1) We are environmental educators.
We want participants to come away from our trips connected to Patagonia's landscapes and ecosystems, empowered as environmental activists, and inspired to continue their backcountry travels elsewhere. To put it bluntly, we hope peoples’ lives will be changed by our trips.
We have our roots in the land conservation movement, and we try not to lose sight of that founding purpose. Our goal is to introduce travelers to cutting-edge land conservation efforts in Patagonia and encourage them to fight for thoughtful, sustainable solutions elsewhere. Now more than ever, we believe this is a vital task.
We try to foster conversation and reflection around complex questions — questions of consumption, conservation, climate change, technology, and the future of environmentalism.
2) We are community members.
Chulengo provides sustainable jobs and reliable income for the communities of Aysén, a region that has staked its economic future on national parks and wilderness conservation. We take seriously our role in Aysén's rapidly-changing economy, and believe we have a responsibility to keep our revenues local. We work hard to cultivate local guides, educators, and leaders who will become ambassadors for their homes.
We direct 10% of of profits from our community expeditions to Aysén-based social and environmental NGOs and seek out meaningful opportunities for our participants to volunteer in local communities.
3) We are spiky, not glossy. We don't offer a standardized product. We offer an invitation to co-create an experience.
The expeditions we lead are real -- not staged. They depend on the energy, curiosity, and dedication of their participants, and adversity and uncertainty are at the heart of what make them so special. Each and every time we go into the field, we are writing a new story.
The truth is that it's harder and harder to find this sort of experience, and there are all sorts of forces that make it difficult to offer. We have to fight to preserve the authenticity of what we're doing -- and our jobs would be a lot less stressful (and, why not admit it, more lucrative) if we just offered a packaged tour of Patagonia's increasingly well-trodden tourist routes. But that's not what we're about.
We shy away from Patagonia-catalogue type marketing. Actually, we shy away from marketing at all: word-of-mouth referrals are the only way we attract participants. That helps us keep our footprint small and our community strong.
4) We are humble and curious.
We'll be the first ones to admit we don't have it all figured out. We are always looking for better solutions and answers. We're receptive to the idea that we don't always get it right the first time.
We stay curious, eager, and engaged. We invite activists and artists on our expeditions; they help us see our own world with fresh eyes. And if we meet a truly visionary educator, our first instinct is: hire them!
5) We are free-spirited, irreverent, and WILD.
Nothing kills free-spirited irreverence quite like filing small-business tax returns and buying liability insurance. But we try to keep alive the original rambunctious spirit that led us to fall in love with big, wild landscapes.
The word “wild” has nearly been beaten to death by advertising and consumerism. But we still think it stands for something vital, something worth fighting for. "The word wild," says the poet Gary Snyder, "is like a gray fox trotting off through the forest, ducking behind bushes, going in and out of sight." If we had to sum up what we're after, it'd be that gray fox.
Snippets of wisdom we rely on:
A land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land community to plain member and citizen of it. (Aldo Leopold)
Nature is not a place to visit. It is home. (Gary Snyder)
Attention is the beginning of devotion. (Mary Oliver)
Wildness is more a quality than a place. (Michael Pollan)
By journeying to places we awaken and reinvigorate the earth, which returns this to us. A place within a landscape corresponds to a place within the heart. (Václav Cílek)