5:00am wake ups are easier when these mountains call for you to get out of your tent. Photo by Cecelia Palmquist (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest, 1st Place), Nepal Semester.

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Where There Be Dragons

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[caption id="attachment_153119" align="aligncenter" width="970"] Photo by Tim Hare.[/caption]
Bistate jannus. “Walk slowly,” advises the Nepali goodbye bidding.
One of my early expeditions in Bolivia involved a fairly ill-conceived plan to hike 700-kilometers across the southwestern altiplano region with three donkeys to Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak at 22,000 feet. We thought a month should be sufficient. Along the way we passed through a village every 40 kilometers, creating a constellation of humanity in an otherwise desolate high desert. One of the most memorable interactions was asking a local farmer how far it was to Pisiga, one of the larger towns along the route. It was late morning. Looking up from his quinoa fields he squinted off to the distance, “Son 4 horas, no mas.” We raced off towards Pisiga, eager for a good meal and maybe a bed for the night. We ended up having dinner over a camp stove in the middle of a salt lake, under the southern cross constellation, rather than in Pisiga. We arrived to Pisiga the next day, at sunset, after 16-more hours of hiking! We sold our donkeys in that town and never made it to Sajama.
...how strange it is to chop our days into hours and our hours into seconds. To the majority of humans that have inhabited our planet, time is the sun rising, arching in the sky, and setting just as the stars and moon come out to trace their long path across the heavens. Time is a changing leaf, the coming rain, and the migration of birds.
What was most memorable about the exchange was just how different our perceptions of time were. I reflected on how strange it is to chop our days into hours, and our hours into seconds. To the majority of humans that have inhabited our planet, time is the sun rising, arching in the sky, and setting just as the stars and moon come out to trace their long path across the heavens. Time is a changing leaf, the coming rain, and the migration of birds. In such a spacious and dynamic structure of time, there is little need to ambitiously pack as much into each tick of the clock. Time is not transactional and economic; it is not “money” but, rather, it is one measure of the elegant and often unpredictable arc of existence which demands our respect rather than our control. In order to fully appreciate time in these terms we need to get lost in it. We need a lot of time on our hands to fully lose track of it and start observing these other, ancestral measures of time. One of my favorite bands, Elephant Revival, sings

“Well what is time? It’s when the sun goes down The moon comes up The people dance all around”

[caption id="attachment_153118" align="aligncenter" width="864"] Photo by Tim Hare.[/caption] AT DRAGONS we opt to run courses that are a month or more in length. We hear from our students all the time that they wanted to do a Dragons course for years but weren’t able because they had competing summer activities and camps. Other prospective students may choose a program that takes place in two weeks but promises all the same places and highlights. So why would someone elect to do something in 4 or 6 weeks that they can “do” in 10 days? We ask participants to join us for 4 or 6 weeks, or even 85 days not so they can do more things in that time, but, often, so they can do less.
We ask participants to join us for 4 or 6 weeks, or even 85 days not so they can do more things in that time, but, often, so they can do less.
At Dragons we try hard to travel less, do less, have more space, be bored at times, and take the time to know a place well. We encourage others to do the same. We know that deep learning and connection comes not from quantity but from quality - and quality takes more time.

ON DEPTH

Learning, these days, seems to be chopped up into increasingly small bites in order to meet our diminutive attention spans. According to one study, attention span in students currently runs around 10 minutes. Education and travel compete with other fast-paced aspects of our lives. What is gained in breadth of learning is often at the cost of depth. Broad, “landscape-level” learning is useful. On course, however, we want to combine this broad learning with deep dives into the weeds in order to look at intricate connections and more profound meaning. Travel is so intimate it demands depth. Depth takes time.

