This trip has turned into a nightmare. There is a further explanation down below, but just no that it has been awful and I have spent the majority of my time here crying and/or covered in manure and have seen very little of a place I have been wanting to see for a long time. So this is a little thing I posted on facebook (where I have been ranting and bemoaning things quite often) to let people know of the situation, which is just absurd. So some things might be changing based on a lot of the things I have learned here. I will say that, I have learned SO MUCH about me and they way I've been living life. So for your enjoyment:
Where?Iceland, Norway, Scotland.
When?Iceland- May 15th-June 16th, Norway June16th-July25th, Scotland July 25th- ?
What?I am currently WWOOFing around the world. What is WWOOFing? Well it is a programme run through each country where individuals can sign up and then visit farms, communes, alternative living facilities, breweries, etc and work on a volunteer basis in exchange for room & board. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers On Organic Farms. The programme encourages learning about sustainability and organic farming, but also gaining skills that an be translated to and used on a small scale for personal use. I really love this programme and they are a great way to learn useful, but often untaught skills while seeing the world for a minimal cost.
Why?Oh lordy. I have been pondering this for the last few days. The easy answer is I wanted to see the world and learn some new skills, especially ones related to something I am interested in which is urban, or small scale farming. But like always there is more to it than that. Since I left school I've been kind of lost. I worked a job that I hated with people I loved, because I thought they needed my help. I like being needed. But like I am sure you all know, I was just very unhappy. And no one at all is to blame for this but me. I let a lot of fear and confidence issues creep into my mind over these last two years and I kept saying things like I knew what I wanted, just not how to get it. Which is a total lie. I just didn't want to risk making myself vulnerable again. I don't handle authority very well and I don't handle criticism or rejection well either (or rather I was fed up with all three being a seeming constant in my life) and I just didn't want to deal with those things, even if it meant not doing the things I loved. I even got to a point where I wondered if I loved them, and decided I didn't. I'm still struggling with that, but slowly I feel it coming back.
Beyond all that I stopped actually giving a crap about myself. Physically, mentally, and to a smaller extent spiritually. I know this sounds kind of doom and gloom, and many of you may think I'm overreacting, but as public as you all might think I am, I actually am incredibly private. I share the parts of me that I think will be perceived as funny, or self deprecating, or sometimes pretty. There's a whole lot of ugly I don't even remotely show, and spend a lot of time in my head with that ugly. Couple that with my inherent laziness, and you have a rather disastrous recipe for some serious self made unhappiness. In summary, I took myself out of the game, just checked out of life, and decided I'd rather grow old and bitter than take a risk.
But I knew that was no way to live. I felt like I needed a kind of kick-start to re-excite myself about life. I dreamed about travelling and seeing things that made me happy to be alive, that reminded me that this world had been created for me to enjoy, and I was created in such a more beautiful image. So when I heard about WWOOF, I got really excited. A fairly inexpensive way to do just that and maybe learn something to. The more I looked into the programme the more excited I got. I decided to go to Scotland for 6 months and then eventually ended up expanding the trip to Iceland and Norway. I've been planning this since probably September of last year, and it is where I put all my energy. See all that self revealing I just did? Learned it today. This is a hind-sight thing, but in truth at the time I was looking for an escape. And while I knew I was when I first started thinking of travelling, now I see how much of an escape I was looking for. I wanted to get away from driving the same road everyday, eating the same lunch everyday, seeing the same people, dealing with a job I hated, worthless student loans, a perpetually in need of maintenance car... I wanted a vacation. Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
So then, how has this escape worked out for me?
Iceland is beautiful. I can't even begin to describe it. It's kind of scary. Raw, untamed, it feels ancient and unfriendly. Reykjavik is the capital city and it feels small, almost a Portland feel to it, but it also is dingy, uncared for. It's interesting and it almost seems like there is an effortless effort made to try and take a wild and unruly location and tame it. I've read a lot of people talk about how they did Iceland. Hiking the wilderness, tour buses, day trips as they drive down and around the coast, or up and around the coast. I WWOOFed it. And that was a mistake. It is hard to get around outside of the city without a car or a plane, or something. It's a hard country to be alone in.
But that isn't even the worst of it.
