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.


Where There Be Dragons

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    [post_content] => After years of whizzing through Spanish classes in school, acing quizzes and learning vocabulary like a pro, you feel confident in your skills. Except when that person who stopped to ask you a couple of questions (in Spanish) on the street, you freeze. All of those vocab words seem useless now because you're forgetting how to string together a sentence or conjugate the correct tense of the verb (preterite or imperfect? Do I need to use subjunctive...ahhh). When you get home, you open your laptop and quickly google "Where is the best place to learn Spanish?"

[caption id="attachment_126156" align="aligncenter" width="1673"] Students take language classes in Bolivia (divided into small groups based on language level)[/caption]

The first thing you're sure to find is lists of countries or cities where we're promised to learn "the most authentic Spanish", or “the Spanish that does not have an accent". However, after having accompanied first hand the learning process of many students who have become fluent in Spanish, I have a confession. The best place to learn a language is not necessarily a place. It is, first of all, an environment.

[caption id="attachment_126064" align="aligncenter" width="1695"] A student learns how to weave from a Bolivian man.[/caption]

What's the best environment for learning Spanish?

The best environment for learning Spanish is one that gives you the opportunity to learn and practice in a classroom environment, and then practice what you learned with the local people — in the same day. This structure gives you the possibility “to learn how to learn” from a local point of view. That is to say, an environment in which, through the cultivation of deep and respectful relationships with the communities you visit, the doors are opened for you to critically reflect on your learning process. Thus, stop being docile receivers of information and become co-protagonists in the production of knowledge. [caption id="attachment_130717" align="aligncenter" width="1695"]Summer Travel Abroad Peru Where There Be Dragons Photo by Ryan Kost, Instructor.[/caption]

How does Dragons structure language learning? 

And it is precisely this type of environment that we seek to promote (foster) in our Dragons programs in Peru, Guatemala and Bolivia, the three most indigenous countries in Latin America. Whether in semesters such as Andes & Amazon or Guatemala Language Immersion, or in the summer programs, we seek to combine personalized Spanish instruction with extended homestay and community engagement in which you have the opportunity not only to learn Spanish in an abstract way but from the ways of existence of the place that welcomes you. It is through these experiences that you will develop better understanding of how to respond to your environment. It will also deepen your comprehension of why people use the words they use, or why they chose to say things the way they do.   [caption id="attachment_155513" align="aligncenter" width="1440"] Students celebrate with host families in Peru.[/caption] Whether it is talking in a market with the lady who sells fruit, at home with your homestay father, or in an indigenous community learning about the use of medicinal plants, you'll be learning Spanish.  You will be encouraged from the moment you land to the last day of the trip (and beyond!) to learn and to question what we have learned, in a profound way. This will not be a trip to learn Spanish in Peru, Guatemala or Bolivia, but a journey through which you will learn how to learn Spanish through the profound and meaningful relationship you will establish with Peruvians, Guatemalans, and Bolivians, and the breathtaking landscapes they inhabit. Click here to learn more about our immersive language learning programs in Latin America. [post_title] => Where's the Best Place to Learn Spanish [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wheres-the-best-place-to-learn-spanish [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-02-09 09:31:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-02-09 16:31:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [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/ ) [1] => 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] => 36 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 36 [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/ ) [2] => 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] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => 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 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, From the Field ... )
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    [post_content] => Few skills are more empowering than being able to communicate in a foreign language. About one in four adults in the United States can hold a conversation in a language other than English. But even if you speak multiple languages, chances are your high school didn’t offer classes in Bahasa Indonesian, Aymara, Khmer, or Wolof. 

[caption id="attachment_158763" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Language Classes in Guatemala  Students taking Spanish language classes in Guatemala[/caption]

So what happens when you want to travel to one of the many interesting places in this world where you don’t speak the language? Here are the top ten tips we’ve learned over 30 years facilitating language study for beginners.

A little goes a long way. If you don’t have much time to study before you travel, consider focusing on a few key phrases that are helpful in any language. Hello. Thank you. Sorry. Where is the bathroom? Do you have ____? How much does it cost? I don’t understand.

Loosen up and practice, practice, practice. Imperfection is your friend when learning a language. Don’t stress about small mistakes, and feel free to fill in the gaps with whatever is available. It’s okay to break the rules— people who grow up speaking multiple languages often mix them together in the same sentences.

