiful feeling when you realize you’re actually taking the action you’ve been dreaming up for months, years, etc.? That was present in every moment and every pose during my first flow of my first class. Since I’ve moved to Austin I’ve been saving for this training by working two jobs (one was always full-time.) In hindsight, I could have flipped my thinking into appreciating every moment heading to and from work as taking action toward my daydreams, but hindsight’s 20/20. Every moment from now until July I’ll be taking action toward the big plan (or lack thereof) my thoughts have drummed up since I got back from backpacking in September 2015.

My best friend and I purchased plane tickets to Bangkok that leave on July 5. His ticket is roundtrip and mine is one-way. After six weeks backpacking around Southeast Asia, he’s going back to work. The pages in my planner are left blank.

I would still be doing teacher training if I planned on putting a down payment on a house in Austin and staying here for my foreseeable future. But I’ve known for a while that this training is going to take me across continents. Yoga is everywhere, and it serves as the one form of universal expression I am comfortable using to connect with and show my love for everyone I meet.

I don’t want to have set plans for after Andrew leaves Asia; maybe I’ll hit up all of the places I will hear about in hostels, maybe I’ll stay in Bangkok, maybe that’s when I’ll head to Australia.

I am almost finished applying for my working holiday visa…where I hear they have quite a decent market for yoga.

Up until now this post is anti-climactic; I’m going to Asia aaaaaand…then what?

That’s why I’m going to revisit this blog. I won’t be posting every week again at first…I’m still working 55 hours a week on top of teacher training. But I want to make myself vulnerable and share my plans for BBB. I write full-time. I would like to use BBB as a project and experiment with making it a full-time job, while still keeping the integrity of what I want to share and promote. I want to explore making a career out of writing, out of traveling, out of being a travel writer. The moment I first picked up travel guides I knew it was possible to pursue my passions and make it a living. So I’m going to give it a try.

Buying my plane ticket to Asia was not as scary as writing this post because in July, it’s pretty set in stone that I’ll be on that plane. (Andrew and I even got seats next to each other after a hot mess of trying to book through different sites.) Trying to manifest my vision for this blog is terrifying because there is so much gray area. What will I consider “successful?” Can a blog that I completely control even “fail?” I know what the end result should look like, but I don’t even know how to begin.

The road ahead is foggy. I’ve been told to expect a lot of rain in July in Southeast Asia. But I’ve made a promise to myself since the beginning of teacher training that I would appreciate each moment and my effort to run (work, stand, fold, plank, downward dog, whatever) toward this new adventure.

So I move forward.

Tiptoeing Back into Traveling: Post New Orleans Ramblings

In the past few months, while being jostled around by family reunions and summer vacations, I’ve been greedily collecting ideas, plans, maps, and dreams. Rather than a fire burning or a star bursting, I’ve been feeling like a box inside of me was shrinking, and I was stuffing more into it:

things I wanted to discuss in a coffee shop

projects I wanted to start now

phrases and ramblings and pictures.

These ideas, not being unleashed, were beginning to feel stale.

I’ve learned the only solution this is to stuff a bag full of clothes and notebooks, and head to somewhere fresh.

I spent a blink of an eye in New Orleans. I was able to wander through the cemeteries and fall in love (again) with a city that demands your attention to experience both an otherworldly presence and very real history. From the moment I walked into the Museum District, the soft pain and spooky intrigue of New Orleans that I had fell in love with while reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles last summer jumped in front of me like one of the many blaring saxophone solos I jumped for on Frenchman Street.

The words in Chronicles that defined New Orleans for me faded away and I replaced them with discussions, stories, and permanent words scribbled into a notebook over a French market crepe or quiet moment at Greenwood cemetery.

(Backpacking stories, hostel whisperings, local and tourist recommendations alike.)

These stories are not familiar, and the words become rearranged in every city you visit.

Hostel residents tend to tell the same story, but with a new twist every time. Where-you-headed-next and where-have-you-beens were exchanged, and as usual, I felt the simultaneous groan and a smile that comes from adding a new destination to my mental bucket list (this time, Costa Rica won out as the top dream.)

Quick run-ins and small chats brought your world in close with a tight squeeze and shrunk your story to a quick flip of a few pages.

The bartender at the shack whose name you hear whispered through the grapevine will tell you your future, finally humoring you until you’ve exhausted the thoughts that have been tumbling in your head about where to move and the pain you’ve felt looking at the artists giving it a go in the corners of galleries around the city.

