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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    [post_content] => Choosing the best gap year programs to suit your needs can be a challenging task, but it should also be fun and exciting. If you’re planning a gap year program abroad or in the U.S, there are a lot of things to consider, including the type of activities, location, and cost. 

Know your goals for your travel and what you want to learn and experience. Each program offers something different, so be sure to consider your options to determine what is best for you. 

[caption id="attachment_159099" align="aligncenter" width="2000"]Pacific Coast Travel Program British Columbia, Photo by Arvin Singh, Dragons Instructor [/caption]

Types of Gap Year Programs

At Where There Be Dragons, we offer one-of-a-kind programs that allow for cultural exploration, language study, learning service, and immersive education. We embrace responsible travel that delivers unfiltered and unplugged experiences. Our programs are ideal for students who want to be engulfed in a new culture without modern day-to-day distractions of smartphones and technology. 

Determine the Best Time to Take Your Gap Year

Many students choose to plan a gap year program between their high school graduation and first year of college. However, you can be flexible when you take yours. At Where There Be Dragons, we offer gap year programs for students between the ages of 17-22. We also work with students who are taking a gap year away from college or high school students who graduate early.
[caption id="attachment_158471" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Nepal, Photo by Annika Kendall, Student.[/caption]

Know Where You Want to Travel

Another decision you’ll need to make is where you want to travel. Your experience and area of study is going to range depending on your destination. Gap travel programs cover environmental sustainability, community, culture, history, art, and more. Dragons has programs in Morocco, Nepal, Indonesia, Guatemala, Bhutan, Southeast Asia, Senegal, the Andes, the United States, and more. 

Consider Cost, Budget and Payment Options

Cost is a big factor to consider when choosing a gap year travel program. Whether you’re paying for it on your own or plan to use financial aid options, it’s important to consider finances early on to prepare accordingly.  Dragons offers need-based financial aid for students who require assistance. Students can apply along with their program application and provide a cover letter and necessary documentation. There’s no harm in applying, even if you’re not sure you’ll get it! Other options include external scholarships, private loans, or 529 educational savings funds. A 529 plan is a savings plan operated by a state or educational institution, which can be used on for-credit gap year programs. [post_title] => How to Choose the Best Gap Year Programs For You [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => best-gap-year-programs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-26 10:32:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-26 16:32:39 [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] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 23 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Uncategorized )
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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_159108" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Photo by Luis Reyes, Peru[/caption]

You may have heard the term carbon offset, carbon footprint, or carbon-neutral before, but do you understand what they mean and how they work together? As individuals we all have a carbon footprint based on our daily actions like driving a car, taking a flight, and consuming goods. Carbon offsets are a way to neutralize the actions we take and the actions required to support our daily lives so that our carbon footprint is minimized as much as possible. 

What are Carbon Offsets?

A carbon offset is a credit that an organization or person can purchase to reduce the carbon footprint that is generated by that individual or group. Carbon offset credits are often intended to make a person or organization carbon-neutral. This happens when enough carbon offset credits are obtained to balance out the impact.  Carbon offsets are typically used to counteract greenhouse gas emissions that are generated by the activities of a person or organization, which include both direct and indirect emissions. These credits go toward funding renewable energy projects, land restoration and conservation, community projects, and more. 

What are Carbon Footprints?

When thinking of carbon offsets, we need to understand carbon footprints. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gasses that are generated by specific actions, which includes both carbon dioxide and methane gasses. Carbon footprints include everything we do and consume, including travel, our home, utility usage, food, and shopping. All of these things have a direct and indirect carbon footprint. 

Carbon Offsets and Study Abroad

Study abroad programs, gap year programs, and travel, in general, comes with an associated carbon footprint. From airfare to daily excursions to food consumption to shopping- environmental and social impact need to be considered when traveling abroad.  Dragons programs promote minimizing both environmental and cultural impact in each destination. This experience includes staying in family-owned accommodations and utilizing local transportation options like tuk-tuks, train cars, and camionetas. And while Where There Be Dragons strives to provide an environmentally responsible travel experience once abroad, airfare remains a critical component that is simply unavoidable. This is where carbon offsets come into play. 

Does Where There Be Dragons Offer Carbon Offsetting?

At Where There Be Dragons, we’re committed to reducing our carbon footprint. In 2019, Dragons began offsetting 100% of its administrative carbon footprint, and in 2020, began including carbon offsets in tuition for airfare. While we understand that carbon offsets are not the only solution for reducing our carbon footprint, we believe they are an important component of our organizational goals to reduce harmful impact. [post_title] => What Are Carbon Offsets and How Do They Work? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => what-are-carbon-offsets [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-14 18:12:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-15 00:12:37 [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] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 23 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Uncategorized )
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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_158446" align="aligncenter" width="1280"]photo of a group of people walking down a path in senegal  Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Senegal[/caption]

Gap year programs are a year or semester of experiential learning for students to deepen their personal awareness and gain a broader perspective of the world. Typically taken after graduating high school and prior to college, gap year travel programs are ideal for students seeking a break from their regular studies. 