According to the WWOOF guidelines volunteers are to be treated as such: volunteers. They are not slaves, day labourers, employees, whathaveyou. They are giving you a bit of their time and in exchange you are providing hot meals and a mattress. WWOOF recommends that WWOOFers work 5-6 hours a day 5-6 days a week. Afterall, we are tourists as well as workers. Every. Single. Other place I will be going abides by these rules. Except here. This past week I worked as many as 8-9 hours, while sick, 7 days. My main host will be leaving tomorrow for a two week tour guiding job and I am on my own as far as farm work goes. I am in complete charge of every. single. animal. here... I have literally never done this before and a week in, I'm on my own. Because he is gone, I am not allowed to have any time off until June 7th. My hosts are actually nice people, I don't want you to think they are ogres, but they are obviously insane. But it gets worse. We worked all these hours this last week so that I could "focus on the animals" and now there is no other farm work left to do during the day. So I am stuck on a farm for 14 days with no escape and the only real job I will have is an 8am milking and a 6pm milking, and maybe a day or two of cheese making in the afternoon, but I am not allowed to leave during the afternoons because "something may go wrong with the animals." I don't even know what that means.
Typing this out I think *maybe* I over dramatized the situation in all my posts, but I still think this is ridiculous (and coupled with being sick and super homesick all at once didn't help). It is definitely not how I expected to do Iceland. I planned on working, and spending my weekends chasing waterfalls and climbing glaciers and swimming in mineral pools. And now it looks like I will get to do very little, if any, of that. I do have a few backup options, but they cost money I hadn't planned on.
Now as crappy as this situation is, I would like to make a few statements:
1. I would never ever use this particular experience as a warning against WWOOFing. There is always bound to be one bad egg in a batch. And I took a risk. But I learned a valuable lesson I like to call When You Agree To Do Work For Someone Find Out The Parameters Before You Get There.
2. Again this is a hind-sight thing, but the heartache and headache did me good. I actually asked myself the questions I had been avoiding. In the days leading up to leaving California I actually hoped that somehow this trip would get cancelled because I knew I'd have to face myself and those questions eventually.
3. As nice as it would have been to do all this soul searching at home, I think I was actually right about needing a kickstart. I think I needed to either hit rock bottom, or go into a totally foreign awful situation to make me stand up and ask what the hell am I doing and what the freaking hell have I been doing for two years. And I did both those things.
4. This has been such an amazing time of self discovery. I hate that phrase, but it's true. I tend to live in a make believe world and have not a whole lot of grasp on reality. I like this about me, but I think lately I've taken it too far and I needed a good dose of shit (literally) and reality to wake me up from that fantasyland I like to retreat to. And maybe counter intuitively, I have discovered I really, really, really like me. Honestly. I'm not as much of a failure as I like to think I am, and I'm actually and incredibly strong, resilient person. I'm kind, I'm frankly hilarious (duh), I am damn smart, I'm also a really hard worker when I put my mind to it. I have a lot going for me.
5.This feels so silly even writing, but I think it's something that needs to be said, maybe less for my benefit and more for others (*coughmomcough*). As amazing as I already clarified I am, I still have a lot of work to do, and I really need to be focused on me and doing what I need and being the person I like living with and the kind of person who will attract the kind of man I want in my life. I'm not even remotely as ready as I used to think I was to settle down, and I don't want someone who will just take care of me and never let me fight my own fights or solve my own problems. If anything I want someone who I can fight along side with, and I need to learn to fight for me, before I can fight for a we. Man that was mega lame.
6. Let's talk home. I really like my family. Like, weirdly, super adore those people. I think they think I'm pretty ace too. Every time I go away I always come back to California because of those weirdos. Yes, I really don't like a lot about California. But I also love a lot about it. No it's not my ideal habitat, but as long as my parents and siblings are there, that's where I am going to stay. It's home and they are home. But especially them. It's taken me a long time and a lot of running away to realize it, but they are my favourite people ever, and I hate not being near them. Maybe I don't need to live with them all the time..., but anything more than a quick drive away is out of the question. Also, I hate travelling on my own. My god it sucks. At the very least I need a friend to pal around with,but truthfully I really wish my parents and siblings were all here with me, laughing and making the best of a crappy situation and finding ourselves in some weird inexplicable adventure.
How Long?Well... I'm not sure these days. I have a ticket bought to come home December 11th. But I'm not sure now. I still have a lot to think about and a lot of details to work out, but I'm actually excited to go home and do work. So depending on how easy that ticket is to change, I may come home a little earlier. I still want to see the places I've got lined up, but I'm also really looking forward to creating a new life for myself back home.
What Next?Another question I haven't been able to answer until very very recently. The not terrifically complicated answer: A lot. The even less complicated answer: I'm not entirely sure. I'm beginning to make plans. I'm thinking big thoughts and pursuing multiple avenues. I know what I need to NOT do and that is frankly a big start. I do know I will need to ask for help and I will have to work really hard. And I will have to do things I don't like very much. And that is all good and all things I am learning how to do better here.