ON BOREDOM

While Dragons courses are far from boring, we do hope that students have the time on our courses to be bored. We hope they can space out on a long bus ride, wander around local parks or temples, wake on a Saturday morning with no plans other than to accompany their host family to the river to wash clothes. We expect that students may be bored while washing the clothes. Boredom is a forgotten art. We actually may need to schedule it in.
While Dragons courses are far from boring, we do hope that students have the time on our courses to be bored.
Some amazing research is being done on the value of boredom, as outlined in Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant, and its role in opening the mind to contemplation and creativity. When was the last time you were bored? Social media rarely lets us be bored. And the 24 hour news cycle works tirelessly to keep our attention. Boredom helps us to to explore our own minds and our own creativity.

ON BEING FRUSTRATED

We repeatedly see that a group experiences a life cycle where students begin with politeness and interest in each other and the place. Students generally engage each other with curiosity and respect and are open to learning. But we all begin any experience with a level of naivety. It’s like a new relationship, and we often call this the “honeymoon phase,” or forming. Things will almost invariably turn south. And they should, or at least they must if they are to be authentic and honest. So, both in the group and with a student’s experience of place, the group begins to storm. Individuals might start to dislike the local food, or each other, or the smells; they begin to grow tired and frustrated in general. But they will grow beyond that. Students will see each other and the place not with the rose-colored glasses they started with, but, rather, as the multi-faceted interactions they are. Most meaningful interactions are pleasant and unpleasant, fun and also challenging. Students begin to norm when they don’t just see the idyllic version of the place or their peers, but rather their wholeness; they are learning to relate to them in this complexity. Finally, if all goes well, students may arrive at a performing stage, where they are in step with each other and the place. They know how to navigate with confidence. They speak the language. They work through conflict with skill and grace.
We want our students to get frustrated with each other and with the places they are traveling through. Ultimately we work to help them to transcend that frustration.
This dynamic process moves in fits and starts, and is more cyclical than linear, but it generally moves forward and is essential to meaningful learning. As courses get shorter, however, it is far easier to simply avoid conflict and remain in the honeymoon phase - in a fun but rather inauthentic space, both with one’s peers as well as a place. At Dragons, we want our students to get frustrated with each other and with the places they are traveling through. Ultimately we work to help them to transcend that frustration. This deep learning is inaccessible if one chooses to hop from one place to another, one experience to another, one country to another, never having the time or space to be frustrated. [caption id="attachment_153120" align="aligncenter" width="970"] Photo by Tim Hare.[/caption]

ENVIRONMENTAL AND CULTURAL IMPACT

It would be tragically ironic if our desire to see the Amazon rainforest, to live with communities on the fringe of intensifying desertification or seasonal floods, or our passion to walk in the icy glaciers of the high Himalayas actually hastened their demise. It is. A flight from Denver to Kathmandu creates 4.9 metric tonnes of CO2. That’s more than double the required per person yearly average which will slow or reverse climate change. Do we typically then take a two year break from air travel after taking one of these intercontinental flights? Probably not. If we’re going to take such long flights, we should do so less frequently, and we should aim to make the experience as meaningful as possible by slowing down and truly immersing ourselves. In addition to the huge environmental impact, travel has massive cultural impact. By staying longer and going for depth over breadth, intercultural exchanges become human-to-human affairs rather than a kind of objectifying experience that tourism all too often becomes. Familiarity breeds care and concern; thus, the more familiar we become with a place or a culture, the more care and concern we are likely to foster.
By staying longer and going for depth over breadth, intercultural exchanges become human-to-human affairs rather than a kind of objectifying experience that tourism all too often becomes.
Wade Davis describes the ethnosphere as, “the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, intuitions and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness.” At least half of the world’s roughly 7000 languages spoken today are likely to disappear this century, according to the National Geographic July 2012 article. One language dies every 14 days. According to Davis, the loss is the canary in the coal mine, in that, as the languages die, so do stories and ways of living on the earth. There are a lot of forces at play here, but tourism and travel can add to this decline. By spending the time to learn languages and affirm beliefs and world views we can push ever so mildly against this trend of homogenization. But by sweeping through a place in a short amount of time, never learning the language or truly immersing in the culture, we perpetuate the global power dynamic that is creating this loss. Perhaps the best way to understand this is with a quote from an alumni of our longest course - the 9-month Princeton Bridge Year program:

