Feeling down about Chicagoland’s housing costs? Well, there’s a community with more snow, wind, AND higher prices.
Finding a place to call home on our planet is quite the decision, fraught with lists and lists of considerations to make before settling in.
Mortgages are a pain. Should you go for 15-year fixed or 30-year? Not a fun question to answer, but people manage. What if, to move somewhere, you were required to have your appendix removed? Maybe not quite as painful as a mortgage? Maybe more? Well, boy do we have the place for you.
Thanks to a strong economy and consumer confidence, construction spending last year hit an all-time high of $1.2 trillion, so if you’re among the millions looking to break ground on some prime real estate, look no further. The only teensy catch is that you’ll have to go under the knife. But other than that, welcome to Villa Las Estrellas.
Technically a Chilean settlement, it’s nestled in the accommodating locale of Antarctica. There are 100 permanent residents who are divided amongst 24 houses, inhabiting one of the most uninhabitable places on the planet. For perspective, on a school globe, Punta Arenas is at the very southern tip of South America. Go 994 miles further south and you’ll find Villa Las Estrellas.
To live here, residents are required to go through a battery of physical and psychological examinations to prove their abilities to withstand the environment. Anxiety disorders are common in 50% of adults and, among a variety of psychological evaluations, the place can be extremely anxiety-inducing from sheer isolation. Oh, and apart from children under six years old, one of the physical requirements is an appendectomy. If that seems extreme, just wait.
The average daily temperature is a balmy -2 degrees Celsius, but can get down -47 degrees during the winter. It’s so far south that daylight isn’t really a thing, replaced by a sort of daytime dusk, if only for a few minutes. During the winter months, they’re enveloped in complete darkness and the temperature doesn’t surpass -20 degrees. One in three adults is considered obese, which is another physical consideration made for potential residents. Because of the lack of light, vegetables are very limited and the diets are high in fats, carbs, and proteins. In fact, residents comically dismissed a suggestion for the settlement to have a nutritionist on staff. Eat, drink, and be merry.
“It gets a little intense here in winter,” says Jose Luis Carillan, a Villa Las Estrellas resident of three years with his wife and two children.
Because the summers are so much less intense? There are stretches of time that it’s impossible to go outside and it’s popularly compared to being a place that comes closest to living on another planet. The cherry on top? There’s one way in and one way out: C-130 military aircraft. They’re huge and built for lengthy journeys that can surpass 2,300 miles.
“We must be prepared to keep a person alive two or three days, the time it takes an airplane to get out of here,” says commander Sergio Cubillos.
Yes, just getting out can be a two to three-day process. Redefines a long flight/layover, doesn’t it? The mandatory appendectomy makes a little more sense when the closest hospital is 625 miles away. A distance and timeframe at which acute appendicitis would be fatal in the majority of cases.
Still, people are chomping at the bit to get there because of the economic kickbacks from the government and the opportunity to live somewhere few others can say they have. Plus, the neighbors are great.
“People in the rest of Chile are so afraid of thieves that they build walls around their homes. Not here in Antartica. This is one of the safest places in the world,” says resident Paul Robledo.
And, along with a lively penguin population, it’s a full community. Complete with a school, post office, Orthodox church (monks and all), bank, and — hilariously — an air-conditioned gym, this place has everything it needs for the doughty contingency of residents who, predictably, become quite close.
“Family life in Antarctica is very calm and pleasant because we spend much more time together than before,” says Macarena Villarreal, a mother of two.
So, we can officially put the expressions costs an arm and a leg to bed. This’ll cost an appendix, requires formidable physiological and psychological constitutions, and you should probably not be sensitive to the cold.
And any place where penguins outnumber people is pretty special.