When you’re on the cusp of adulthood, what’s the most important thing to do?
Conventional wisdom tells us to finish school, go to college, and find a job.
While such paths may be important, we at Unschool Adventures also believe in the life-shaping power of other experiences: ones that help you enter adulthood with optimism, confidence, social skills, and sense of wide-open possibility.
The Patagonia Retreat brings together five such experiences into one jam-packed month. Nestled under a spectacular mountain range located at the end of the world, this is a retreat for young people who are ready to learn, grow, and boldly launch into the next stage of life.
February 21 – March 23, 2023
El Chaltén, Argentina
Up to 21 participants, ages 16-20
Blake Boles, Milla von Tauber, Mica Peker, and more
$3000 plus flights & lunches
↑ The flight to Patagonia
The Patagonia Retreat brings together five essential experiences for young adults: Community Living, Foreign Language, Partner Dance, Lifestyle Design, and Independent Travel.
Our home base in El Chaltén will be a centrally located, 24-bed hostel rented exclusively for Unschool Adventures. You’ll sleep in backpacker-style rooms (6 beds per room), assist with cooking and cleaning (roughly 3 hours/week), and experience the delights and challenges that come with living alongside a big group of other young people.
Living in community requires patience, flexibility, creativity, and a sense of humor—which is why we consider it an essential experience for any young person, especially for those who have lived exclusively at home until this point.
Unschool Adventures staff will encourage and guide participants through the process of community organizing and problem-solving, with the aim of achieving full self-management. A staff member will be always be present in the evenings and overnight in case of emergency.
You’ll be in Argentina for a month—and perhaps longer!—so it’s time to brush up on your Castellano (Argentinian Spanish.) Three days a week, you’ll join one of our two instructors at either the “absolute beginner” or “beyond beginner” level.
The goal of our Spanish classes is two-fold: (1) to grasp the fundamentals of Spanish and (2) to gain experience with boldly attempting to communicate in a foreign language even when you feel incompetent.
As such, our classes will include both a mixture of classic language instruction and real-life practice with locals in El Chaltén. Our lead teacher, Mica Peker, will connect our group to a variety of language learning opportunities, including the chance for you to help local English-language learners practice their English.
Spanish classes will take place three times a week (three hours each).
Partner dance is any form of dance involving lead/follow roles and improvisation—and it is an entire education in itself. You’ll practice body awareness, deep listening, and clear communication. You’ll sharpen your musicality, spontaneity, and confidence. And most importantly, you’ll learn to let loose and have more fun!
Because partner dance teaches so many personal and interpersonal skills, we believe it is an essential experience—and that’s why it’s a core part of the Patagonia Retreat.
We’re very lucky to have Milla von Tauber—a dance instructor, event organizer, and Unschool Adventure alumnus—as our dance workshop leader. Milla will walk you through the fundamentals, give you a taste of a few specific dances (blues, latin, tango), and organize a handful of evening parties.
Dance classes will take place four times a week (two hours each).
↑ This is how partner dance will make you feel! (from the Argentina Semester 2017 tango group)
As you move into adulthood, you face many choices. In each situation, you can either conform to the default path, or you can actively design a more alternative and individual path. But this is only possible if you are aware of your options and possess the confidence and encouragement to take an unconventional route.
This is where Blake Boles (Unschool Adventures founder & director) enters the picture. As someone who has fueled his life with self-employment, long-term travel, and frequent adventures for more than 15 years, Blake will guide you through the world of unconventional approaches to work, education, housing, travel, and more.
This isn’t about knee-jerk rejection of everything “normal”—it’s about considering a multitude of life paths, understanding their implications, and honestly weighing the risks and benefits. By taking Blake’s workshops you’ll gain new perspectives on how to make your way through the world as a self-directed and independent young adult.
Lifestyle design workshops will take place three times a week (three hours each).
The final experience of the Patagonia Retreat is one you can make as big or little as you want: the chance to travel independently in South America—and find your own way home.
Just like other Unschool Adventures international trips, the group will travel together from a single airport in the United States to El Chaltén (accompanied by staff member Milla). But on the way back… well, that’s up to you! You can schedule a flight for the day after the program ends, returning via the same route by which you arrived. You can stick around Chaltén a bit longer, a place that now feels familiar. You can strike out to explore Patagonia’s many iconic destinations, such as Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno glacier, and Tierra del Fuego. You might even partner up with someone from the retreat and head up to Buenos Aires, Bariloche, or Mendoza… or Chile, Bolivia, Peru, or beyond!
