Rita tells me that she will soon meet a group of WWOOFers that she got to know on an organic farm in Sweden to celebrate New Year’s Eve. WWOOFers from Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands will celebrate together in Darmstadt, a city she has never visited before. For a year she has lived and practiced organic farming together with people from all over the world and got involved as a WWOOFer by experiencing what it is like to run an organic farm in Sweden. She tells me that the groups on the farms become really tight as they take care of animals, grow vegetables and do all kinds of chores that require a lot of commitment and cooperation.
– I wonder if there weren’t a lot of conflicts when so many people lived together on the farms but she says they usually had a lot of fun and hardly any conflict.
On her WWOOF profile, Rita describes herself as an active person who is interested in ballet, gymnastics and art. She is 19 years old today, but she discovered an interest in Sweden already when she was 12 and did a group assignment at school about Sweden. Then she started learning Swedish for fun through a language-learning app called Duolingo. Little did she know that this would later become one of the reasons why she chose to go out and WWOOF in Sweden after she finished high school. For a year she traveled as a WWOOFer and lived on five different farms. As her last stop she even went back to one of the farms because she had enjoyed it so much there.
After a short visit home in Germany over the Christmas holidays, she traveled back to Sweden to continue her journey.
I ask her if she doesn’t regret traveling alone and she quickly explains that one of the goals for her travels was to leave her comfort zone and meet new people. She thinks that she was much more open to the rest of the people on the farms and that she might have mostly talked to her old friend if she had traveled with someone from home. She doesn’t regret it and felt safe the whole time.
Before contacting Rita I read her reviews from the farms she visited and they were all very positive. One of the Swedish farmers who has been a WWOOF host for more than 15 years says she was in the “highest league” they have ever had. Another said she is very observant which was helpful and yet another host said she spent two months on their farm and she really added to the team spirit and is always welcome back!
I ask Rita what she is doing today and she replies that she didn’t know what she was going to study before she started her travels but now after WWOOFing she applied and got into a university where she is studying environmental studies to become a landscape architect. She found a great interest in working for the environment in Sweden and would like to work more outdoors with the landscape.
Before we end the interview I ask her if she thinks she will come back to Sweden someday and she nods positively and reaches for a thick book called “Där kräftorna sjunger” (original: “Where the Crawdads Sing”) and shows it to me. She is reading in Swedish now and knows that she will definitely be back soon.
Rita says she is very glad she found WWOOF because she had also looked at other options where she could have volunteered at a hostel or as a babysitter but this organization brought her so many different experiences. Working with all kinds of animals and seasonal tasks suited her very well. She also found out that she enjoys farming and learning about its topics because it is very diverse.
As my last question to Rita I wonder if she missed anything from home that she would have liked to have with her in her suitcase in Sweden. She shakes her head with a smile and answers: “No, most of it is at the farms, but I brought my teddy bear.” She was happy about that!