We’re so excited to meet you all in El Paso in less than two weeks! We’re also looking forward to reading your introductions here on the Yak Board. If you haven’t posted one already, we invite you to share a little bit about yourself, any pressing questions you have, and anything that’s stood out to you so far in your chapter of Harvest of Empire.
One thing that might be on your mind this week as you start to say goodbyes and make final preparations for this adventure is our technology policy and what it means to spend two months without a phone or social media. We spoke about this a little bit during the webinar but wanted to share about our technology policy in a little bit more detail.
Last week I was down in west Texas and spent a couple days hiking in Big Bend State Park. Before I left, I told everyone I wouldn’t have service in the park, put my phone on airplane mode, and disconnected. I do this a lot when I’m hiking. I spend my evenings reading, I look at the stars, I rest under the sunshine without feeling like taking a break means scrolling through social media. When I got back to my car at the end of the loop, I turned my phone on and was immediately inundated with emails, texts, and social media updates from the past 48 hours. This is pretty typical and is often a sad sort of ending to a really wonderful time in the backcountry. We live in a world where it is also often necessary. We have obligations and the expectation of near-constant availability and it is hard to find large chunks of time to truly get away. This course is a unique opportunity to do that. Maybe one of few in your life when you will be able to be fully away from the internet for several months. As challenging as this can be at times, most students look back at this as a powerful gift.
What this means for the course:
- Phones: This will be a phone-free course! We welcome and encourage you to leave your phone behind at home. If you would like to bring it with you for transit/emergencies, we’ll be collecting them on arrival and holding onto them throughout the course. We will have two Chromebooks with us that you can use to contact home every couple of weeks. These Chromebooks will also be what you use to share stories and reflections here on the Yak Board!
- Tablets/Laptops: Please do not bring tablets, laptops, or any other electronics with web browsing capabilities.
- E-readers: You are wholeheartedly invited to bring an e-reader with you on course! Please just avoid “tablet-style” e-readers like the Kindle Fire. For suggestions of books to download ahead of time relevant to course themes, check out the Course Preparation Manual or send us an email!
- MP3 Players: You are welcome to bring an old-school MP3 player like an iPod nano pre-loaded with music. Please don’t bring an iPod Touch or anything similar that can connect to the internet. Feel free to listen to music during personal time like in your tent in the evenings or on long car rides.
- Cameras: Photos can be a powerful way to capture and remember your experience! If you love photography and want to make that a part of your course, you’re welcome to bring a larger camera. Just bear in mind that you will have to make sure it fits in your pack and that we will be outdoors in environments not always so kind to electronics. Bring at your own risk and we can’t wait to see your photos! If you’re not looking for professional quality but want some memorable snapshots, we recommend a small point-and-shoot digital camera or a go-pro. Make sure to also bring a memory card large enough to store everything!
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: We have accumulated data over the years 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.
- Loss and Damage: We will be moving around a lot in outdoor environments and we don’t want your stuff to get broken or lost along the way! If you’re bringing things that won’t survive getting rained on during a hike or being mashed underneath other peoples’ bags, it’s likely they won’t be in good shape by the end of the trip.
- Limited Service: We will spend a good part of the trip in backcountry or rural areas where there is limited service anyway. Even if you had your phone, you often wouldn’t be able to use it! With this in mind, it’s not worth the risk.
- 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 also know that these restrictions can be as challenging, or even more so, for family back home. For you, a few more things to keep in mind.
- No news is good news!
- If you do have questions, concerns, or important information to pass along to a student, the office is your line of communication to do so at (303) 413 0822. As instructors, we will have our phones as well as a satellite phone when we are off-grid. We will be checking in with the admin team regularly. They can pass along important questions and updates.
- The Yak Board is the best way to get non-emergent updates about where the group is, what we’re learning, and what the experience is looking, feeling, sounding, and smelling like for students. This is a great way to get perspectives from other students as well that can generate questions and reflection after the course!
We hope this helps clarify electronics-related questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out if anything is unclear. Keep checking the Yak Board and keep posting those intros! 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 the exciting months ahead. Unplug. Dive in. And get ready for an amazing adventure.
Your Instructor Team