"Travel, for me, used to be a time to get away and experience something different from my daily routine. However, being in Bolivia for such an extensive period of time has required me to not think of this experience not as "getting away," but setting a new normal. The amount of time I have spent here has pushed me to not use home as an escape. When I face something hard, I cannot just resort to the fact that I will go home where things will be better. When I don’t understand what my host family is saying I am propelled into studying Spanish in more depth. When my service work was not productive I was pushed to ask more questions, take on more projects, and dive into the community further, instead of just accepting the way it was. It is an incredible learning experience that I must face these challenges head on and figure out how to resolve them or live with them." - Sarah Brown, Princeton Bridge Year Bolivia Program

In other words, Bistate jannus. “Walk slowly,” advises the Nepali goodbye bidding.  

Tim Hare is Dragons Director of Risk Management and Staff Training. He calls the mountains of Colorado home, while having made a life for himself climbing, exploring, teaching, and learning throughout the mountains of the Americas.  With Dragons, Tim has instructed or supported courses in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Nepal and SE Asia. He lives in Boulder with his partner and two children.  Read his full bio.

     

Interested in learning more about some of Dragons longer-term programs? Take a look at our 3-month Gap Year programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America, or Dragons 6-week Summer Programs in China, Indonesia, India, Peru, and Madagascar.

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Featured Post

Slow Travel: The Benefits of Longer-Term Programs...

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05/22/18

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Tim Hare, Dragons Director of Risk Management and Staff Training

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"At Dragons, we ask participants to travel longer, not so they can do more things in that time, but, often, so they can do less. We try to move less, have more space, be bored at times, and take the time to know a place well. We know that deep learning and connection comes not from quantity, but quality experiences."
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...for many students, the fundamental shift in perspective and personality does not take place right away.

Dear Parents of Team India Students,

I am writing with a note of gratitude. Perhaps it is unconventional in nature, but I hope you are able to enjoy a cup of chai as you read these words written from a small village in the Indian Himalayas. I am sitting looking at a mosaic of words that your child and their peers wrote during our mid-course reflection earlier in March. In front of me sits over thirty small slips of paper that share anonymously written fears & excitements, challenges faced and lessons learned:

I am excited for breathing in clean mountain air, star gazing, looking out train windows. I am afraid of leaving India without a clearer sense of who I am. I’ve learned that health and cleanliness are very important. I am nervous about time going by too quickly or too slowly. I have learned I love taking my time. It has been a challenge for me to open up in a way that I am most comfortable with, so that I am not bottling up my emotions. I fear that I won’t be able to do everything I want to over the next month. It has been challenging being sick in such a new environment. I learned that life at home continues when you’re away and that’s okay. It is most challenging for me to be present. I have learned that there are more Indias that the one I am witnessing.

