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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

A Note On Electronics

Dear friends,

This note is to remind you that you won’t need any electronics on this course. If you would like to bring something, please follow these guidelines:

WHAT?

Not permitted: Cell phones, computers, iPads & other tablets, iPods & other music players

Permitted: Cameras, e-readers

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. Please don’t do this, because we’re traveling 4,600 kilometers up the Mekong River and we don’t want to carry extra things! Instructors are not responsible for items that are lost, stolen, or damaged.

At the end of courses students always mention how thankful they were to be disconnected from electronics. You’ll have sufficient opportunities to connect with friends and family via internet cafes and pay phones, though connections will not be as lightning-fast as you might be used to. On average, students are able to connect to the internet about once a week.

FAQ!

Q: If I deactivate my phone can I still use it as my camera and music player?

A: We acknowledge that smartphones can serve many functions, 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.

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

A: We encourage you to try it without your phone so that we do not need to carry it for thousands of kilometers. That being said, you can bring it for that travel if you need, and we’ll collect it upon arrival in Cambodia. 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 +1-303-413-0822). Also, airline help desks at any airport can help you faster than a phone can, and they all speak English.

For family and friends back home, know that the instructor team will be in regular communication with the Dragons Boulder office (even while on treks and in remote communities). If family needs to contact you, they can contact the Boulder office and we will receive forwarded questions. Watch our Yak Board for updates every few of days.

WHY?

We want to share our philosophy: the reasons why we ask you to disconnect from phones and computers.

As an instructor team, we value the close community that develops when traveling in a group. We want to give you an opportunity to fully experience the world through different eyes. When we as humans encounter something unfamiliar, something challenging, or something that just doesn’t fit into our worldview, it’s easy to have the initial reaction of not wanting to experience that fully. Our modern portable electronics make it easy to distance ourselves from our immediate surroundings, whether it be people, places, or unfamiliar language. One of the best ways to understand a culture not your own is to experience it fully, to see the intricacies of everyday life, to feel its joys and sorrows, to see how the people pass idle moments and do that with them. There is no greater opportunity to fully engage in the local culture and philosophy than to disconnect from the electronics that are products of Western thought and globalized ways of living.

Whatever your opinion about our no-phones policy, we encourage you to read this article on the effect of phones on human interaction. As you prepare for the course and let your friends and family know how much you will be in touch, we hope that you will take the time to consider these questions for yourself so that you are embarking on your travels with mindful intentions towards the role you give electronics in your life.

  • Knowing that Dragons has this Wonderful And Glorious Yak Board for me to post thoughtful travel writing, how much and how often do I want to be in touch with friends and family from home?
  • If I use social media in everyday life, do those uses translate to an immersive travel experience? How might it impact my travel experience to see photos from home out of context or to hear about what I am not there for?
  • What means of communication will be best to use and communicate the depth of my experience most accurately? Do I want to communicate these experiences while they are happening or afterwards when I have processed them more fully?

We wish you the best as you finish your preparations for our course. We hope that you are able to intentionally prepare yourself and your friends and family for what will surely be the adventure of a lifetime and a an exploration of all that the world has to offer. Unplug. Dive in. And get ready for an amazing adventure.

Your Instructor Team: Gai, Madeleine, and Jeff