Where There Be Dragons gap year programs are located in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the United States. Our programs offer a unique and transformative experience during which students can develop valuable life skills and explore their interests. Learn about culture, social justice, conservation, language, sustainability, history and community through our three-month or year-long gap year programs. College credit is available for our gap year programs. 

Gap Year Travel Program Benefits

Students looking for non-traditional study right after high school will find gap year travel programs to be beneficial in a myriad of ways. You can expect personal, educational and professional growth. The immersive experience that comes from a gap year program can offer long-term benefits and a refreshed perspective to prepare for adulthood. 

Head to College Feeling Refreshed

A gap year program can help you recover from academic exhaustion and explore your personal interests and passions. It can also help ensure you don’t burnout at the beginning of your college career. Additionally, it’s a helpful alternative for students who may be unsure of the path they want to pursue educationally while still gaining valuable knowledge. A gap year offers the ability to experience independent and hands-on learning through language study, apprenticeships and local homestays. [caption id="attachment_158477" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]a group of students posing with a local monk outdoors with brightly colored flags surrounding Photo by Annika Kendall, Student.[/caption]

Gain Perspective to Assist in Decision Making 

Leaving your home, friends, family and everyday comforts is a big deal, and for some people it can be quite challenging at first. However, by stepping out of your comfort zone you’re able to overcome challenges and grow as an individual. And with that comes an increased sense of self-confidence and awareness that improves the ability to make decisions for yourself. 

Learn More About Yourself and Your Future Goals

You might discover a hidden passion that you never knew you had or dive deeper into your current interests in a way that’s not possible during your first year in a traditional college setting. Gap year travel programs provide the flexibility and freedom to learn about the world and its diverse cultures without a filter. For many, this insight can’t be found in a book.  Choosing a major and determining your life goals can be challenging for many people, and sometimes it’s a matter of being unclear about personal wants and needs. An incredible benefit that gap programs can offer is the chance to give yourself extra time to reflect and make those decisions with a clear mind. [post_title] => Gap Year Travel Programs [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gap-year-travel-programs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-07 15:14:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-07 21:14:22 [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] => 655 [name] => Continued Education [slug] => continued_education [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 655 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [parent] => 0 [count] => 11 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 655 [category_count] => 11 [category_description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [cat_name] => Continued Education [category_nicename] => continued_education [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/continued_education/ ) ) [category_links] => Continued Education )
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Gap Year Travel Programs

Posted On

04/07/22

Author

Kimberly Manning

Description
Gap year programs are a year or semester of experiential learning for students to deepen their personal awareness and gain a broader perspective of the world. Typically taken after graduating… Read More
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    [post_content] => The benefits of studying abroad are virtually endless. Immersing yourself in an unfamiliar country and culture offers boundless opportunities to discover who you are as a person and understand the vastness of the world. Study abroad programs help students develop a growth mindset, resiliency, and empathy toward others who experience life in a different way. Students are able to gain a global perspective that is hard to find elsewhere. 

Dragons study abroad programs allow for reflection and deep understanding through our unfiltered and immersive travel programs. If you’re considering whether the benefits of studying abroad align with your personality and goals, discover our favorite reasons to take the leap. 

5 Benefits of Studying Abroad

young woman studying abroad in west africa with two local woman

Learn a New Language

Learning a new language has a myriad of benefits, including building problem solving skills, improved memory, strengthened cognitive skills, and enhanced creative abilities. Studying another language improves your communication in general, making it easier for you to engage with people from all walks of life. It also enhances your world view and perspective as well as improves your understanding of your native language. 

Experience a Different Culture

Study abroad provides exposure to diverse arts and traditions, evolving cross-cultural competencies and broadening overall perspective. Exposure to new lifestyles through responsible travel builds compassion and cultural sensitivity, and Dragons programs are carefully designed to allow full immersion into the experience. For students, the experience varies based on the location in which they are visiting. Oftentimes they are left with increased knowledge of social justice, environmental awareness, and advocacy. 

Meet People From Diverse Backgrounds

Students who attend Dragons study abroad programs meet people with diverse backgrounds from all over the world. Each participant is matched to a homestay with a local family while living near other participants who can connect and share in the experience. From locals to the fellow students, individuals have the opportunity to meet others who share a common sense of community, connection, and adventure. The bond created via study abroad is one-of-a-kind. 

Discover New Things About Yourself

walking through hallway with colorful flags overheadWithout technology or your everyday support system, students are able to open up a world of possibility to discover more about themselves. Through opportunity to adapt to the unexpected and unfamiliar, comfort grows from the discomfort over time. Students are able to appreciate being unplugged and engulfed in a new experience. This breeds self-reliance, humility, empathy, and awareness of privilege. It’s common to arrive back home with increased self-confidence and self-reliance. 