The tarot reader in Jackson Square will tell you what she sees in your face and what you’re aching for in your bones. You’re hit with a smack in the face once you pop out of the bubble of introversion to discuss her cards, realizing your future is yours to write anyway, you don’t even remember her name.

 . . .

I write these words as I sit on a Megabus seat bumping through Texas. I’m reflecting on my trip, my gratitude, and I feel my energy being restored. Anyone who asks me if I’m an introvert while in a crowd of people will see the bashful answer on my face before I say, “Oh yeah.” I have to be alone to fill up. I opted out of my reserved seat on the Megabus today (a loss of a whole $1) to find a spot where I wouldn’t be surrounded by people. As I flew through the jobs on my to-do list (giving me the illusion I was flying through Louisiana,) I felt restored back to full.

My assignments for the day are done. My time in New Orleans has drawn to a gentle close, like finishing a good book with a long exhale, putting it back on your bookshelf with great care and knowing that in the future, you’ll revisit it once more with fresh eyes and a great yearning for a different interpretation of the story. It’s time to head back to “real life” now, with a clear mind and a refreshed determination to finally build my “what’s next.”

To Pittsburgh

(photo via visualize.us)

I travel, I read, and I learn new things so that I can write. I don’t write a whole lot of fiction, but in the beginning of this past school year I stepped immensely out of my comfort zone to take three creative writing classes. In my introduction to fiction class our big assignment was a 2,500 word story that would be read and critiqued by the whole class. Months later, I am still working on mine. It’s out of my comfort zone to share my writing but I’m also two weeks away from stepping in new countries with new cultures, new foods, and new languages. I might as well get used to doing things that may seem a little uncomfortable. Anyway, here’s To Pittsburgh. It’s about a train ride.

To Pittsburgh

The train ride from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh would take around five or six hours; something like that. I didn’t care. I just wanted to have two seats to myself. I had a little suitcase for a travel companion, and I wanted to give it a seat. I didn’t want to sit next to anyone; I didn’t want to put in that much effort as a human being. I would have to sit up a little straighter, and keep my legs together, and sit closer to the window, and maybe talk to them. I would have to at least acknowledge their existence. For five hours. This was no subway ride. I had had two hours of sleep the night before. My plan was to sleep as soon as the conductor gave me a ticket; I didn’t know how much the train actually was.

I was able to find a seat toward the back with plenty of leg room and an extra seat for my suitcase. This wasn’t a crowded train. This made me happy. I couldn’t find my headphones that morning, but I had always been good at sleeping on public transportation. I had an early morning train; sleeping would be a breeze.

Twenty minutes after our departure, I heard the woman next to me sighing the word, “Fuck.” Audibly. Loud and clear. “Fuuuuuck.” Like a country rooster in the morning. I was startled into looking in her direction, but I quickly tried to pretend I was just looking behind me. She had bright colors in her hair, makeup smudged around her face, and black clothes on. She looked like a mess. She had four different piercings in her face. I felt her looking toward me.

Please don’t say anything to me. Please don’t say anything to me.

I knew how these things went. I had been taking public transportation in Philadelphia for the past few months. Eye contact is the number one catalyst for trouble. They’ll ask you for money. They’ll make some odd comment and you have to respond because you feel obligated and then you look like you’re with the crazy person and you get off the subway at a stop that’s before your stop and you have to walk. The last thing I wanted was to be her therapist, or for her to ask me for money. I actually didn’t have a lot of money with me this time. She looked like she was on drugs, and we had a long ride without any stops. I didn’t want to walk to Pittsburgh. I closed my eyes, as if that would stop her. I thought I was in the clear; she didn’t speak directly to me. But five minutes later, she let out a second audible sigh. Five minutes later, another, and she was reduced to a wordless sigh yet another five minutes later. Her phone buzzed. It buzzed again. It buzzed a third time, and then a fourth. The grey flip phone was lying on the seat next to her. I don’t know why it took so long for her to pick it up. We’re on public transportation, after all. It was a little rude. It buzzed again. She picked it up. The conversation began.

I wish I had taken the extra ten minutes to search for my headphones before I left for the train station. I could have skipped my nap earlier in the day. I could have played a little less Candy Crush. I could have had some self-control. I didn’t have self-control and I didn’t have headphones, so I listened to the sweet sounds of the woman next to me. I couldn’t understand much because she talked in slurs. She was begging, I thought. “I’ll have it. I’ll have it. Don’t worry. Can you….Could you…I got it. I got it.” Et cetera. She hung up the phone. Five minutes later, her sigh escalated to a moan. “Fuuuuck.” I didn’t think she was going to stop any time soon.