So much variety in such a small group. An accurate representation of the diversity of thought, need, and lifestyle within our community. I am not a parent in the sense that I do not have a child who depends on me regularly for emotional or financial support. I have not witnessed my child’s first breath or tracked him/her/them through the phases of life: crawling, walking, talking, fighting, pushing boundaries, experiencing heartbreak, developing strengths, acknowledging weaknesses, discovering their identities in this fast-moving world. I can imagine it is a slow, beautiful, complicated, process to witness and be a part of. I look forward to when that is my reality. For months of each year, though, I do have the opportunity to be in loco parentis; to act and react as a parent may, to advise and counsel, to listen and hear, to inspire and frustrate, to discipline and let go of. Thank you, for giving me the chance to act and live in this way. I could not do it without you–truly and literally. Witnessing your child’s tears when she/he/they came home from school having been wronged by a classmate during the day; experiencing utter joy at watching them play in mud puddles, their fascination with the–what to us adults may be–seemingly mundane; sharing moments of vulnerability as you offer stories of your own high school hardships: I bet that each of these moments offered to you powerful insight into parenthood and its complexity. While not comparable, I have experienced many of these same emotions over these past three months. I have felt fiercely protective when my students have felt discomfort in crowded situations; I have laughed to the point of tears listening to stories about misunderstandings in how to use squat toilets; I have been frustrated by their lack of punctuality; I have felt tenderness in listening to tearful worries and concerns. I have lay in my bed, late into the night, wondering: are my students (read: children) healthy? Safe? Motivated? Happy? Sleeping well? Scared? Excited? Confused? If this is not parenthood, I am not sure what is. The timeframe post-high school is a fragile, complicated period. Young adults are told by our American and Canadian societies that after living 18 years on this earth they can vote in elections, purchase and smoke cigarettes, enlist in the military, give consent to marry another, drive a vehicle, work a full-time salaried position, and gamble away their money. They have legal freedom, if they choose to take it. Yet many, upon ending high school, do not have a sense of awareness for the future: they are unsure if they want to go to college, or more realistically why they want to go to college. With newfound privileges and real legal rights, these newly deemed adults have, in a sense, ultimate opportunities. But how to navigate the multiplicity of paths that are lain before them, to tease apart the meaning of a high-school education, to understand the next path that presents itself is neither a straightforward nor an enviable task. You, as parents, have experienced this time. You know the nights fraught with anxiety and confusion. The pull between wanting to do what your peers do, wanting to please your family, and wanting to understand a little more fully who you are and what your purpose on this planet is. Taking a Gap Year is a more recent phenomenon that is gaining popularity. This year away from formal academics does not mean a year away from learning; quite the contrary. I have only had the privilege of knowing your sons and daughters for 70 days, however I have witnessed them learn skills valuable for living: from technical skills like how to cook meals and clean clothes to interpersonal skills like how to provide feedback to a peer and self-advocate for personal needs. While I do not yet have a system in place to check, I would bet that if I spoke to each of these students in five years, they will not be able to remember significant dates from the US Civil War–excepting they become a US historian–or apply the Pythagorean theorem to an every-day life problem. Engrained within them, though, they may have the lived knowledge of how to have their basic needs met when in an unfamiliar place or how to have a hard conversation with someone they care about. That is my hope, at least. Critics of Gap Years think this time away traveling has merely been an experience of being transported from one hotel to another, eating at restaurants, and shopping. I would be lying if I said we have not partaken in these activities. But below the surface of these statements lies an experience that is not as easily shown: like when your hotel is actually a guesthouse that sits at 11,000 feet and took five hours to walk to, and you share a room with seven others, all of you sleeping on the floor, hugging waterbottles of boiled water– that you used your broken Ladakhi to ask for–so that you can stay warm while sleeping. Or when shopping means buying enough food for a group of fifteen so they have sustenance on their 24 hour travel day, 15 of those hours are confined to a moving train, which has the potential to be delayed for an unspecified amount of time. Sure, we partake in consumer culture, but there is intentionality behind it. The critics can look at this time and make assumptions, but they cannot know the worth of these experiences. Even you may not recognize the value of them, but for many students, the fundamental shift in perspective and personality does not take place right away. As your children physically re-enter your lives they will appear the same. But there will also be differences. They have had experiences that they will not be able to explain because they have not yet had the chance to make meaning of them. There will be moments of excitement to see old friends, sleep in their beds, and eat comfort foods. But there will be moments of sadness and confusion as well, as awarenesses begin to surface and take root, and newly acquired values are applied to old spaces. For some this time-frame may take days, others months, many years. Even I, at 27, am still discovering the immense value my Gap Year–which I took ten years ago– played in shifting my identity as a woman in this world. Just as you have done before, do again: be patient. Give space. Ask questions. Give hugs. That is, really, all I have been trying to do during our three months together. In moments of confusion or uncertainty, your children have had the answers within themselves; they have just needed the time and space to discover what those answers are. They will continue to live out the answers, especially to questions they have not even discovered yet. So, all of this to say: thank you. Thank you for trusting your daughters and sons to listen to their needs. Thank you for trusting me to be a witness of their transition into adulthood and to offer guidance, when it has been solicited and when it has not. I am merely a small piece of the puzzle in their life’s tale, as they are in mine, however there is a symbiosis to this experience that is bigger and more significant than our defined period of time together. I would not be able to exist as I do without your support of your children’s well being. I would not be able to live life as a learner and educator, both existing at once, every day. I am grateful for your generosity, your support, your willingness to raise engaged, aware children. In the first few days of our course I shared these words of Ranier Marie Rilke with your sons and daughters:
I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Their decision to take a Gap Year has only helped launch them into the abyss of living everything. I feel immense privilege at sharing in that experience, and I wish you all the best in helping to facilitate the next phase of this journey. With the most sincere of intentions, thank you, dhanyavad, jullay. With gratitude, Anna G. Stevens [post_title] => To Parents: A Gratitude - Featured Yak [post_excerpt] => Even I, at 27, am still discovering the immense value my Gap Year–which I took ten years ago– played in shifting my identity as a woman in this world. Just as you have done before, do again: be patient. Give space. Ask questions. Give hugs. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => to-parents-a-gratitude-a-featured-yak-by-anna-g-stevens [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-14 15:23:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-14 21:23:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 24 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 24 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 25 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 25 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, For Parents ... )
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    [post_content] => Dragons Staff Training

