Hot! Should I Turn 10 Weeks into 8 Weeks?

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My current plan is to stay here in St. Etienne de Serre until July 11th, when Marc’s family will come pick me up. Marc arrives on the 12th, and we stay with his family through the 15th or 16th, after which he and I go to Lyon for a couple days until he has to fly home on the 19th. After he leaves, I take a train down to Montpellier and then make my way up to Lagamas, where I will stay with a good family friend, Rosemary. I stay there until August 1st or so, then go to another WWOOFing farm or two, then I spend 5 days in Paris at the end of the month.

Having now spent a week and a half here in France, on two different WWOOFing farms, I’m calling my current plans into question a bit. With my current schedule, I will have spent 6.5 of my 10 weeks working on a farm. While I’m definitely enjoying the work and the experience of living in rural France, I feel that 6.5 weeks of it is a bit of overkill, and may actually lead to me enjoying my time in France somewhat less.

This gets a little old after awhile.

WWOOFing is fun, but I am finding that due to the isolation of most farms, it’s hard for me to actually see much outside the boundaries of the farms themselves, and as a result I kind of lose my sense of being in France. The farm in Les Vans was a good compromise in that it was near a town, but the 25-30 minute walk up and down a steep hill in order to get there, as well as my own lack of free time, made it nearly impossible to visit. Here at La Tranchat, we’re about 10km from the village, and during my approximately 9km walk this morning through the roads near the farm, I only came across two other farms. I love the farmers here, but I spend a lot of time twiddling my thumbs, to be honest. After work is done and lunch has been had around 2pm, the family disappears until dinner at around 9pm on various errands, naps, and other farm work. I have that time to myself, and since I don’t like using their internet for more than an hour at a time, I’m at a loss for what to do much of the time (since they don’t let me work more than 5 hours a day). I have read my one book twice over and started on it a third time, explored the area rather extensively, and done some design work on my computer. I’ve busied myself occasionally with fixing things around the farm, but there’s only so much of that I can do on my own, and in general I feel like I have a lot of wasted time.

The thing is, I foresee future WWOOFing in France as being more of the same, and if that’s to be the case, I think my time would be more productively spent at home, to be honest. I could spend the time traveling around France by couchsurfing in various places for a few days at a time, but the stress of having to constantly find a new place to stay would somewhat mar the experience for me, I suspect. For a nomad, I really love a sense of stability an awful lot.

So, here’s what I’m considering:

Right now my departure date is August 31st. Rather than spend most of August WWOOFing with a few days in Paris before my departure, I’m now considering heading home on August 17th or 19th, cutting my time in France about two weeks short. In my newly shortened post-Lagamas stay, I could visit one or two other places, plus Paris, and have enough time to actually explore them. If I can couchsurf for even half of that time, which is very doable, then I can splurge on having a hostel for my whole time in Paris, and maybe a couple days somewhere else. This plan would allow me to get to see more of France, as well as to actually feel like I’m traveling, rather than just living in a foreign country as a farm labourer (which, to be honest, is the truth at the moment). It would also allow me to save some money and also to have some time to readjust to life at home before the school year starts again in September.

The exception to this plan is if I can find a good horse farm to work on. I really, really want/need to get more experience with horses, and I’m willing to put up with the conditions of WWOOFing in exchange for that knowledge and experience. There’s a farm near Tarn that I looked at before and if I widen my search to other regions of France, I might be able to find another good one, but I’m going to be picky this time around. If it doesn’t sound awesome, it’s just not worth it to me.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Should I stick it out through the end of August? Should I find a horse farm to work on? Should I cut my time short and use the remaining time to see more of France? I’d love some input on this one. If I want to leave two weeks earlier, that means a departure date of August 17th, which gives me until July 27th to make a decision and change my ticket, so I’ve got some time, but not a whole lot.

8 Comments

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  1. i say go with your gut kelsey! sounds like your old idea has expired and you’re letting life inform your plans. love that! i vote for saying ba-bye to wwoofing and following your instincts! :)

    • It feels weird to be considering leaving a country early, but I think that barring an awesome experience on a horse farm, I’m in danger of returning to the US rather bitter, and I want to avoid that. Right now I don’t feel like I’m in France, I just feel like I’m working on a farm. If I wanted to work for free, I could do that in the USA just as easily. It just doesn’t feel like a great use of my time. Some of my time, yes, but not most or all of my time.

  2. I’d really try for the horse farm, as that’s definitely not time wasted. If you didn’t do it in France, you’d have to do it *somewhere*, so why not there. Especially if you can find something within easier walking distance to a village, where you could experience more of France.

    • Well, I don’t *really* have to do it somewhere. I ride at home, and I could compensate for the difference by simply spending that free time doing more riding at home.

  3. Seems like there’s no good reason to stick around just for the sake of sticking around. And splurging on a hostel in Paris would probably make that leg of the trip more enjoyable.

    • Yeah, right now I’m feeling like further WWOOFing would just be a means to stay in the country longer for the sake of staying longer. Unless that time is particularly fun or helpful, I am just no longer really seeing the point.

  4. I second kayjayuu and Lorna – shoot for the possible gain of the exception to the new plan first, a horse farm, and if that doesn’t work, go with your gut…I also don’t think that any new farm will be any different, unless it really “tickles” you. Without the equine (or viticultural 😉 element, rural France just doesn’t get any better or more authentic than what you have already experienced! With a good conscience, you can already say and take home “been there, done that” :-)

    • Yes, I think that you’re right. Barring finding something really different, like a vineyard with several other WWOOFers, or a horse farm where I can use skills I already have, I think that most other WWOOFing farms in France are all going to feel pretty similar to me. On top of that, my current farm is really great, and I think that unless I find something really exceptional, any other farm is going to feel a bit like a let-down, and I don’t want to end on a downward note.

      And yes, I definitely think that my bucket baths, 6am calf-feedings, hours spent harvesting beans and digging trenches, and living in a 400 year old house without electricity or running water has definitely earned me my paysan badge!