I wondered how many people on the train were hearing this. I tried to look at the positive side of this situation. If I had to talk to any other passengers, at least I didn’t have to come up with what to say. I had material. Ninety percent of my interactions with strangers on public transportation were spurred by the ridiculousness of other strangers on public transportation. If the seats of the train worked like the seats of the subway, I could make eye contact with the other passengers. The other passengers and I would exchange snarky glances, maybe make a joke under our breaths, laugh, and feel relief for a minute.

Instead, the passenger in front of her decided to scream. I jumped in my seat. It was a long scream, drawn out and not expressing any emotion in particular. He didn’t scream any particular word. It continued. It was louder than the moans. Sometimes they were in sync, and there was a few seconds of silence I could enjoy. Sometimes, when he ended his scream, she was still moaning. I wasn’t sure why the guy was screaming. After ten minutes, I had had enough. The moaning woman didn’t catch me off guard; she just annoyed me. I figured at some point she would stop. Screaming was a little much. I started to develop a headache.

Where was the conductor? Shouldn’t he be concerned?

I stood up and looked to where the guy was screaming. His head was in his hands. He had a nice watch. He was also sitting alone. Most of the passengers suffering with me were sitting alone. About 20 passengers were squished up against their own windows. No two people sat together except a toddler and her mother, in the very front seat. The toddler was pulling on the mother’s shirt, the mother sat in silence, looking out the window. I felt awkward watching this interaction. I was never good with kids. No one was paying attention to the toddler, or moaning woman, or the screaming guy with the nice watch. A few people had headphones, and a few people were napping. I’m not sure how people managed to fall asleep.

A young man a few rows in front of me stole my attention. He had greasy hair, and it was flying back and forth. He was hitting his head against the back of the seat. It was a slow process; he would lean forward, take the time to mumble something to himself, and then whip his head back against the seat. This train ride was getting slightly out of hand.

I looked at my small suitcase, and thought about moving cars. I thought about yelling for the conductor. My phone buzzed. My mom had sent me a text: “How are you feeling?” How was I feeling? I felt dizzy. I felt heavy. I sat down. The screaming continued, the moaning continued, the toddler continued to try and get her mother’s attention, and the young man continued to hit his head against the back of his seat.

I heard a short rip of fabric. Then a longer rip, and then a longer rip. I picked myself up and lifted my head just high enough to see over the seat. The man in front of me wore a three-piece suit, and his briefcase was open. Out of the briefcase he had pulled a pocketknife, with which he carved the initials “T.L.” I thought for a second that he had wonderful calligraphy skills. I sat down in my seat.

I heard footsteps. I thought the footsteps that were coming up the aisle had to be the conductor. Relief. The footsteps quickened, and when they passed me I realized it was a teenage girl. She had the Uggs, she had the big earrings, and she had the tight leggings. She walked up to the front of the car, and turned around. She started. “I’mgoingtodieI’mgoingtodieI’mgoingtodie,” she said all the way down the car. She was fanning herself. “It’stoohotIt’stoohotIt’stoohotIt’stoohot.” I watched her pace. I had seen these before. My mom used to have panic attacks. Once I hugged her to try and calm her down. It didn’t calm her down. She did fine when she was left alone, so I left the girl in the aisle alone.

The guy behind me started punching the back of my seat. The first few times he did it, my back flew forward a little bit. I was able to get an idea of his rhythm and brace myself for when it was going to happen. This guy was punching as hard as he could.

The backs of our seats were plastic. I turned around to face him. He was young, probably 22. His Pearl Jam t-shirt hung off of his scrawny frame and his face was all scrunched up. His face was bright red. He turned his eyes to me, panting, looking desperate for something, frustrated. I thought about saying something to him. I really wanted to say something to him. I wanted to tell him that he should punch the cushion he was leaning on. His knuckles would start bleeding if he kept punching the plastic. I thought that maybe he wanted his knuckles to bleed. I kept my mouth shut.

I wished he had a punching bag. That’s what I always used.

