As your arrival in Nepal & Bhutan is around the corner, we assume you are gearing up for the upcoming adventure. On this note, we want to highlight one of the important aspects of the non-packing list: Smartphones and other electronic devices.
Dragons as an organization has a policy that strongly suggests all students leave smartphones at home. You can read more about that in your materials, but in short, we’ve found phones detract from the experience and create risk management issues for the group. Please carefully read and consider what Dragons has written about smartphones.
Specifically for our Bhutan program; we are asking you to leave other electronic devices at home with the exception being cameras and Kindles. It is amazing how dependent we’ve all become on technology and your time in Nepal & Bhutan will provide a rare opportunity to truly “unplug” from the constant distraction of social media and electronics. It can be truly liberating. We encourage everyone to please read this article from the NY Times. It’s not the same “technology is corrupting our youth” judgmental piece you’ve seen before, but has some really thoughtful insights on how technology can most affect our ability to be alone. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
That said, we also know that no matter how much we emphasize it, sometimes students still show up with their device, as you may need your phone for domestic travel–that’s okay. We get it… we aren’t “anti-tech” (we even have to carry our phones for work communication).
As a requirement, instructors will collect any devices (smartphones, laptops, iPods) from all students once they have landed in Kathmandu, so please be ready to turn them in if you decide to have them during your travel period to Nepal & Bhutan. The devices will be returned to students towards the end of course.
Our reason behind this is that we have seen electronic devices tear students away from their present surroundings, increase homesickness, keep one foot in Bhutan and one-foot longing for the feed on what is happening back home. Even our longest and most arduous travel days, precisely when you want to listen to your favorite tune to pass time, can hold the most amazing and unexpected cultural interactions. We need to keep our eyes and ears open (i.e., not looking at a screen or listening to music) to engage in those unplanned moments.
Do not come with an international calling/data plan and do not plan to get a local plan. You will not be able to use your smartphone during the course, so please do not plan on using it as your camera or for any other specific function.
Though cameras are widely available in Nepal, because tariffs are high and items are infrequently warrantied, duplicated, or difficult to find exactly what you may want, we recommend bringing your camera/audio recorder from home.
You are welcome to bring e-readers with you (such as Kindle) and as long as they don’t have browsing access to the internet. But, we will also have a chat in Nepal about how to deeply engage in what’s happening around you–which sometimes means that we aren’t reading as much as we might be while at home. If you want, use your intro post on the Yak Board to tell the group what book(s) you’re bringing – this way we can avoid carrying multiple copies of the same book, to plan on sharing books among the group! There is also a library with lots of books that you can borrow in our program house and several bookstores with English language books in Nepal.
Tsering, Michael, Sharon & Hemant