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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Saying Goodbye to Our Devices (Technology Policy)

Hello again, Dragon Students!

As you pack, you’re probably wondering which of your gadgets and gizmos you can take with you on this adventure. We’ll give you some more details on that here. You’ll also find some notes about ATM cards, power converters, and EMAIL.

Please do not bring…

  • Cell phones, computers, tablets, I-pod touches, or any other personal electronic whose main purpose is web browsing. Even if you use your cell phone as a camera, we ask that you seek an alternative. Please do not bring your cell phone!
  • If you bring any of these devices, we’ll ask you to turn it in to us, and it will be returned to you at the end of the program. We will do our best to care for any device we hold for you, but we’ll be traveling across an enormous country. Loss or damage will be your responsibility to replace or fix.
  • Note that students will have access to a group ipad and can use the Internet to ocasionally email home and post Yaks to stay in touch where Internet is available. Instructors will also have personal phones for staying in contact with the Dragons office and in case of emergencies.

Feel free to bring…

  • MP3 players (such as iPod Minis), cameras, and Kindles or other E-readers not designed for web browsing (such as Kindle Fires).
  • 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’ll 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. If you think you can do without the headphones, go for it! Students never seem to regret it.

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.

  • Safety: 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  want to prevent students from ever 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 peoples’ 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 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 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 technology’s role 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?  And, vice versa, how much does my family expect to hear from me via the Yak board and email?
  • If I use social media, do I think that that would detract from an immersive travel experience like the one we will have this spring in Indonesia? How might technology use and social media impact my travel experience?
  • What means of communication will be best employed to communicate the depth of my experience most accurately? Talking on the phone or Skype, email, or communicating once back together in person? Do I want to communicate these experiences while they are happening or afterwards when I have processed them more fully?

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.

Other electronic related notes

  • Of Plugs and Sockets: You’ll need a way to charge your cameras and MP3 players. Indonesia runs on 230 volts with a variety of plug types. The most common are types C, A, and G, none of which are used in the U.S., meaning you’ll need an adapter or will need to get one once here. Universal adapters are often available in REI, online, and at many airports in Asia. An adapter will help your plug physically fit into a different shaped socket. Power converters, on the other hand, change the voltage of the socket to one that won’t harm your electronics. You should be aware that most electronics will automatically do this, and so you won’t need a separate converter for most electronics. If you need to find out more, you can visit or other such sites. We anticipate having frequent access to power outlets for most of the course, but do be aware that more remote homestays may not have reliable electricity, so bringing a spare battery for your camera is a good idea.
  • EMAIL — Email and yak posts will be the primary modes for staying in touch with friends and family back home.  As you will be logging into your email account in a new country, your email may require you to follow a safety protocol. Many people have issues with this (especially with Gmail, which commonly requires a 2-step verification), as the most common safety protocol is an extra password/pic that will be texted to your cellphone number. Even if you bring your cellphone (please don’t!), you probably won’t have an international plan and will most likely be unable to receive the text with the password. Please double-check your email security options, consider disabling 2-step verification, and consider having your account linked to a parent’s (or someone you trust) so they can verify your log-in attempts for you. Some students opt to just create a new email address once they are in Indonesia. We just like to give you a heads-up so you can do your best to prevent being locked out of your email.
  • Please also be sure that for any ATM card (or emergency use credit card) you are bringing, the issuing company has been informed of your travel, and/or that you know how to access your account should you be locked out due to security concerns.  It also a good idea to be aware of international fees, and to double check your card’s expiration date.

We hope this helps answer and clarify electronics related questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out if anything is unclear. Keep checking the Yak board, and keep posting those those intros on the Yak board! We wish you the best as you finish your preparations for our course and 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 an exploration of all that the world has to offer. Unplug. Dive in. And get ready for an amazing adventure.

Your Instructors,

-Colin, Bradford, and Rita