Don’t let words get in the way of meeting people. One of the best ways to motivate yourself to communicate is actually having people to talk to. Communication experts agree that the majority of human communication happens through body language and tone of voice. Use non-verbal communication skills such as hand gestures and facial expressions to interact with people.

[caption id="attachment_158760" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Taking time to learn Arabic on the flight.[/caption]

Set yourself some daily challenges. Pick one small language task for yourself every day. Go buy some basic necessities in the local market. Memorize a phrase to repeat to a taxi driver. Introduce yourself to someone and ask them their name. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even try learning a local joke or tongue twister.

Stay with a family. Learning a language is about more than just learning words. Languages are born out of cultural contexts, and living with a family means steeping yourself in the many subtle ways of being that are deeply connected to communicating in a new language. This is one of the many reasons homestays are a core component of every Dragons program.

Kick off your travels with a basic class. Even a single hour-long class with a local teacher can go a long way. Try to find a teacher who uses a communicative approach and gives you chances to practice your skills in class or on field trips outside the classroom. Take advantage of your time with your teacher to ask questions about cultural norms.

Learn from someone who understands both cultures. See if you can find someone who is willing to unpack some of the cultural differences you might encounter in your new environment. In addition to being multilingual, many of our instructors play the role of intercultural mediators, helping language learners understand the “why” and “how” of language alongside the “what.”

[caption id="attachment_158761" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Mandarin language classes[/caption]

Give yourself a break. Do you feel like you’re hitting a wall with your language learning? Take some time off to give your brain a break. Sometimes when there is a lot of new language input, our mind needs time to digest and process. Don’t be surprised if a week later you experience a sudden explosion in your language skills! Language learning takes time, one of the many reasons why our programs emphasize slowness and depth.

Have fun! Learning a new language opens up new experiences, friendships, ways of thinking, and maybe even a new favorite song, film, poem, or proverb. Don’t forget to take a moment to delight in it all!

Find a penpal. Staying in touch with friends you meet during your travels is a great way to keep your language skills from disappearing once you return home. A video call can transport you back into a homestay experience, and social media, texting, and emailing are all low-pressure ways to keep a new language alive in your brain. 

We wish you the best of luck in your travels, and hope you find it fulfilling to cultivate meaningful connections with people you might not normally be able to communicate with!
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    [post_content] => As we begin to head out the door and travel again, one of the needs that comes to mind is how to pack. When we think about organizing our items for travel, we might feel a mix of emotions: joy, frustration, excitement, intimidation...Check out the tips below for advice on how to keep your packing light and versatile and to calm fears about needing the perfect gear. 

Once upon a time, I found myself a recent high-school graduate answering phones for a Senator in Washington, D.C. After many months of the chaos of managing insistent blinking phone lines and angry constituents all day long, I couldn’t help thinking that there had to be something better I could be doing with my accidental gap year (a story for another time). 

So, taking advantage of the Congressional Library, I started checking out books about faraway places and eventually found myself signed up for a gap semester in Southeast Asia. I lived on ramen and fundraised for months to pay for the trip. The hard part was done! 

Or so I thought. Then I received a packing list for my gap semester abroad in the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Nepal. My mind started to spin. “What the heck is an internal frame backpack...definitely not my JanSport?” “I don’t see Doc Martens on this list….” “Um, is Gore-Tex sold at Target?” On that first big trip of my life, I was more stressed about packing than about leaving the country for the first time to places where, only months prior, I couldn’t have pointed out on a map. I probably packed and re-packed my bag no less than 20 times. 

In the years since, I have taken countless trips abroad - including those I led as a Dragons instructor in Morocco - and moved abroad for extended time periods to Northern Ireland, Egypt, Morocco, and, most recently to England with my kiddo, partner, and dog. I have learned a lot about packing: what to pack, what not to bother with, and how to actually do the packing. Am I a pro? No. Am I getting better at packing with every trip? Heck, yes. 