120+ people from 19+ countries are now officially en route to California for our annual two weeks of staff training in the Sierras of California. It’s MAGIC. Pictured, Babacar Mbaye offering some opening words in Wolof from a past year. (Photo Credits @pnomadism) Wish us all luck and look for more photos from our training under the hashtag #wheretherebedragons on Instagram. And if you’re joining us this summer as a participant, we can’t wait to meet and adventure with you!

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Did you know Dragons is accredited by the Gap Year Association?

Where There Be Dragons Gap Year Association Certified What is the Gap Year Association? (From the AGA website:) "Accreditation by the Gap Year Association represents a commitment to the highest standards in safety, quality, and integrity. They have agreed to consistently abide by the Standards of the Gap Year Association, which typically means that a student can count on an experience with the highest caliber of field leadership, the best degree of office support, and the highest standards of safety. [...] The process involves both GYA staff and the powerful Board of Advisors to ensure the best in Gap Year education and the highest consistency in programming." "Founded in 2012, the Gap Year Association is a 501(c)3 nonprofit accreditation and standards-setting organization for gap years that is recognized as such by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. We continue to advance the field of gap years because we have seen their profound benefits on students from all backgrounds, and believe an intentional gap year can be part of the welfare for us, our nation, our neighbors, and our fellow global citizens. The Association collaboratively pioneers research on its outcomes, as well as serves as an information and advocacy hub for university admissions personnel and educational counselors..." Read more. 

Learn more about Dragons approach to Risk ManagementCourse Design, Responsible Travel or What We Believe!

[post_title] => Where There Be Dragons: Certified by the Gap Year Association (GYA) [post_excerpt] => Did you know Where There Be Dragons is accredited by the Gap Year Association?  What is the Gap Year Association? (From the AGA website:) "Accreditation by the Gap Year Association represents a commitment to the highest standards in safety, quality, and integrity." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => where-there-be-dragons-certified-by-the-gap-year-association-gya [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-06 13:17:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-06 19:17:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 25 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 25 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 641 [name] => About Dragons [slug] => about_dragons [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 641 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [parent] => 0 [count] => 21 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 21 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/about_dragons/ ) ) [category_links] => For Parents, About Dragons )
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    [post_date] => 2018-05-31 11:05:06
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    [post_content] => 

Have you heard that we now offer Dragons experiences for adult travelers?

