So, a lot of people have been asking what I’m doing here, in France. Why I decided to come here. Some people seem to think I’m here on whimsy, some sort of pleasure cruise through the winemaking countryside of Europe. One friend asked me if I was a “trust fund baby”, because, of course, how else would I be able to pay for an extended stay in Europe if I’m not actually working?
And, no, I’m not “working”, per se. I don’t have an employment contract and I certainly ain’t makin’ nothin’ in the way of dolla dolla bills. But I sure am doing a lot of work. I’m a member of the WorldWide Organization Of Organic Farmers – also known as WWOOF. What that means is that I get to travel around France, work with winemakers and farmers who have signed up to be WWOOF hosts, and instead of paying me cash monies, they feed me, keep me in clothes, and give me a place to sleep. It’s hardly a luxurious or glamorous lifestyle. My hands are filthy at the end of every day, I spend at least ten hours per day working (cooking, vineyards, cellar, dishes, cleaning), and our living quarters are pretty spartan. But I don’t mind. In fact, not only do I not mind, I think it’s pretty much perfect.
I’ve barely spent a dime since I got here. We get to eat amazing cheese, bread, and meat every day. We try all sorts of different wines, talk about what’s good, and bad, what works, what doesn’t. We open the French windows when it’s nice outside, we sit on the terrace in the sun, and we only eat organic vegetables. I get fresh (read: raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized) milk and fresh-made yogurt. I get to work in Grand Cru vineyards in Alsace (what a privilege!). We get to tour the French countryside, visit crumbling castles, and go to big, open-air markets around centuries-old churches. Last night I went (for free) to see a reggae-punk-rap-revolutionary French band called Zebda. And I went with a winemaker from Burgundy who’s making some amazing, completely natural, totally chemical free wines.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I get to work my ass off doing something that I absolutely love. Making wine. Learning about wine. Tasting wine. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty damn perfect.
I strongly urge those of you who are adventurous, who love food and cooking and eating, and who believe in the power of organic, natural foods, to try WWOOFing for yourself. Want to improve your language skills? Want to learn how to grow vegetables? Make cheese? Make wine? Raise goats and chickens? Want to tour a new country with minimum expenditure? Just want to try something completely new, completely out of left field? Go WWOOFing. You don’t have to go for a long time. A few weeks. A month. Two months. I’m hoping to be here for up to six, but as far as I can tell, that’s pretty abnormally. Pretty much all you have to pay for is your plane ticket.
At the end of the day, I am here to learn how to “devenir vigneron”, or become a winemaker myself. It’s a trade goal, an educational goal. I hope to return with much more experience under my belt, qualified to pursue my career goals however I choose. But that’s not the whole story. WWOOFing is about a spiritual journey as much as it is about a physical journey. It’s about broadening your horizons, interacting with hundreds of new people, speaking new languages, and learning about yourself in the process. It’s about getting lost in the woods and finding yourself on a strange road in a strange place you’ve never seen before in your life, and learning how to find your way through and back out.
Here’s the link to the WWOOFing site: http://www.wwoof.org/
This shows all the different places you can go: http://www.wwoof.org/natorgs.asp
I’d post some more links but I think the first two pretty much say it all.
I strongly urge everyone and anyone who has the time, opportunity, and motivation, to try this beautiful experience for yourself.