People Keep Telling me to Pack Light

Less is more. If you remember nothing else from these musings, please file away this piece of advice that many share (and struggle with)! The first time I traveled abroad, I bought the only large backpack I could afford. What I ended up with was something that made me look and feel like one of the giant Galapagos tortoises I took care of during my summer jobs at a reptile zoo. And, while it might have been funny looking, the bag was perfectly functional. The problem was not the bag, but what I did with it. Which was to stuff it so full I could hardly walk down the street. There are so many reasons to pack light when traveling abroad. On my personal travels and as an instructor for Dragons I constantly was lifting my bag on the top of shared taxis, mules, and transits or carrying my bag for long distances. Having a manageable bag is something your arms and back will thank you for while you are traveling. Beyond manageability, packing light saves you space to add a few things from the places you visit and also makes it much easier to keep your things organized. I try to aim for keeping my bag at least 25% empty, as it makes everything easier to manage.  There is also something to the mind-pack connection. Ok, I made that up. But, in my experience having a lighter pack also leads to an ability to be more focused on the place and less on your literal baggage.   

The Container Matters, Kind Of

Can you live with just a backpack? Yup. For a trip of anything less than 1 year, I recommend bringing one large bag and one ‘carry-on’ that is small-to-medium-sized (think big enough for a water bottle, layer, book, notebook, and camera). More than one larger bag is difficult to manage in many situations. That’s right, all your belongings are in basically one bag. See above about keeping it light. Choose a piece of luggage you can easily manage. On our summer and gap semesters, we recommend a large backpacking-style (internal frame) backpack as the primary piece of luggage because it is easy to carry around, especially when not in an area with sidewalks.  The size of bag depends on the length of your trip, your confidence in packing light, and your ability to handle the bag. For long-ish trips, I usually try to opt for a bag around 55 liters. You can go bigger, but I find this size helps me keep to my light packing goals and it’s easiest for me to carry. For 1-2 week trips, I always start with a smaller bag (30 liters) to see if I can make it work. When I can, I feel like a real champ.  Does the bag need to be new, fancy, and the bestest-thing-you-can-buy? Definitely not. Your luggage/bag, again, should be comfortable to carry; but a used or lower-end version will very likely be just as effective.  [caption id="attachment_156984" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]domestic gap year program where there be dragons colorado utah Photo by Jeff Wagner, Instructor.[/caption]

There is No Such Thing as the “Right” Gear

On this last point, try to avoid ruminating about identifying and finding the perfect or right gear. Everyone has (or will develop!) their list of ‘must haves’ when traveling. You will figure out yours, but beyond a few clutch items; don’t worry about having everything from the outdoors-y stores in town. Especially for clothing, bring things you feel comfortable in and already like to wear. Case-in-point, I wore an uncomfortable pair of zip-off pants for months in Asia during my first travels simply because I thought I needed to have trekking pants to travel.  I don’t believe you need new, specialty, or expensive items to travel. For things you might need to buy, I recommend thrift stores or websites, such as the following, where you can get highly-discounted used outdoor gear.   

Sure, Sure. But What are the Essentials? 

The travel essentials are….well, as I said, you will figure out your own and, of course, it depends. I like to think about utility and versatility alot when I consider the essentials. So when packing, I’m wondering if I can use something in multiple ways or if a piece of clothing can be layered. If something only seems to have one-single use, I will often reconsider.  But for me, I always have the following stowed in my bag when I set off: 
  • 1-2 slim notebooks
  • 1 headlamp with fresh batteries
  • 1 watch 
  • MANY packing cubes 
  • 1 small bag of toiletries
  • 1 good book and 1 travel guide for my destination
  • 1 stainless steel water bottle
  • 2 hats (sun and cold)
  • 1 scarf (to wear, use as a pillow on the plane, mop up spilled coffee, or any number of things)
  • 1 Compressible puffy jacket and 1 sweater
  • Minimal clothing 
  • 1 pair of shoes and 1 pair of sandals 
  • My “uh oh” bag: extra glasses, first aid kit, and some cash
  • Thank you cards or nice paper for people I meet/stay with along the way
  • 2 waterproof stuff sacks/dry bags: 1 for general laundry and 1 for things that aren’t dry by the time I need to put stuff in my bag
  • A portable battery if bringing electronics 
  • A bankcard for an internet bank with no ATM fees and cheap-o currency conversion
  • 1 foldable tote