If there's someone in your life, who upon hearing about Dragons, has said, "I wish there were programs like that for adults..." please share this digital catalog with them! (Or request a catalog sent by mail.) The catalog below includes details on the adult travel programs we'll be offering in PeruNorth India, Senegal, Guatemala, Cambodia and Nepal in 2018-2019. (And if our catalog courses don't fit, we can always work with you to design a custom course!) On our adult excursions, you can expect the same caliber of expertly crafted small group travel that has made us the leaders in the field of cross-cultural education for the past two decades.
Ps. Those referred to Dragons by friends or family of past Dragons participants receive a 20% discount off tuition on our upcoming August Peru: Sacred Valley program if they sign up by July 1st, 2018. Just include the name of your reference in your application
Like many Dragons parents, we had always hoped to experience that intangible Dragons elixir of immersive and transformative cultural experience on a trip of our own. So glad we did; our family of Dragons at home now shares this fabulous spirit together. –MARK BAUHAUS, PARTICIPANT & ALUMNI PARENT
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    [post_content] => Dragons Instructors are what make our programs magical. So we’re going to feature a few excerpts from their letters of introduction this week on our Instagram feed.

Beginning with Erick Torres, from Guatemala...


come ready to learn and unlearn as much as you can...
“I have been working with Dragons since 2014. My passion and my work is focused on working with native and heirloom seeds from Mesoamerica, the Mayan region; environmental awareness; Native Spiritual Knowledge and designing spaces to grow food for family and community sustainability. [...] Guatemala has great opportunities to explore nature, it has the most beautiful lake in the world called Atitlan Lake, or T’zunun Ya’ in Maya T’zutujil language, which means: “House of Birds.” There are 3 volcanoes that are active every day in Guatemala and it’s incredible to see them in action. There are about 32 volcanoes in the whole country. [...] Guatemala has some of the largest indigenous populations in the American Continent which makes it a very special and powerful place, you will be able to experience and constantly interact and learn from the Mayan people and culture every day. There are about 23 Mayan languages around the country and every Mayan community has its own traditional clothes, their own special dishes and celebrations throughout the year.  With all that diversity, cultural richness, beautiful people and nature also comes different realities and ways to see and understand life. If something makes Dragons different from other types of programs abroad it’s that our programs will challenge you in many ways, from not having the same comfortability that you maybe are used to, to challenging your ways to see and understand life as a whole; meet friends who can share their different perspectives, who can awaken us to topics that we are not yet aware of, people who will inspire a change in us as individuals and as members of a society. So, bring your best energy, your openness to get in to the unknown, open your heart and mind, and come ready to learn and unlearn as much as you can...”

Read Eric’s full letter of introduction on the Yak board. And if you’re inspired, there’s ONE last spot left on the summer program in Guatemala that Eric (and 2 co-leaders) will be leading!

[post_title] => Featuring Excerpts from Instructor Introduction Letters: This Week on Dragons Instagram Feed [post_excerpt] => Dragons Instructors are what make our programs magical. So we’re going to feature a few excerpts from their letters of introduction this week on our Instagram feed. Beginning with Erick Torres, from Guatemala, who advises, "come ready to learn and unlearn as much as you can..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featuring-excerpts-from-instructor-introduction-letters-this-week-on-dragons-instagram-feed [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-31 10:23:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-31 16:23:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 25 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 25 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons_instructors/ ) ) [category_links] => For Parents, Dragons Instructors )
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    [post_date] => 2018-05-23 11:23:47
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    [post_content] => 

Will LeVan (Alumni of Dragons Peru Summer Program) decided to pursue a Gap Year in 2018-19. And he was kind enough to answer some questions we posed of his decision making process. Take a look...

Q: How did you come to the decision to take a Gap Year? Was it an intuitive or calculated choice?

A: During junior year I began to consider taking a gap year.  I was fatigued from a challenging high school education and hoped that a gap year would revitalize and re-inspire my education.  However, my decision was quickly made after my six-week Dragons trip to Peru. After the trip, I realized that traveling and working abroad as I did in Peru would teach me in ways that a classroom no longer could.  Additionally, the opportunity to increase my Spanish proficiency and enter college with work and service experience abroad were integral in making my decision.