Our goal for the Patagonia Retreat is to help you make new friends, find new inspiration, and develop new skills and confidence. No matter whether you plan to return home immediately or travel for a while, our staff will help you craft your plans, feel confident about the next steps, and launch into the world.
El Chaltén is a world-renowned outdoor destination nestled under the Fitz Roy mountain range in far southern Argentina. The town is small, touristy, fully walkable, and packed with cafés, shops, and restaurants. Multiple trails begin from the edge of town, making it easy to go for a hike or find a quiet moment in the hills.
Patagonia is known for its dynamic, temperamental weather patterns. March is late summer / early autumn in El Chaltén, and you can expect anything from hot/sunny to cold/rainy, with frequent wind. Layer up and prepare for anything!
9am – Breakfast
10am – Spanish or Lifestyle Design workshop
1pm – Lunch break
3pm – Dance class or free time
5pm – Free time
7pm – Dinner & meeting
9pm – Free time or discussion/event
12am – Quiet in the hostel
Each week we’ll also have one full day off (three in total), during which we’ll only have breakfast, dinner, and meeting. We’ll try to align the days off (and the non-dancing afternoons) with good weather to provide maximum opportunity for outdoor exploration.
Before applying, please read the retreat’s Frequently Asked Questions (below). Then click “Apply Now” to submit your online application and the $30 application fee, which is fully refundable if you’re not offered a place on the trip.
As with every Unschool Adventures trip, we will be conducting interviews with all applicants to ensure a good fit prior to enrollment. Unlike previous trips, interviews for the Patagonia Retreat are conducted asynchronously via WhatsApp or Telegram (audio or video), requiring 15-20 minutes of your time.
What’s covered in the program fee?
The $3000 program fee includes accommodation, breakfasts, dinners, workshops, weekly laundry service, and any Unschool Adventures sponsored activities. It does not include international airfare (see: “How will flights be organized?”), lunches, or non-sponsored activities. We recommend bringing $10/day to cover lunches and snacks.
Who are the trip leaders?
Blake Boles, Milla von Tauber, and Mica Peker are the primary trip leaders. Each has staffed an Unschool Adventures trip before. Blake and Mica hold active Wilderness First Responder certifications. We will also have two more local staff: an additional Spanish teacher and a Kitchen Coordinator.
Click here to learn more about Blake, Milla, and Mica.
How much free time will I have?
Every normal day will have free time before breakfast, during the lunch break, in the afternoon, and late at night. Two afternoon workshop slots (typically dedicated to dance) will be dedicated to free time each week, with the intention of creating space for longer outdoor explorations. And one full day each week (three total) will be fully “off” during which we’ll only do breakfast, dinner, and meeting.
What kind of opportunities will I have for hiking and outdoor exploration?
If you enjoy walking in the mountains, El Chaltén is the place for you! As a world-renowned outdoor destination, you’ll have the chance to experience the Fitz Roy mountain range and many other gorgeous local hikes. Unschool Adventures staff won’t be leading any of the hikes, but we’ll point you in the correct direction and remind you take extra clothing layers, water, and snacks. There are also opportunities for rock climbing, mountain biking, and other activities—all of which you’re free to explore in your free time (and at your own risk).
As a 16- or 17-year-old, what special considerations should I be aware of?
The Patagonia Retreat offers a very high level of independence that may be appropriate for certain 16- and 17-year-olds. If you’re under 18, you’re welcome to apply—just be ready for a more elaborate interview process. Unschool Adventures staff will communicate directly with the parents of all minor participants to set appropriate expectations and devise a travel plan that meets the needs of all parties.
I’m older than 20—can I apply?
We are open to applications from 21- and 22-year-olds, provided that you understand the realities and responsibilities of being part of a group that includes much younger participants—a topic we will address in the interview.
How will flights be organized?
We highly recommend flying with Unschool Adventures (accompanied by staff member Milla) from the United States to Argentina on a flight organized by our group travel specialist, from Miami to Buenos Aires to El Calafate (the nearest airport to El Chaltén). Our group airfare contract is running higher than expected, at roughly $2250 roundtrip. More details provided upon application. If you prefer, you may book your own flights to/from El Calafate and meet us at the hostel at the start of the program.
