We want to take this opportunity to share our position on the use of technology during our course. A great deal of this experience has to do with human connection – within our group, our extended family in Nepal, and the many other people we will meet along the journey, as well as with being present in Nepal as fully as possible. As such, we want to provide an opportunity for you to “unplug.” Many of the best travel moments arise when we least expect them, and we often miss them if we are cut off by headphones or a bright screen. Most Nepalis don’t have as much tech stuff as some of us do, because it is cost-prohibitive or because it is simply unavailable, so our tech devices also often exhibit wealth disparity and draw unwanted attention. This can look like someone being more interested in playing with your iPhone than in talking with you, or, unfortunately, theft. When packing, try to bring only inconspicuous things that you wouldn’t mind getting lost or broken. The more gadgets that you bring, the more that you have to lose, and the more that you have to carry around! Ultimately you know what you will want to have better than anyone, but that being said, here are a few specifics from our side:
– Please do not bring any online devices (WiFi included) – phones, laptops, tablets, e-readers, virtual reality headsets, self-driving cars, or other similar gadgets. If you do bring such an item, we will hold onto it for you for the duration of the course. We will do our best to provide access to phones and computers when they are needed (although they will be unavailable at times, such as during our trek), and you will be able to use internet cafes and phone shops at your discretion during free time in the city.
– Music devices such as iPods are fine as long as they are offline and used respectfully and communally, such as connecting them to a speaker for all to enjoy. We discourage bringing headphones, as they unavoidably create a barrier between the one or two people who are using them and everyone else (you will probably find a complimentary set on your international flights). Music devices really aren’t necessary, though; we’ll generally have access to lots of music, and some musical instruments!
– Cameras can be used wonderfully as tools to connect with other people, especially across language barriers, sharing moments with them, and serve as a powerful medium for artistic expression. Bringing a Polaroid and giving some of your photos to others is a great way to deepen that connection. Some people choose to leave their camera behind as a way to live in the moment even more fully, and there is typically a trove of collected photos shared among the group at the end of the course anyway. If you do choose to bring a camera, we encourage you to go with a smaller one – camera gear can be very bulky!
Finally, a note for families: You may not hear from your intrepid traveler as often as you are used to, because we will often be in places where the infrastructure does not allow for individual communications (instructors will have an emergency line of communication open at all times), and because we encourage our students to stay fully engaged in Nepal as much as possible. We have found that overly frequent calls home can interfere with a student’s engagement and lead to homesickness. We will also be off having too much fun to stop for calls and emails all the time! We hope that you can appreciate the value in this not-so-frequent communication.
Thanks for reading! We hope that you understand and accept the rationale behind all of this. If you have any questions or comments, please post them in a Yak!