Stepping off the train at a remote station, knowing you are going to be spending at least two weeks in the company of someone you have never met, leaves you with a natural feeling of anticipation. It matters not whether you are an experienced, well-travelled, green party orientated eco-nut or a first time volunteering, city dwelling, gardening novice looking for a change of scenery; you're going to be living with a stranger.
Fortunately, if you are volunteering through WWOOF you can at least hope to share some common ground in the sense that the majority of hosts and hostee's usually have a passion for sustainability, a desire to learn/teach and a general interest in the natural world. Many people seem to treat the idea of volunteering with suspicion and two of the main arguments against it seem to be: firstly, the fact that you are working in return for no money and secondly, you have to pay to sign up to these volunteer programmes in order for them to cater for your every need. In the case of the latter I am inclined to agree with the skeptics as it is well known that many large volunteer organisations are indeed guilty of charging the earth for a 'once in a lifetime', two week trip to stroke a lion or sit on a dolphin, while you are often herded round like sheep and have no time to immerse yourself in the culture. There are obviously exceptions but this is a 'luxury' that few of us can afford to do anyway.
However, there are many other organisations in Britain which are much more practical and cost-worthy and should be looked upon as more than simply 'working for no money.' Turn your radars to the wavelength of Wwoofing. As a fairly experienced wwoofer having worked in America, Wales and Scotland I feel like I can fairly confidently exclaim that this a good frequency to tune in to. Wwoofing is a worldwide organisation in which people request help to increase the productivity of their farm, small holding or community. For me it is so much more than 'working for free', it has allowed me to gain a whole acquisition of new skills including gardening, being self-sustainable, woodwork, tiling, using what is available, making cheese, making bread, animal husbandry, keeping bees, an insight into permaculture, biodynamics and companion planting. Not only could the list go on and on but there are also other fantastic benefits from volunteering with this organisation, predominantly the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. Every place you go to stay is as diverse as the last, the people are friendly and welcoming and the food is often excellent. There is so much to learn about the surrounding area of where you stay and there is often the opportunity to meander into the culture of where you are at leisure.
If you have never volunteered in this way before and you would like a unique experience I would highly recommend having a gander at WWOOF simply by typing it into google. If you decide to do some wwoofing there is no doubt you will get off the plane or train filled with anticipation and excitement just as I did last year in America. But with any luck, when you leave you will have gained friends all over the world and have a whole set of new skills and confidence at your disposal, just as I do now.