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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Connecting and Disconnecting

Hola Dragones.

I’m sure many of you will be reading this on your portable electronic devices. I am currently writing this on mine.

Technology can be amazing. It has the ability to connect people in the most remote parts of the world, to spread ideas and to inspire us. However, we’re sure you’ve seen the ugly side of technology as well. Tools like smartphones and social media that are designed to unite us, often isolate us. The ability to access the internet 24/7 can make it so that we are not present in the moment.

One of the things that makes Dragons courses so magical is that without the tempting distraction of a smart phone lurking in our pocket we are forced to be fully present in our experience. We see Bolivia & Peru and more importantly we see ourselves in real time. So with the support of Dragons Admin, we’d like to present a list of electronic devices which are not approved and those which are.

• Not permitted: cell phones, computers, iPads, other tablets or iPod Touch.

• Permitted: Cameras, electronic books (basic versions i.e. not Kindle fire or others that are basically just tablets) and music players only (none with phone/internet/wifi capabilities)

If students arrive on course with any of the non-permitted items they will be held by the instructors for the remainder of the course. Instructors are not responsible for items that are lost, stolen or damaged. We prefer not having to lug your stuff around all semester, and you won’t be able to use those items at any point during the course.

For permitted items moderation is key. If students are using permitted items to remove themselves from the experience the instructors will talk with that student. If the action continues the item(s) will be held by the instructors. We understand and respect how important access to technology may be for you. However we ask that you trust the process. Even our longest and most arduous travel days, precisely when it’s most tempting to put our headphones on, can hold some really amazing and unexpected cultural interactions, but we need to keep our eyes and ears open to engage in these unplanned moments.

At the end of courses students always mention how thankful they were to be disconnected from technology. On my last program, more than half the students said that they didn’t want their phones back. They had become accustomed to and enjoyed the separation.

Throughout Bolivia and Peru you’ll have sufficient opportunities to connect with friends and family – on average students connect to the internet about once or twice a week.

A couple of commonly asked questions:

1) If I deactivate my phone can I still use it as my camera and music player?

Response: We acknowledge that smartphones can wear many hats but we’ve found that even a deactivated phone has incredible potential to alter your experience. So to be clear, phones in any form will not be allowed.

The same goes for iPod Touches, since they are basically the same as a deactivated phone.

2) I’m worried about my connecting flights before/after the trip. Can I bring my phone for that?

Response: Yes, you can but we encourage you to try it without your phone because as soon as you meet us in Cusco we will collect the phone. To ensure that your travels go smoothly we recommend you carry a hard copy of all required flight information and a physical list of important numbers (i.e. your emergency contacts and the Dragons office’s number 001-303-413-0822).

For family and friends back home, know that the instructor team will be in regular communication with the Dragons Boulder office (even while hiking and in remote communities).  You can contact the Boulder office at any time with questions, thoughts or concerns and they will quickly forward questions on to us. Watch our Yak Board for exciting updates over the course of the semester.

So unplug. Dive in. And get ready for an amazing adventure.

-Los Instructores