Who will I share a room with?
After enrolling, we will ask whether you prefer a mixed-gender or gender-separated room. You may also request to share a room with a specific person. We’ll do our best (but cannot promise) to meet all requests. Requests to switch rooms during the program will be handled by the community meeting.
How will cooking and cleaning take place?
Every normally scheduled day will have a dinner crew of two participants who (alongside our Kitchen Coordinator) will be responsible for groceries, cooking, and cleanup. Depending on the total number of enrollees, each participant will serve on dinner crew roughly three times. We will also have regular hostel clean-up shifts, performed in pairs.
Can I stay out late?
If you’d like to go out after dinner/meeting, we’ll ask that you go out (and stay with) at least one other person. We’ll also have a midnight curfew, after which you’ll need to stay in the hostel and respect quiet hours.
What topics will the “Lifestyle Design” workshops address?
How can I prepare for learning Spanish ahead of time?
We highly recommend beginning your Spanish language learning ahead of the retreat—it will make your Spanish classes (and subsequent independent travel) much easier. Consider taking a traditional class, doing one-on-one tutoring (with a native speaker through a website like iTalki), and using phone- or web-based language apps. We’ll also have a WhatsApp group to connect participants who are learning Spanish before the retreat.
I already know a lot of Spanish—do I need to take the classes?
If you have proven competency, you may choose to do independent Spanish language study instead of taking classes.
What if I’m interested in only some of the workshops? Can I skip the others?
Sorry—the Patagonia Retreat is a package deal! We expect everyone to fully participate. If you don’t think you can reliably commit to joining all of the dance, Spanish, and lifestyle design workshops, then this isn’t the right program for you. (If you’re sick or require the occasional mental health break, then it’s fine to skip, of course—but please don’t join with the intention of abusing this policy.)
What gear do I need to bring?
We’ll provide a full packing list upon registration. You won’t need anything special for this trip—just clothes, toiletries, and a phone. If you’re interested in doing big hikes or extensive travel after the trip, we’ll help you think about what kind of outdoor and travel gear you might want to bring.
Can you accommodate my special diet?
We can accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free (but not celiac) diets. Groceries are limited and expensive in Chaltén, so it’s not always easy to cater to special diets. The more restrictive your diet, the more flexibility and patience you’ll need to have a successful retreat.
What medical facilities are available in El Chaltén?
Chaltén is a small, remote town with a few medical staff on-call but without any major medical facilities. For serious medical attention, a 3-hour trip to El Calafate is required.
What’s the internet like in El Chaltén?
Not great! The town of El Chaltén has slow and unreliable internet, and there is no mobile data coverage. On very windy days, the whole town may lose connection. Also, not everyone may be able to connect to the hostel wifi at the same time. Video calls may be difficult or impossible, while regular messaging, browsing, and email should be fairly reliable. Prepare for a month of largely in-person connection!
What are the Covid protocols?
Considering that the Patagonia Retreat involves (1) living in close quarters and (2) spending time in a remote region without extensive medical facilities, we will require that all participants provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of enrollment. Regarding testing requirements, we will follow the official protocols of the country of Argentina (viewable under “Entry and Exit Requirements” on the U.S. Embassy in Argentina website). Masks are optional, and each person’s choice to wear a mask (or not) will be respected. We may update these procedures as the situation evolves (e.g. regarding new variants or travel restrictions).
When is the program fee due?
After applying and interviewing, you may reserve your spot with a $1000 non-refundable deposit (payable by bank transfer or credit card). The balance of $2000 is due on November 15th (payable by bank transfer, check, money order, or credit card). Please note that credit card transactions incur a 3% surcharge.
The international group plane tickets will likely be purchased in November or December, facilitated by our group travel specialist.
Is there a chance this program won’t happen?
As with all Unschool Adventures programs, we require a certain minimum enrollment before we can commit to running a program. In mid-September we reached our minimum number and placed a deposit with the hostel in El Chaltén, so the retreat is a firm “go!”
Email Blake anytime at email@example.com.
↑ El Chaltén and Mt. Fitz Roy in the early morning
Header photo: Mt. Fitz Roy by Mica Peker
All other photos by Blake Boles / Unschool Adventures