Education and Career Advancement

In addition to the personal benefits, study abroad programs open up career opportunities and promote on-going education. Study abroad builds critical thinking and decision making ability, as well as conflict resolution and improved communication skills. While studying abroad may have nothing to do with overall career goals, it can provide students with essential skills to be successful in the workplace. [post_title] => What Does Studying Abroad Do For You? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => benefits-of-studying-abroad [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-01 12:40:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-01 18:40:29 [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] => 655 [name] => Continued Education [slug] => continued_education [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 655 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [parent] => 0 [count] => 11 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 655 [category_count] => 11 [category_description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [cat_name] => Continued Education [category_nicename] => continued_education [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/continued_education/ ) ) [category_links] => Continued Education )
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What Does Studying Abroad Do For You?

Posted On

04/01/22

Author

Kimberly Manning

Description
The benefits of studying abroad are virtually endless. Immersing yourself in an unfamiliar country and culture offers boundless opportunities to discover who you are as a person and understand the… Read More
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To travel internationally for the first time is both exciting and nerve wracking, especially for those who haven’t left home for an extended period of time before. Have you been dreaming about traveling abroad for years? There’s no experience quite like immersing yourself in unfamiliar places and cultures, and many declare it as life-changing. We agree. 

Dragons believes in the power of exploration and immersive experiences through intentional programming and community connection. First time international travel elevates perspective and compassion for our planet, and for many, it inspires a life of journey. If you’re on the fence about traveling or are getting started with your first international travel plans, consider our guide for an easeful experience. 

How to Travel Internationally for the First Time

1. Prepare your important documents well in advance

Be sure that your passport is up-to-date and valid for at least six months after your return to the U.S. If you need to get a passport for the first time or renew the one you have, allow for 10 to 12 weeks for your application to be processed. If you’re renewing your passport, the State Department recommends that you renew your passport no less than nine months before it will expire.  You will also need a valid visa. Dragons Admissions provides support and detailed instructions but advises program participants to research the visa process independently. 

2. Ensure you are financially prepared

Ensure you have ample funds available to you prior to your departure. While you shouldn’t have to exchange currency prior to your trip as stateside ATMs often charge high fees, consider finding your bank’s ATM network to withdraw cash once you arrive.  It’s also a good idea to alert your banking institutions of your travels so there are no unnecessary holds on your accounts. If you’ll be using a credit card to pay for things, check for foreign transaction fees and always opt to pay in the local currency if you’re given a choice. 

3. Plan your pack appropriately.

It takes a lot of organizing to pack all the essentials you need without over packing for your trip. Consider versatile and comfortable clothing that you can layer and shoes that are suitable for the local conditions and the activities you’ll be doing. Leave any valuables and unnecessary luxurious items at home. Don’t forget your daily essentials including your contacts, glasses, toothbrush, toiletries, and anything else you will need. Be mindful and pack with intention.  Dragons asks that cell phones, laptops, and tablets be left behind to encourage a fully immersive experience. If you’re bringing electronic devices for travel days, bring a charger and appropriate power adapter.  Be sure your bag has the appropriate baggage tags with your name, address, and phone number clearly written on the outside of your luggage. 

4. Get required vaccinations and fill your prescriptions.

Prior to your departure, check to determine if there are any required vaccinations that you need to obtain. You’ll need to get vaccinated four to six weeks prior to your departure, so be sure to research in advance what types of vaccinations are required. Getting vaccinated before you travel will help ensure you’re safe and healthy while you’re away and don’t bring any serious diseases back home.  If you’re going to the doctor, be sure all your necessary prescriptions are filled appropriately to last the duration while you’re gone. 

5. Prepare yourself for potential jet lag upon arrival at your destination. 

Jet lag is certainly possible, and oftentimes very likely. Extended travel can throw off your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm, which can impact your first few days in your new destination. If possible, slowly adjust your sleep schedule prior to leaving so your body is used to the new schedule, and try using a light alarm clock to artificially adjust yourself to a new timezone. If you’re taking an overnight flight, do your best to get some sleep on the plane.  Long flights can also cause dehydration, so hydrate as best as you can prior to, during, and following your travel days.  [post_title] => How to Travel Internationally for the First Time [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-travel-internationally-for-the-first-time [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-06 15:59:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-06 21:59:04 [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] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 26 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 26 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide )
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The Importance of Checking the Weather

