You know what’s it’s like. You’re feeling the Wanderlust and you sign up to a subscription of National Geographic. However, long before the first issue and the shit fleece arrive your wanderlust has gone, yet you still have 12 of these magazines to arrive at your door. Might as well find a suitable storage space then.
I have just become re-accustomed with my National Geographic storage space. Dotted among the newer editions of the magazine are issues from as far back as 1989 and 1952. I got hold of the older ones while in a charity shop. You see them there sitting all lonely in the corner thinking to yourself “My god, look how old these are! And they are only 50p!!”. You walk out with a handful and a disgusted look from your fiancé. I don’t care, I like looking through them every once in a while and that’s exactly what I have been doing today.
Aside from looking at pictures of African ladies with their boobs out, there were other things that really caught my eye. First of all National Geographic have this incredible skill of being able to develop a story around something so specific it’s hard to believe that a sentence can be constructed on the subject at all. It really opens your eyes to the simple fact that everyone has a story to tell, no matter how insignificant you may think they are. Second of all was an article on one of the places on this planet I would like to visit the most. Patagonia.
Recently featured in snowboard epic The Art Of Flight (not even going to bother linking to that, you all know what the fuck it is), Patagonia is a land that seems so far out of reach it’s not even worth contemplating going unless you have a substantial chunk of cash in your pocket and a decent crew to go along with you. That’s unlikely. Even if you were to have that kind of cash it is highly probable that the team you were supposed to be saving with have pissed all their money and have decided to hit the dry slope instead. But it did get me thinking. How realistic would it be to get out there and work, effectively becoming a Seasonaire in one of the most remote parts of the World?
As you might expect there is one criteria that you need to meet before you even consider working out in Patagonia, and that is your level of Spanish. Most volunteer placements require at least a conversational standard of Spanish which you will need to get by. After that it is simply a case of deciding what you want to volunteer in.
Believe it or not you can volunteer in everything from working on a community radio station to developing flash games. That’s right, flash games! The idea of the games is to raise awareness of working in open mines, a problem that has blighted the area leaving those working in them affected by chemicals such as cyanide. Not nice, and the thought that a flash game could help people out seems pretty far fetched, but it seems to be working and you could be a part of it.
Another thing to consider if you are thinking of volunteering is money. First off you need to pay 300euros just to get a placement. This covers admin and your membership fee to Asociación Mapu, the organisation who sort it all out in the first place. You will more than likely be living with a host family and will need to contribute in whatever way you can. This means you need to save some money and if you are thinking of hitting the mountains, this means a lot.
The last and perhaps most important thing to consider if opting to volunteer, is that you will probably get next to no time on any mountains whatsoever, so this whole little piece on volunteering has been a bit pointless really. Whatever, it will still be fun.
This is perhaps the best way to get yourself out to this incredible area with the least amount of hassle. There are again many things to think about. Visas, you need one. You are going to be working. The ability to teach and some kind of recognised ski or snowboard instructor qualification and again the ability to speak good Spanish. Check out this article to find out a little more about what it is like to teach in Patagonia. She’s American but you’ll get the idea.
Off Your Own Back
Another option, as mentioned at the beginning is to go right ahead and do it off your own back anyway and you know what, this is my favourite way. So fucking what if your mates haven’t saved up enough money, the fact of the matter is Patagonias winter is our summer which means you can spend the winter in Europe saving and the Summer in Patagonia splurging.
There are a lot of obstacles in the way if you are planning on doing it this way, the biggest of which of course is money. The cost involved in flying out to Patagonia alone can cost a few grand, then you have to think about accommodation and food. You’re going to want to stay 3 months, which is the longest you can stay without a visa. If you want to stay longer or are planning on pimping yourself out to some Patagonian sheep farmer while you are there, then you need a work visa
Accommodation can be found but when searching online you might get results like this
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so it might be an idea to head out to a major city and see if you can find accommodation from an agent there. It’s worth thinking about which resorts you are going to go to. The major ones near Santiago such as Portillo and Valle Nevado are great but can end up costing you a fortune. Infact, the sad truth is that most of the resorts in the area on both the Chilean and Argentinian sides are expensive, another reason to save up the pennies.
To summarise then, Patagonia is a must see place and one of those things that if you get the opportunity to experience, you just have to. You’re going to need money, lots of it and you are going to need to plan a bit. Whatever you do and however you decide to do it, you’ll have an incredible time and will shred some of the most incredible lines of your life, that I am sure. If you’re not convinced it will give you that feel good factor, watch this video. It’s not Patagonia in winter but summer and has been put together like a tampon ad crossed with a Morgan Freeman film, but Morgan Freeman has a South American accent but whatever, it will make you feel good, even if you do want to punch the guy on the video in the face. He’s probably alright though, he’s just got one of those smiles, and he’s in Patagonia. Cunt.