Fat Cat Travellers Community was my first destination when I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. The hostel itself is about a half hour west of the city, in-between Auckland and the west coast beaches. Initially I was planning on staying there for three days to get my bearings and then head off into the wilderness. Before I knew it three days turned into three months and strangers turned into incredible friends who I’m still in contact with today.
Fat Cat runs as a hostel, but takes wwoofers for jobs such as House Angel, Maintenance, Fruit Seller, etc. Since I arrived right at the beginning of the winter season, it was fairly quiet and the owners of the hostel were away working on an earthship in South America.
A young guy from Colorado was in charge of the place while they were away, and he offered me the chance to wwoof as a House Angel. This meant that for 4 hours a day, 3 days a week, I would be in charge of cooking breakfast, cleaning up the house, doing laundry, greeting hostel guests and making sure everything was running smoothly. The rest of the time was my own to enjoy how I pleased. Not a bad deal!
During the busy season, Fat Cat typically takes wwoofers for two weeks at a time. Yet since it was winter, most of the wwoofers stayed for the entire season! This meant that there was a crew of about 20 of us that lived there all winter and got to know each other very well.
Me doing a load of laundry on the bike-powered washing machine
We had electricity and running water, but tried to keep things as eco-friendly as possible. We composted, cooked only vegan meals (and ate communally three meals a day!), had a bike-powered washing machine and compost heated showers. There was a cob oven that we used for pizza nights, and we even had an outdoor fire-heated bathtub!
Waking up to the scent of freshly baked bread (thanks bread angels!), spending 8 full hours in a fire bath and spending countless nights playing music around a fire were only some of the highlights of my three months in this beautiful place. The people I met during my time there have shaped my travels since, and similar communal aspects of living keep popping up everywhere I go.
The Fat Cat crew on the last day of the season!
A Typical Day in Fat Cat
I often chose the early House Angel shift so that I could get my job done and enjoy the rest of my day. This meant I was working from 8AM-12PM.
I would wake up, put the bread in the oven (the dough is made the night before), begin cooking oatmeal, making fruit salad and brewing coffee. I’d have breakfast on the table right before the first bleary-eyed guests crawled out from under their blankets. Wwoofers and hostel guests would slowly trickle in, sitting cross-legged on cushions next to the low table.
Once breakfast was finished, often around 10AM, I would clean up the dining area and do the dishes. Then I would do the house laundry, vacuum the main living areas, and greet new guests! The rest of my shift was spent tidying up the house and making sure the spreadsheets on the computer were up to date.
Afterwards, I was free to do whatever I wished. I would often bike to town for ice cream, practice the ukulele or learn a new macrame knot. Everyone had a skill, whether it was photography, cooking, playing an instrument, etc, and everyone was willing to teach that skill. We would spend long afternoons basking in the sun and brainstorming ways of improving the space.
In the evening, the head chef would gather help and begin cooking for 30-40 people! If you helped cook dinner, you were off the hook for cleaning afterwards. When dinner was ready, in order to get your plate you had to play “The Game”. This meant reaching your hand into a bag of tasks that needed to be done after dinner. You might have to take out the compost, do the dishes, or if you’re lucky – kiss the chefs!
Dinner was the time that everyone came together. When everyone had their plate and was gathered around the table, we went around in a circle introducing ourselves and answering the question of the day. This question changed every day and ranged from deep, personal questions to lighthearted ones such as “if you could create your own island, what would it look like?”
After dinner everyone completed their task and gathered in the wwoofers house for drinks, games and getting to know each other. On clear nights, we’d gather around the campfire and play music. Another day complete!