The Actual Packing

I start with a list. I’m a list person, but even if I wasn’t I think this step is key. I have multiple saved lists for different kinds of travel; the list helps me remember key items and brings some intentionality to the planning process. I then collect all my items over a day or more and leave them in a designated spot in my house. I pack in advance; at least 2 days for a short trip and a week or more for very long trips. I do this partially to make sure I don’t need to go and buy things and also to give myself a chance to reconsider items. When filling my bag, I mostly use packing cubes to keep things organized and roll my clothes in the cubes to save space. I like having small cubes to separate different kinds of clothing. It is so tempting to pack a ton of clothes and/or shoes and I try to limit myself to just a few shirts, pants/shorts, and other things. Usually, I only bring 50% of what I initially pull out of my closet. You don’t need an outfit for every day of your trip, or even for every day of one week. I also stick to 1 pair of pajamas and bring only the barest minimum of toiletries (ok, plus too many earrings, but that’s my Achilles heel). I also pre-pack my carry-on (making sure it’s not too full to fit the inevitable snack I’ll buy en route to my destination). I set out the clothes I will wear on my first day of travel; making sure to leave a warm layer out. And, lastly, I make sure to have key items I’ll need upon arrival like sleeping clothes and toiletries at the top of my bag (or, even better, in my carry-on if they fit). Once I’m done, I carry the bag around a bit and then give myself a day or more to think about what I’ve planned to bring on my travels. My goal in reconsidering is almost always to reflect on what I can live without or what I can bring that is simply less bulky. I know that no matter where I travel there will be chances to buy almost anything I might need and that I can usually do laundry.  Sometimes I take apart the whole bag and try to find several items I can leave at home. It’s extremely common for people to add in lots of items that you think you might need. “I mean, probably I won’t need it, but better to be prepared!” While it might feel initially comforting to bring these items, I encourage you not to. I have found that the “what if” items rarely get used and just take up space. Give those things a little Marie Kondo thank you and leave them behind.   

More Packing Tips, Please

For those of you who want to learn more tips, tricks, and secrets for packing for a Dragons summer and semester programs check out this recorded Packing 101 Webinar or reach out to us to get connected with a Dragons staff member to chat specifics.    Cara Lane-Toomey has been working with Where There Be Dragons since 2007 and is the current Director of College & University Programming.   [post_title] => How to Pack Like a Pro [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-pack-like-a-pro [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-01-19 12:36:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-01-19 19:36:16 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/recommended/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Recommended )
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[caption id="attachment_158558" align="aligncenter" width="1500"] Photo by Amanda Lai, China[/caption] Traveling abroad for the first time is both exciting and scary. It’s important to not let fear of the unknown make you feel unprepared for the adventure of a lifetime! While there are many tips and tricks for traveling abroad, below are some of our top tips based on our 30 years of travel.

How to Prepare for your Big Adventure

  • Pack Light. Bring clothes specific to the climate and leave your formal clothing at home. Here’s a helpful video on best practices for packing. 
  • Learn basic phrases in the native language of your destination. Not only will you be able to get around easier, but locals will appreciate the effort! Here’s a free app to get you started. It also helps to bring along a small language book with common words and phrases.
  • Learn about the history of your destination before you go. Before leaving for a Dragons course, students are provided with recommended  books, articles, and documentaries to learn more about the history, culture and current issues to read before traveling or bring with them. 

How to Get the Most Out of your Trip 

[caption id="attachment_158557" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Photo by Nisha Dhawlikar, Guatemala[/caption]
  • Bring a journal. A journal is a great way to document everything you experience during your travels. It’s also helpful for processing all the new experiences you’re having. We promise  you’ll appreciate being able to return to it later! 
  • Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Everywhere you visit will be a unique experience. Pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone will allow you to see, smell, and hear the most your destination has to offer. 
  • Try the local food. Nothing speaks to the essence of a place like the food. Live like a local and explore new flavors—you might discover your new favorite dish. 
  • Be respectful of local customs and cultural norms. Every country has its own unique set of customs and expectations. It is important to learn these before you go, but to stay mindful of these while traveling. 
  • Be patient with yourself, those you’re traveling with, and those you meet along the way. Traveling is challenging for everyone in their own unique ways, being patient will allow you to remain present throughout your trip. 
  • Be spontaneous. While you’re traveling, you’ll meet people who introduce you to new opportunities, celebrations, and places to visit. Leave some room in your itinerary for spur of the moment activities that you discover along the way. 
  • Set expectations. Expect to have a stomach issue while you’re traveling, or some setbacks along the way. It happens to all of us, and all we can do is be prepared to flow with the ups and downs of traveling. 

