If I was overly confident about Airbnb, I had been most nervous about using Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). During my time in Chile, I’d signed up to spend a couple weeks on a ranch in the southern part of the country. I’d read about it on WWOOF and communicated briefly with Ignacio, the proprietor, but I was still apprehensive. WWOOF is marketed as a work-trade, in which travelers offer moderate amounts of labor to small farmers in exchange for room and board, and it wasn’t clear to me what, exactly, I would be doing.
The surprise was a pleasant one. My “labor” consisted almost entirely of riding horses. Sure, I picked some apples too, and one day I helped to paint a fence, but mostly I just got to ride horses — beautiful, well-trained polo ponies, in the gorgeous near-Patagonian autumn. It was the sort of vacation for which people pay thousands of dollars, and when my time in paradise finally came to an end and Ignacio dropped me off at the bus stop to head off to Buenos Aires, I half-expected him to present me with a bill for my stay. He gave me a hug instead.