I remember the moment when I decided where I would be going for my Dragons trip. I was sitting on my couch watching an 80’s movie marathon with my family, and I gazed at the snow and ice whipping through the air on the screen as big text appeared marking the location as Kathmandu, Nepal. As the howling wind echoed around the wooden buildings of the city, I turned to my parents and pointed excitedly, “I’m going there!” Three months later, I was flying over to Kathmandu and feeling like I was in an adventure movie of my own. I had prepared everything for the cold weather that I had expected. I had gloves, hats, heavy pants, even a neck warmer. Growing up in New England, I had always loved the cold and constantly looked forward to the first sign of snow. Judging from my catalog of 80’s movies, I was going to be trudging through a blizzard for the next three months. The darkness clouded my view of the city as we touched down, and I moved excitedly through the airport, expecting a fresh blast of cold air to greet me when I stepped outside. Instead, as I walked through the sliding doors, I was met by a wall of heat that stopped me in my tracks. I had been on countless REI and Target runs and had spent weeks packing my bag, but I had never once bothered to check the weather. Although I had the trip of a lifetime, I recommend doing some research and planning before deciding where to go on your gap year. Here are 3 things to consider when deciding where to go on your gap year or study abroad program… [caption id="attachment_155986" align="aligncenter" width="1555"]High School Summer Abroad Nepal Photo by Amrit Ale, Instructor.[/caption]

The Big Picture

Start broadly. You’ll want to travel everywhere during your gap year, and it helps to look at the big picture to avoid getting overwhelmed. What side of the world do you want to explore? What continent do you want to visit? Is there a certain geographic area that you’ve always wanted to go to? The Himalayas? The Andes? The Mekong River? Are you looking to trek across high peaks or explore the depths of rainforests? Think about what cultures you want to learn from. Is there a language that you’ve always wanted to study? A religion? A history? A cuisine? Conversely, is there a culture that you never thought you would get the opportunity to learn about? Gap years are the perfect time to have new and unexpected adventures. If you’re having trouble choosing where to go on your gap year, then it’s helpful to ask yourself — where would I have never gone if I didn’t have this opportunity? It’s important to keep in mind that your gap year will be filled with unexpected moments. You may go into your year looking for a certain experience and find that you’ve entered an entirely different world from what you expected. It’s vital to start broadly and keep an open mind. The best trips are the ones that surprise you! [caption id="attachment_155994" align="aligncenter" width="5184"]High School Summer Abroad Nepal Photo by Amrit Ale, Instructor.[/caption]

The Experience

You’ve somewhat narrowed it down. You’ve chosen your general region, but you’re torn between learning Mandarin in Chengdu or Dzongkha in Thimphu. How do you decide? First, ask yourself what type of experience you want. Different programs have different focuses, adventures, and opportunities, even those within the same region. Do you want a trip with more homestays or more trekking? What type of Independent Study Project (ISP) are you hoping to try? What do you want your program to focus on? Does the program offer classes that interest you? Next, consider logistics. What types of travel are you comfortable with? How rugged do you want it to be? What type of environment do you want to be in? Are you more of a warm or cold weather person? Are you prepared to sweat through your clothes for weeks on end? Do you want to have more of your trip structured or are you looking to explore? Don’t be worried, traveling is one of the best parts of the trip! Try to stray from your comfort zone. What would you have never done beforehand? What ideas lie in the recesses of your imagination? Traveling far from home can be daunting, but every layer of unfamiliarity hides another life-changing experience. While safety is an important consideration for any adventure, the trip leaders are more than prepared to handle any emergency. I can attest to this personally after fracturing my tailbone during my first week in Nepal. While getting an x-ray definitely did not fit into my adventure movie fantasies, I was well taken care of and back with my group after some rest and a copious amount of momos. However, if you have any other questions about safety or other concerns, you can find them here. [caption id="attachment_158479" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Photo by Annika Kendall, Student.[/caption]

The Journey

You think you’ve chosen your region and the type of experience that you want. However, there’s one more thing to consider- the journey. Your gap year is a time to learn more about the world, but it’s also the time to learn more about yourself. Who do you want to be after your gap year? What are you trying to gain and what are you trying to change? Your gap year trip will change you regardless of where you go, but there may be moments or experiences that can help you on your journey. Do you want to challenge yourself physically by trekking across snow-capped peaks? Do you want to deepen your spiritual side by spending time at a monastery? Is there a fear that you’re trying to overcome, or a passion that you’re thrilled to explore? Likely, you won’t know exactly what you want and that’s ok! Deciding where to go on your gap year is a leap of faith but know that you can never be wrong. The destination is only a part of your journey. It’s the people that you meet, the friends you make, and the memories you share that make every gap year destination the perfect one for you. If you're ready to start exploring Gap Year Programs, check out Go Overseas for the best site for searching accredited Gap Year Programs around the world.  [post_title] => Where Should I Go On My Gap Year? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => where-should-i-go-on-my-gap-year [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-03-10 06:33:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-03-10 13:33:44 [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] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 26 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 26 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide )
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