How to Reflect Back on your Trip

  • Share your stories. Send letters to loved ones and yourself while you're traveling. 
  • Value experiences over souvenirs. Sure it’s nice to have a memento from a place, but if you have to choose between the sunrise hike and souvenir shopping, we recommend the sunrise hike. You’ll thank yourself later for that decision. 
[caption id="attachment_158446" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Senegal[/caption] Traveling abroad is one of the most life changing experiences you can give yourself. Travel is one of the purest forms of experiential education. It simultaneously inspires a sense of wonder while pushing us to grow into ourselves more than we knew possible. When we travel, we are reminded to never stop learning.  If you’re ready to explore Summer & Gap Year Programs, click here to see a list of courses. For direct questions, please schedule a call to speak with someone on our admissions team. We look forward to exploring the world with you! [post_title] => 12 Tips for New Travelers [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 12-tips-for-new-travelers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-28 14:32:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-28 21:32:38 [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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12 Tips for New Travelers

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Sarah Bennett-O'Brien

Traveling abroad for the first time is both exciting and scary. It’s important to not let fear of the unknown make you feel unprepared for the adventure of a lifetime!… Read More
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Disconnecting (digitally) to Connect More Meaningfully

I closed my computer screen, grabbed my journal, and found a sunny spot outside—thank goodness for Tucson in December, where I live. It felt appropriate to take a break from my screen to write about disconnecting from technology.  Over the summer I visited the Guatemala 4-week Spanish Language program. I had just joined the Dragons Administrative team in a new digital marketing role—managing social media, blog, and email marketing. I was really excited to be part of the Dragons team and visit a program for the first time. Having worked in the educational travel industry since 2015, I’ve only seen an increase in the dependence we all have on our phones, and the interference they cause with immersive travel programs. I was especially excited to see how a program looked without the use of mobile phones for students.   In Guatemala I spent time with my phone, taking photos and communicating with the other instructors and admin via Whatsapp. Sometimes students would ask to see the photos I took, or requested to see an Instagram post that included them (here’s a beautiful photo of the group at sunrise, actually). But mostly, the students seemed content without their phones, and this was about 2.5 weeks into the program. 

"I don't really miss it."

So I asked the group what it was like being without their phones, iPads, or computers for the last few weeks. To my pleasant surprise they responded with “I sleep so much better,” and “It feels so good to take a break—I know it will still be there when I get back.” Some said, “ I don’t really miss it. I love having conversations at dinner with the group instead of being on my phone.” I thought, Heck. Yeah. I need more of this in my life.  While it always feels important to take breaks from technology, it feels incredibly timely as we’re in the holiday season. The end of the year typically represents a time of gathering and reflection, and a great reason to be more present with our current surroundings rather than our screens. I surveyed the Dragons Administrative Team and our Alumni Ambassadors about how they disconnect to connect.

Best tips and tricks for taking a break from our devices: 

  • I plug my phone in to charge in a different room so I'm not tempted to look at it last thing at night or first thing in the morning. I actually bought a nifty new alarm clock with one of those slow rise lights so that I'm not dependent on my phone for my alarm. When going out on a hike or drive somewhere, I'll try to consciously leave my phone behind so that I'm not dependent on the GPS at every turn. —Aaron Slosberg, Director of Student Programming 
  • With family, we do try to keep our phones off and away from us so that they're not at the dinner table or part of the conversation. One thing that is a pet peeve of mine is when someone is telling a story and they say, "Oh, let me show you the photo of this..." and while it's relevant to the story, I think it just kills the conversation because they pull out their phone, scroll to find the photo, and then the description and storytelling kind of just grinds to a halt. —Dragons Admin Team Member 
  • I've started trying to unplug as much as possible during the weekends. I go hang out at my mother-in-law's house. She doesn't have wifi and I won't touch my phone all day— just play with kids and drink tea and sit around talking and laughing. —Jenny Wagner, Staffing Director
  • I like to set time limits on my phone and also temporarily delete some apps when I feel like I’m going on them too much. —Sally Thomas, Alumni Ambassador
  • Communicate with others that you’re taking a break so they know not to worry. Additionally, let them know your preferred way of getting in touch or when you’ll be checking your phone/email/messages. —Alex Biddle, Digital Marketing Associate 

