This brief 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. If you have any questions, please shoot us an email or ask during your pre-course phone call.
Please do not bring cell phones, computers, iPads, other tablets, iPod Touch, Apple Watch or the like.
- If students arrive on course with any of the non-permitted items, they will be held by 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 summer, and you won’t be able to use those items at any point during the course.
You may bring cameras, e-readers, music players, and fitness trackers (none with phone/internet/wifi capabilities – except where integral to downloading new content).
- Everyone needs their alone and comfort time, and we love reading and music too! Still, these items do have the potential to disengage us from where we are and what we’re doing. It’s important to push ourselves to stay in the here and now, especially at those moments that feel difficult but have much to offer us if we engage fully in them. Because of this, we ask that you use electronics like these only at appropriate times, such as on long train/bus rides or right before bed.
- When deciding what to bring—whether electronics or other things—we ask you to consider how they may affect your ability to engage fully and how well you can keep these items from being broken or lost.
Sharing your experience with friends and family is an important part of travel.
- Students will have access to Internet to email home at least 3 times during our 4-week course.
- We will also be posting Yaks! This Yak board is where we will share itinerary updates and students will post personal and group reflections.
- 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.
Why do we have this policy? For a lot of people on this planet having constant access to phone and the Internet has become the norm. Because of that, we want to explain why we have these policies and how they help the trip.
- Instructor/Student Relationship: Over the years we have accumulated data that shows that students who are in touch with home too frequently tend to report health issues, especially seemingly embarrassing ones such as diarrhea, to parents rather than to instructors. One of the ways we keep students safe is to normalize frequent, direct communication between students and instructors, and we have found that this technology policy helps prevent breakdowns in that communication.
- Homesickness: Another thing we’ve learned running courses for so long is that students who feel homesick continue to feel homesick when they stay in close contact with friends and family at home. On the other hand, those students who push themselves to leave home behind and engage in the course feel less homesick. That said, we don’t ever want to prevent students from checking in with loved ones, and we will help students learn how and when to do this appropriately during the course.
- Cultural Sensitivity: We will be traveling to places where people get by with few, if any, luxury goods. Before you even interact with people here, they will have a perception about you based on how you look and where you come from. When you have lots of expensive stuff or are lost behind a screen, those perceptions become reinforced; when you are available to interact and when what you own becomes less important than how you behave, those perceptions are enriched and complicated. As travelers, we strive to interact with others directly in order to know them and their societies better, and we can offer similar lessons to others by being mindful of how we as foreigners present ourselves. In addition, we’d like to cultivate a group that focuses on things beyond material possessions. Less stuff helps us to do this.
- Theft and Damage: We don’t want your stuff to get broken or stolen! So if you’re bringing things that won’t survive getting rained on during a hike or being mashed underneath other bags, know what you’re getting into. Also, pick pocketing can happen. Another consideration–what is the effect on the local community when something of ours is lost or stolen? Especially for rural host communities, even losing something while a guest in someone else’s home can be embarrassing for the entire host community and might even prevent that community from hosting future groups.
- Engagement in Your Experience: One of the biggest reasons to leave electronics at home is that having fewer of these buzzing, beeping, notifying, messaging, attention-dividing things in our life allows us the mental quietness we need to engage ourselves, others, and the places we pass through in profound interaction. When we have less, the essentials are easier to locate.
We spend so much time explaining our electronics policy because we understand that this is new and possibly difficult as an individual and as a family, and we want you to be on board with the goals of such a policy. We want you to see why we ask you to leave these things behind. It truly is for the benefit of the student, your tripmates, the instructors, our host communities, and your loved ones back at home. Leaving home at home will allow you to be fully engaged in.
Q: If I deactivate my phone can I still use it as my camera and music player?
A: Smartphones can wear many hats but we’ve found that even a deactivated phone has incredible potential to alter the experience. So to be clear, phones in any form will not be allowed. The same goes for iPod Touches or tablets (even small ones), 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: Yes, you can, but we encourage you to try it without your phone because as soon as we meet at the airport, we will collect the phone. As noted above, instructors will hold any personal device until the end of course.
To ensure that your travels go smoothly, we recommend that you carry a hard copy of all required flight information, our meet-up information (to be posted on the yak board), and a physical list of important numbers (i.e. your emergency contacts and the Dragons office’s number +1-303-413-0822).
Q: I feel that it is a waste of money and resources for me to buy new electronics that meet these requirements since I pretty much use my phone to do everything. What do you suggest?
A: Yes, we realize that not everyone is going to have an old MP3/Music player or point-and-shoot or DSLR camera sitting around since smartphones have replaced most of those devices. The instructor team will be documenting key points during the course – like a homestay gathering, a trek, or the group arrival. Students that do bring cameras are usually happy to serve as trip photographers as well!
Some past students were able to borrow music players, eReaders, and cameras from friends and family for use on the trip. Ask around and see who can lend you one! Or, you could purchase a used or refurbished one on Ebay, Craigslist or another site for pretty cheap.
Q: Any tips for making the most of my time at internet cafes?
A: We will offer students the opportunity to connect to the internet to post yaks and email friends and family at least three times on course. Recommendations from past students on making the most of this time include creating a Group in your contacts for general updates. One email can then be easily sent to the whole Group. Other students found it helpful to write out emails and yaks in advance (while in homestay or as another way to reflect on their daily experience) in their journal so that it would be a simple matter of typing it up. Some students have encountered difficulty with Gmail’s multiple-step verification. Please turn off 2-step verification for your accounts so that you can log in easily while abroad. (Google Account -> Security)