If you’ve ever gone on a camping trip with your friends, chances are that becoming a park ranger has been a hot topic of campfire conversation. While parks in the U.S. are nice enough, pack a little international travel into your ranger dreams by heading farther than Mount Rushmore, like the Sahara, or the Outback. Rubbing elbows with Smokey the Bear outside the US will take some preparation and hard work, but the payoff can be well worth the effort.
Before You Apply
For the extreme outdoor enthusiast, being a park ranger might seem all unicorns-and-cupcakes, but in reality, the job can be more shoveling bear shit and fighting with drunken dickheads who insist that burning plastic is hilarious. Keep in mind that if you want to get to a point where you can get paid (very little) to play outside, you will first have to clock in some bitch work hours. Overall, no matter which country you want to park it in, plan on studying something relevant like park management, zoology, or botany before or during your stay. You may also have to volunteer to get your foot in the (out)door.
Playing in Aussie Parks
Park Victoria is responsible for managing hundreds of killer national, state and metropolitan parks as well as thousands of conservation reserves in Victoria, Australia. Non-citizens can only become park rangers in the land down under if they have a valid, working visa. Plan on hitting the books hard in Natural Resource Management and Recreation/Tourism to be considered. The Summer Ranger Program offers a limited number of short-term ranger jobs for students and is a great “in” to the Aussie park system.
If you feel like parks are for slides and sissies, you might want to consider heading to Africa to become a safari ranger. Learn how to track wild animals and survive in the bush, while dodging the bullets of poachers. Outside of the zoology courses and personal training sessions you will want to complete beforehand, enroll in a Safari Ranger School to get a thorough training about ranger life in the African wild. Those afraid of snakes, rhinos, or physical exertion need not apply.
Volunteer Rangers in Colombia
Colombia has an array of parks scattered around the country. Some parks contain glaciers and beaches, others are more like full-on leafy forests. The scenery here should hit that nature g-spot for any aspiring ranger. To apply for the volunteer ranger program you’ll need to present some basic documents like a passport, certification that you’re healthy and not crazy, and get a couple of precautionary vaccines and photos. The program runs a 5-day training period, after which you will be assigned to your park of choice and given free lodging and in-park transportation. You’ll have to pay for your meals but if you study up, perhaps foraging something edible will be in the cards.
Rangers Without Borders
Seems like you can make just about everything a “without borders” organization these days (doctors, teachers, post-Burning Man burners). A division of the International Rangers Federation, Rangers Without Borders is a program currently in development that will aim to link up rangers around the world with those working in developing countries to provide them with support. If you get really serious about ranger-ing (i.e. invest in pair of too-short khakis), keep your eye on this program; it’ll be useful when you’ve petted one rabid squirrel too many.
Go on and try your hand at being a cop of the wild. You’ll get to live outside, hear the sorry attempts of people trying to bone in tents, and finally fulfill Smokey’s fire prevention prophecy by issuing fines to anyone who looks remotely pyrophilic.