This year, I spent what was probably the best summer of my life.

Indeed, about a week ago, I came back from spending a month in Scotland, where I stayed as a WWOOFer.

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"What the hell is WWOOF?" You might be wondering. Well it's quite simple. It stands for "World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms". Basically, it is a cultural exchange which allows you to travel by staying on an organic farm. They accomodate you, feed you, in exchange for a few hours of work per day. You obviously have days off, usually 2 days a week.
It's a great way to travel in a less conventional way. You get to meet new people, both local and foreign as most WWOOF hosts take more than one WWOOFer at a time. You also get to learn so many things. Of course you can learn the language (or improve your knowledge of it) if you choose to go in a country which doesn't speak your language. But you can also learn a new skill! Indeed you usually don't need to know anything about farming to work on those farm, as they consider that learning is part of the experience. It also makes travelling a lot cheaper, considering you don't have to pay for accomodation and most of the food.

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Now, about my personal experience. It was the first time I travelled on my own, without family or friends. I signed up on WWOOF UK because I've been wanting to go to Scotland for a long time. One of my friends had done some WWOOFing in Ireland and had loved it, so I figured it would be a good idea.
I found my hosts. A british couple in their 50's who owned a large property where they kept horses. They basically needed help with taking care of the horses and weeding. But I ended up doing much more varied thing. I did some woodwork, fourniture restoration, stone smashing (the most fun job)... The days were tiring, but it wasn't exploitation either. We usually had plenty of time to relax between the end of work and dinner in the afternoon.
I learned about a lot of different things, and now I feel much more confident with doing things by myself! Even now that I'm home, I've been using this energy momentum to change the fournitures of my room.
On my days off, I would go exploring. And because I stayed for a month, I actually got to see a lot of things. At first I focused on the countryside where my hosts lived, because there was a lot to see. I tried to see all the abbeys, all the castles, all the forests. Then I went to Edinburgh and pretty much did the same before the festival started. When it did, I booked a hostel in the city for a night so I could enjoy the festival for 2 days straight. For those of you who don't know, Edinburgh Festival is a period of 3 weeks in August during which Edinburgh is submerged with art. Theatre, music, photography, comedy, street performers... It's insane, and insanely good. I had a blast there.

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My hosts were vegan, so all the meals in the house were vegan as well, and we would take turns to prepare dinner. Being flexitarian (and now starting to become vegetarian), I thought it was perfect. I didn't have to eat meat, and I learned about a whole new way of eating. I even took some recipes home. It also taught me to be more confident with cooking. I don't have the occasion to cook much at home, so going there I didn't have much experience and was a bit apprehensive about that aspect of my stay. But everything turned out fine and I eventually gained the confidence to become more creative.
My hosts really were great people. Their compassion and love of nature were inspiring. Maxine loved identifying wildflowers when we would go on a walk, and Bryan had a special love for birds. Max's job was actually to teach ethical horse training and they worked everyday to make sure their house was as ecological as possible. They were both cultured and open-minded, eager to meet new people. I learned so much at their side. They immediately made me feel at home, even though I was very anxious on my first day. They considered me part of their big family of adopted WWOOFers. I came from not knowing what I was doing there, to wondering why I couldn't stay longer. Before I knew it I had spent a month in a sort of paradise of beautiful scenery, caring people, interesting culture and respect of the environment. Going back to my mundane life was bizarre. I almost felt like a stranger in my usual environment. I felt homesick for a place that wasn't my home. I wanted to keep getting lost in Scotland's forests.

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I grew so much from this experience. I gained in confidence and skill. But I think most importantly I realised that the world was mine to explore. I didn't have to wait for someone to give me the permission or the opportunity. I could see it for myself. And yes, some things may be scary at first, but they are usually much less dangerous than they may seem. And the joy you will get from exploring foreign places, discovering new people and perspectives, is a thousand times worth the light anxiety that might have come initially.