From time to time, female WWOOFers about to start their journey write to WWOOF Portugal showing concern for their safety during their experience. As a movement, WWOOF stands against the violence of the patriarchal system and makes continuous efforts so that more and more women who travel alone can feel safe in the farms registered. That’s why we decided, today, to talk about how women can increase their safety when WWOOFing alone.
First of all, it is important to think that, in terms of security, Hosts may be as vulnerable or even more vulnerable than WWOOFers when accepting a visit request. You don’t believe it? Well, at WWOOF Portugal, WWOOFers are not necessarily pre-screened, while Hosts go through an orientational initial conversation before having their page published online. This happens so that Hosts receive somewhat basic guidance and have the least of our attention to what is or is not published in their profile. This exercise of putting yourself in the shoes of someone who is opening their home and life to strangers can be very valid to realize that anxiety and fears can be quite similar for both sides.
And here is when I present to you one of the most beautiful magic of WWOOF: the communication between Host and WWOOFer.
This exchange, which takes place from the very first message, helps build a relationship of trust and good faith between the parties. And, of course, there is also the support of the entire WWOOF community, who share reviews and impressions among members after the experiences.
But is it really that simple?
Look, I would say yes!
But if you’re still reading this text, it’s because you’re certainly expecting something more, like special instructions and suggestions – especially if you’re a woman and you’re about to start a solo WWOOF journey. And you’re in luck, as the writer is a rather experienced female WWOOFer, already on the road since 2016 around Europe and South America, mostly volunteering in rural areas! So, I want to offer some tips and practices I adopt when looking for farms to volunteer.
Tips for newbie female solo travelers
– Prefer farms with previous references, or women / family-operated farms;
– Pick a period of stay in which there are other WWOOFers besides you at the farm;
– Make a video call with the host family before confirming your stay;
– Search for farms in or near cities;
– Prioritize farms that have easy access to the internet;
These practices were very helpful at the beginning of my nomadic life in rural areas, but I must admit that with time and experience I ended up putting them aside. It may sound cliché or sort of a mystical talk, but intuition can really be a great ally for us women!
Does this mean that I have abandoned all sorts of selection practices? Absolutely NOT!
Here you have, then, another list of precautions and habits that I have been adopting, and improving over the years.
Some precautions I learned traveling solo
– I share the location of my cell phone with trusted people;
– I make a transport plan: if I’m not traveling in my own car, I take notes about public and private transport. I track support centers (hospitals, police stations, fire departments…) in the region and a map with the distances
– I always ask Hosts about accommodation conditions. Not because of a predilection for private spaces (although it’s not a problem if that’s your requirement!), but because the answer to that question usually brings many indications of how the stay will be and what the expectations of the experience are!
– I always propose a trial period before making myself available for longer stays. Even if I am looking for a long-term experience, I openly say that I am available for the first 15 days and that we will evaluate each other during this period, talking about an extension of the stay.
– I make sure I have insurance! Health insurance, travel insurance, car insurance (if applicable), insurance for your most valuable personal items…
In summary, it’s good to know: there is no golden rule, nor completely risk-free journeys!
But if I had only one gift to offer to those who put their feet and heart on the road for volunteering in agroecology, it would be the ability to ATTENTION. With that, it’s easier to understand and decide what makes you feel truly comfortable, what questions to ask.
Finally, always TRUST your instincts and intuition when traveling alone. Remember it is normal to feel somewhat awkward when you just arrive at a farm. But it is also absolutely fine to leave the farm early if you feel the discomfort is beyond what your intuition allows.
Hope this makes it easier to have a good and safe trip!