Benefits we experience and activities to do when taking a digital detox: 

  • Surfing is the ultimate unplugged activity for me, my digital free safe space. —Aaron Slosber, Director of Student Programming 
  • I take detox breaks when I spend time in nature, go for hikes, and when I can go camping I rarely use my phone and it works wonders for me and my life. When I’m not on my phone, I try to journal, talk with friends, connect with family, make music or other art, go outside, workout, hike, etc. I feel it helps me feel more clear headed and more present. —Lily Conquanto Alumni Ambassador
  • The benefits of disconnecting allows me the chance to take a few moments to reflect on the past year as I enter into the new year. Not to set "resolutions," but to reflect on my experiences, who I have become, and life's transitions. It forces me to sit with the uncomfortable in order to enter the new year with clarity. —Sarah Bennett O’Brien, Programming Associate 
  • A great way to disconnect is spending in person time with friends and family. Sally Thomas, Alumni Ambassador
  • I absolutely love reading books, enjoy painting in my free time, and I often take walks in nature. It definitely makes me feel less lazy doing these activities than being on my phone, and I feel more connection with everything and everyone around me. —Julia Borque, Alumni Ambassador 
  • Playing board games! —Eva Vanek, Director of Outreach 
  • Baking, to fill the house with scents of cinnamon & comfort! Helps the brain disengage from the chaos of everyday life and focus on the simple pleasure of being "home". Lisa Smith, Administrative Associate 
  • I love to post up at the breakfast table with my sketch pad and draw cabins in the woods. We have some land up on Lake Superior and one day I hope to build an artsy and soulful home for our family. Simon Hart, Director of Partnership and Educator Programming 
  • For me, disconnecting leaves room for surprise and spontaneity. I can't help but view this through the lens of young children. There's a cycle to this process, which is disconnect, then comes boredom (which usually leads to anger/frustration), and then spontaneous action…I love when we get to the final stage. Often it involves trashing the house to build a fort or an obstacle course. When they choose to draw quietly, it's blissful. Whatever it is, it's never something that I foresee, which is what I love most about disconnecting. I think the key is boredom. When they say they're bored, I know we're about to break through to something funky. —Reed Harwood, Executive Director 
  • My favorite things to do when I need a break from the internet are go outside or read! Neither of these activities require any technology so I can get a full break. —Alumni Ambassador

It feels good to take a break.

Even handwriting this post in a journal before typing it out was a joyful experience. I feel better. Don’t get me wrong, technology is a huge help for my day to day work and life, but it feels so good to take a little break. I hear the birds singing in the mesquite trees, I feel the warmth of the December sun, and see my dogs Bert and Ellie sunbathing and happy.  From all of us at Dragons, we’re wishing you a warm holiday season and hope you take time to disconnect digitally so you can connect to yourself and your loved ones. Here’s to soaking up the present moment.  Eager to keep reading about the power or disconnection and unplugged travel? You can check out this article for what it’s like to be on a Dragons course without your devices.  [post_title] => The Power of Disconnection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-power-of-disconnection [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-22 12:24:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-22 19:24:48 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => 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 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Global Community ... )
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We're celebrating our 10th year of the Global Speaker Series! Each year our best teachers—with years of international education experience—speak in classrooms  across the United States to share their perspectives and insights with students ready to engage with critical and compelling global questions. While we used to do this for schools only, this year we're really excited to offer these talks to anyone who would like to join. Our 2021/2022 virtual global speaker series includes a range of talks focusing on topics such as climate change, advocacy through story, and learning service.

Select one (or many!) of our free 60-min global talks (free talks are listed below) that are funded by Dragons and offer the opportunity to engage with critical global conversations. If you're an educator interested in booking a talk for your classroom, you can do that here. Again, these are talks are open to anyone (general public) who is interested in learning more about one of these topics.

Please note that most of these talks are on Tuesdays at 5pm MST, but some deviate from that schedule to accommodate speakers' time zones and availability.