I only used the punching bag in college. I lived in a house with two girls, three guys. They were all nice and we were all friends, but they were also all friends with my girlfriend, and then ex-girlfriend, who continued to hang around the house all the time after we broke up. She had known my roommates longer than she had known me, so it was hard to ask them to hang out with her somewhere else. I hated seeing her after we broke up, though. She would pretend that nothing was wrong, hoping that she could convince our friends that everything ended ok. It didn’t. Whenever she would come over, I would stay in my room. It was soundproof, and I would punch the shit out of the punching bag I had hanging from the ceiling. I had installed the punching bag after I had punched two holes in the wall. It was a Christmas gift from my mom. I never pretended my ex was the punching bag or anything; I’m not abusive. I never was. I never thought of it, not even when she cheated on me. She cried to my roommate about it once. I heard her while I was in passing by his room. My roommate didn’t tell her I was in the house. They never told her how often she was over and I was upstairs, punching that punching bag.

A week ago I got the news that she had been killed in a car accident. The driver was drunk. My ex didn’t deserve to die. The train ride was the day before her funeral. It was going to be held near campus. I hadn’t been back to visit since I had graduated. She had come to Philly for business about a year ago. I tried to meet up with her. Our plans fell through. I had overdrawn my account so I could go to this funeral. I had taken my last sick day. I would be staying with my old roommate. He had a toddler. I would be staying in the toddler’s room. I was never good with kids.

I didn’t pack much. I brought a box from when I was dating my ex, though: one of those boxes with all of your memories in them. I wanted to bury it. I wanted to burn it. I wanted to take it back with me to Philadelphia. I was going to Pittsburgh for her fucking funeral. I hugged the box to my chest and folded into my knees. A few minutes later, I felt a hand on my back. I turned my head to see the conductor of the train sitting in my empty seat.

Now he comes. Now.

The conductor said nothing. He ignored everyone else on this godforsaken train. I looked at his eyes, which fixated on the box with a gloomy stare. I opened the box. The first thing I saw was a little bottle of shampoo. It was hotel-sized. We stayed in a hotel at some point. I rolled the shampoo around in my hand. 

Cleveland. Her cousin’s wedding. Why the hell would you have your fucking wedding in Cleveland?

I stood up and threw the little shampoo across the train. The shampoo bounced off the front of the car and fell in the aisle, where it began to roll forward. It felt great. It felt like a good punch to the punching bag. I looked at the conductor, still sitting next to me, eyes staring ahead, head hung. I looked again in the box. As long as he wasn’t saying anything, I was going to keep throwing. My turn.

I saw was a pile of handwritten notes. I didn’t read them. I crumpled them up in a ball, and lobbed it into the aisle, like I would at my cat. Tiny sample of her perfume in a glass box: chucked. Smashed. It probably smelled horrible. I wondered if perfume expired. I ripped pictures. I stomped on ticket stubs. The conductor got up at one point, but I was never sure if it was before or after I took out a picture of us, in a tiny frame, and watched it drop to the floor. I was in the zone.

Smash. 

I was still standing, squinting to identify every little piece of glass on the floor. I examined their shape. I tried to figure out which pieces they would go with, if I wanted to put them all together in a very sad puzzle. I counted every piece. At 12, a woman three rows in front of me started to sob loudly. I counted every piece, and I’ve forgotten the total number.

I might have stood there for five minutes. I might have stood there for an hour. At one point, the floor was blurry. At another point, we received an announcement from the conductor, saying we were 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. I sat down and put the empty box in my bag. The sobbing in front of me stopped. The screaming turned into heavy breathing. The punching stopped. The teenage girl was already sitting in her seat. The train was calm.

We pulled into the station and everyone quietly exited the train. The conductor looked at us one by one, motionless. When he looked at me, my jaw fell and I couldn’t speak. That was okay with the conductor. I saw my old roommate and his toddler. I gave each of them a hug.

I looked in my wallet. I realized I had never paid for a ticket.

“How are you going to do all that?” Creating The Bucket List

Four months until I touch down in London….and then…..

I have vague ideas of how long my first trip to Europe is going to last. I have a lot of things to check off my bucket list…but first i need to make one. I want to keep one for when I’m looking at a map with a blank stare and no plans for the next day.

To create this crazy list, I’ve been Pinterest-ing, Internet-ing, and talking to as many people as I can to figure out where to stop. Big shout out to everyone who has given me advice so far!! (I also need to start investing in guidebooks. I’ve heard good things about Lonely Planet, but any suggestions would be lovely!)

So here’s the first draft. I don’t know how much of this I will complete, but, I also don’t know much of anything at this point! Let me know what I need to add, what I can skip over, what should be at the top of my list. Specifically good museums and hikes!!

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What is WWOOF? And 5 Reasons Why You Should

“You’re going to what?”

