Having lived in suburbia for the past 20 years, I often hear desperation-tinged fantasies (my own, mostly)of wanting to flee this neatly manicured existence to someplace that is rather different and very beautiful, but that's not too expensive and preferably not mucked up by other travelers.
For anyone else who seconds this emotion, I believe the answer to our yearnings is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Here's how it works: You choose a host organic farm in whichever country you like and arrange a temporary stay (ranging from a few days up to several months) during which you will work without pay in exchange for food and shelter. It's all the fun of being an indentured servant or migrant laborer without all the obligations!
If you're thinking that this is mostly the sort of thing that middle class 20-somethings do right after finishing their undergrad education, you are probably right. But why let them have all the fun? There's always an excuse like, "I lack the strength and heartiness of a farmhand" or "I really enjoy being under fluorescent lights for 50 hours a week" but I would venture to say that if you think those excuses are valid, maybe you never really wanted to leave home in the first place.
Here's an example of one farm listing in Denmark:
We live on a lovely 100-years-old traditional farm with horses, cats, bees, ducks and sheep. Close to the sea, centrally located in sunny Halsnæs. Near by is Dyssekilde eco-village and the costal cycling path. Eco bed & break-fast and basic camping facilities. In addition, we have a wood-carver and two blacksmiths on the farm.
Work: there is plenty to do; building, chopping wood, tending the animals, cutting willow, developing the garden, general farm work, weeding, all depending on the season. We often go for a (morning) swim in the sea.
Hardworking guests are welcome during in January (willows) Spring (gardening), Summer (weeding) + building/renovating. Experience in farm work and/or building preferable, as is a genuine interest in organic farming and environmental issues.
Accommodation in a cosy wagon.
We speak English and a little German and even less French.
If this sounds half as dreamy to you as it does to me, I encourage you to make it happen ... I double dog dare you.