Q: What were/was your biggest questions going into the process? How did you get them answered?

A: Would it be affordable?  Could I find programs that would make it meaningful?  What would I do? These were my biggest questions going into my gap year.  Through a lot of research, and I mean a lot, I scanned through dozens of programs. The trips ranged from three weeks to eight months and included volunteer work in Philly, education aboard sailboats in the Pacific, and hiking the Camino in Spain. By skimming these programs, a picture of my gap year manifested, including a Where There Be Dragons Semester program in Nepal, volunteering on a sustainable farm in Spain, helping build converted vans in Washington state, and hiking the Camino de Santiago. Websites like WWOOF and Helpstay were very helpful in my search.

Q: Did you have any regrets after making the decision?

A: I only wish I could do more.

Q: Do you know anyone else that's taking a Gap Year? Do you ever feel lonely in the decision?

A: I have a few friends who are considering it, but never have I felt lonely in the decision because others have been so supportive, and sometimes envious, of my choice and plans.  

Q: How did your parents respond to your decision?

A: They were very supportive.

Q: Is it hard to stay committed to your Gap Year vision when all your friends are talking about their fall school plans?

A: Not really.  Since I applied to college during this school year and have deferred my enrollment, I’m not too jealous about my friends’ fall plans at college because I’ll know that I’ll have those experiences eventually and don’t have to worry about the stresses of college applications in the meantime.

Q: Do you have any fears regarding your Gap Year?

A: Part of me is worried that I’ll enter college behind in my studies.  I think this is a common fear among students. However, I’m confident that I won’t be too far behind and can make it back up quickly.  Additionally, I think the lessons I learn over my gap year will be just as valuable, it not more, than anything I can learn in the classroom.

Q: Did you already know where you wanted to go for your Gap Year?

A: I really had no idea where I wanted to go.  I did a lot of research and looked at places like Chile, Jordan, Madagascar, South Africa, the Galapagos, Australia, and eventually ended up on Nepal in the fall and Spain for the spring.  How did I decide on these places? First off, I love to hike and the opportunities to hike in the Himalayas and along the Camino in Europe are hard to pass up. Additionally, the ability to study Spanish in Spain was a big pull for me.

Q: What do you hope to learn from your Gap Year that you couldn't learn in school?

A: How to live independently, work with others from different backgrounds, and be more aware and conscious of the world around me.

Q: Did language study play a role in your Gap Year decision?

A: Yes it did.  After my Dragons summer experience in Peru, I knew that I wanted to experience more Spanish immersion in a non-classroom setting.  I also believe that going into college and feeling more confident in my Spanish proficiency will only be beneficial. Therefore, I plan on volunteering and interning in Spain in the spring of my gap year and then hiking El Camino de Santiago in Spain to cap off my year.

Q: Will you be pursuing any type of internship or particular study of craft during your gap year?

A: Due to busy summer schedules throughout high school, I haven’t had many job experiences.  This in part played into my gap year decision because I wanted to have more work experience before college.  There isn’t a specific type of craft I’ll be pursuing, but instead just volunteer and work experiences in general.  To fulfill this, I plan on working on an organic or sustainable farm in Spain.

Q: What would you say to someone on the fence on if they will pursue a gap year or not? A: There are very times in life when you will be able to shed responsibilities for a year and just go travel and learn. A Gap Year is one of those opportunities. Additionally, the experiences you have and lessons will be long-lasting. If you can design a Gap Year that will be productive and constructive, I think it’ll be an amazing experience that you won’t regret. Thank you Will!

Are YOU going to do a Gap Year in 2018-2019? If so, we encourage you to share the news of your plans via a social post with the tag #gapyeardecisionday. If you'll be a Dragons students next year, include the tag #wheretherebedragons so that we can find and potentially feature you!

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