2021/2022 Global Speaker Series Schedule

Empathy and Travel

January 27th, 5pm MST

Travel is lauded as a noble pursuit, but what specifically is it about travel that broadens one’s horizons? Arguably, empathy may be one of the greatest tangible benefits of travel.  This talk will examine the connections between empathy and travel, highlighting the latest research into empathy and what it actually is, as well as discussion of “ethical travel,” globalization, and Colleen’s own personal experiences throughout her last seven years of global travel. Speaker: Colleen Dougherty, MSW, The George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, BA Spanish Language and Literature, BS Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Ohio University   

Historic Memory: Antidotes for a Struggling Planet

February 22nd, 5pm MST

From severe climate crises, to global pandemics and widespread unrest. We are living in unprecedented and troubled times. Yet not all is doomed. The planet’s evolutionary past has gifted us a cultural heritage full of valuable lessons and viable alternatives to address some of the most pressing issues affecting the health of the planet and everything in it. This talk is an invitation to take a deep dive into personal and collective histories to uncover useful antidotes to help a struggling planet. Speaker: Este Migoya, B.A. in Anthropology & Latin American Studies, Honours – University of Toronto, International Studies Diploma – Sciences Po Paris

The Fairy Creek Blockades: Frontline Activism and Ecologies of Change

April 5th, 5pm MST

The Fairy Creek Blockades were Canada's largest act of civil disobedience in history, with over 1000 people arrested for blocking the logging of endangered ancient forests on South Vancouver Island, deliberately violating a Supreme Court injunction in the process. The grassroots intersectional movement brought together the people, causes and spirits of Indigenous Sovereignty as well as radical non-violent settler environmentalism, encountering numerous political challenges and tensions in the context of truth and reconciliation following the genocide and resurgence of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island (North America). 'Come for the trees, stay for the decolonization' emerged as more than a catch-phrase. In this presentation and discussion, join Arvin as he recounts experiences and perspectives from the frontlines. Speaker: Arvin Singh, MA University of Oxford

The Forbidden Fire: Community-Based Fire Management in the Peruvian Andes

April 12th, 5pm MST

The need for agricultural expansion has increased fire use throughout the tropics, aggravating local people’s vulnerability to the changing climate. Fire management has been historically addressed from a top-down conservationist approach, when use of agricultural fires should also be integrated into discussions of rural development. This shift would emphasize strengthening local and traditional institutions for adequate fire prevention and control and provide a better fit to the local context of the actors implementing them. In this talk, Vanessa will share her doctoral research in the Tropical Andes, where almost nothing is known regarding the local institutions for fire management and how these rules are adapted to fit changing socio environmental contexts.  Speaker: Vanessa Luna, PhD student in Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida (in progress) B.A. in Biology, Agraria La Molina University, Peru   

Traditional to Contemporary: From Guqin to China-Style Pop Music Phenomenon

May 31st, 5pm MST

Guqin, is the oldest authentic Chinese musical instrument. Pei’s talk will introduce students to the unique and subtle sounds of the Guqin that have influenced all aspects of China culture. We will trace the use of the Guqin from the story of Confucious learning the instrument to 1977 when Nasa used its sounds as a gift to the galaxy in the Voyager spacecraft mission. Pei will explore how music is an amazing medium for understanding China - from traditional to contemporary life and values.  Speaker: Pei Yuen, B.Des. in Communications Design from Shih Chien University, Taiwan [post_title] => Announcing our 2021/2022 Public Global Speaker Series Talks [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => announcing-the-global-speaker-series-for-2021-2022-copy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-05-10 14:43:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-05-10 20:43:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/announcing-the-global-speaker-series-for-2021-2022-copy [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 651 [name] => Announcements [slug] => announcements [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 651 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [parent] => 0 [count] => 25 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 15 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 25 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/announcements/ ) [1] => 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/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 652 [name] => Events [slug] => events [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 652 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Both In-Person and Digital Events including: Webinars, Global Speaker Series, Road Warrior Tours, & Alumni Gatherings [parent] => 0 [count] => 6 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 17 [cat_ID] => 652 [category_count] => 6 [category_description] => Both In-Person and Digital Events including: Webinars, Global Speaker Series, Road Warrior Tours, & Alumni Gatherings [cat_name] => Events [category_nicename] => events [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Announcements, Uncategorized ... )
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