I envision my trip to include bouncing around from couch to couch to hostel to hostel, but when I need to breathe, I’m hoping I can WWOOF. I spent a few weeks last summer “WWOOFing” in Pennsylavia, New Mexico and Texas (which you’ll read more about in later posts) and I’m itching to make WWOOF a part of my Europe adventure. There are tons of countries to choose from, so before I ask advice on where to WWOOF, I’ll answer the question….

a hike in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of my first days at Sunflower River ended with watching the sunset here.

What is WWOOF?

WWOOF’s website sums it up pretty nicely: “WWOOF is an exchange – In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.”

You buy a subscription for a year in the country/countries you want to WWOOF in. You make a profile, and you are then able to access the country’s list of hosts. The hosts will tell you where they live, what kind of help they need, your accommodations, and any other preferences they have. You email the farms you would like to WWOOF at, and if/when they respond you can set up dates to farm, etc. Last year I had the pleasure of WWOOFing at Pennypack Farm and Education Center in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, Sunflower River and Purple Sage Ranch in New Mexico, and Cassiopeia Farm in Austin, Texas. I wouldn’t trade that summer for anything.

Why WWOOF?

1. The Work

Most WWOOF farms ask for 20-30 hours a week; in many cases, I worked from 6-12 every day before it got too hot and had the rest of the afternoon/evening to explore the surrounding area/city. Jobs vary, but mine included tending to gardens, preserving food (and learning how to make an amazing strawberry jam), building a chicken coop, a gate, and digging a swale. I got to use my hands, get down in the dirt, and learn new skills. Most communications jobs don’t need someone who can handle an excavator, but if they do, I got the job.

Pennypack Farm crew!

2. The People

The list of people I met through WWOOFing is too long to list: hosts, fellow WWOOFers, friends of the farm…but they all deserve a shoutout. WWOOFing is a team effort, and while I saw many similarities in how WWOOFers saw the world and their place in caring for it, I also learned a lot. My hosts were more than willing to tell you about cool places around town, introduce you to friends, and tell you their stories. Fellow WWOOFers and I went on hikes and went to concerts. I know I can reach out to many of these people in the future and I now have new friends in the Southwest.

3. The Expense

Free housing? Free food (some of which you grow yourself)? What more do I need to say?

the beginnings of a Three Sisters Garden in Austin, TX

4. The Earth

I slept in a tent in the middle of a lightning storm, spent weeks with soil under my fingernails, and hiked around the ruins from the Anasazi and Navajo tribes. WWOOFing is all about learning, and through WWOOF you learn a lot about caring for the Earth, and more important, how important taking on this responsibility is. I’ve never met anyone so excited about tomatoes, or anyone so compassionate for their chickens. Every day on the farm, every seedling sprouting into a vegetable, is a miracle. It was nice to be given that reminder.

Candy Kitchen, NM

5. The Choices

You can WWOOF in most countries, not only around Europe but also around the world. There are over 1800 in the United States alone. You can WWOOF at some farms for a few nights to a few months. You can bring your pets to some farms if you want, you can bring your kids to some farms if you want (my dad’s planning to WWOOF next fall…I might just have to come with). You can choose to farm a bus ride away from the city, or secluded in the country. So. Many. Options.

I have a subscription to WWOOF Ireland right now, and I’m debating WWOOFing in Greece, France, or Hungary. Give me your picks in the comments, and if you’re interested in WWOOF at all, feel free to ask me questions!

“What are your plans for after graduation?”

That’s a great question, professors/parents/relatives at Christmas/concerned friends/bosses.

As of right now, I have 15 weeks until my graduation from Temple University, one class left to complete a degree in Strategic Communications, a few personal statements desperate for a review, and a one-way plane ticket from Newark to London that leaves on June 22.

I have a Couchsurfing account and a WWOOF subscription. I have three open tabs on Chrome titled, “The Best Camping Accessory….”, “Syllabus Spanish 1001”, and “Eurail Pass”. I don’t have a lot of savings (currently), I don’t have much of a plan, and I don’t have any experience living or traveling in Europe.

I have to remind myself as I step out into what is apparently only called the “real” world post-diploma, that this “real” life isn’t measured by your “haves”.

Instead.

I enjoy storytelling, reading, writing; I enjoy hiking, meeting new people, helping people, coffee, vegetables, and getting my hands dirty working outside. I enjoy writing a blog. As of right now, these are my plans for after graduation.

A roundabout way of saying I don’t have employment in the near future.

Follow this blog to follow my journey figuring out how to grab a backpack and a notebook to make the most of Europe. Tips, comments, messages are appreciated!