Photo by Lindsay Coe, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Posts Tagged:

South America

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    [ID] => 153703
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-09-24 10:46:44
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-24 16:46:44
    [post_content] => 
One of our dear friends and a longtime Dragons instructor, Gina Collignon, has started a campaign to help bring our friend Sandy Pinto, one of our Bolivia instructors and a well-known Afro-Bolivian activist and organizer, to Honduras as part of a delegation supporting human rights, feminist initiatives, and awareness-raising surrounding violence against women under the Honduran dictatorship and in the wider region: Building Bridges of Solidarity. This effort is part of an initiative to help make these delegations availability to a wider demographic, specifically supporting women of color from the Global South to be part of these kinds of delegations.  As Gina writes:
I am part of an amazing community of people who understand the power of travel. What can happen when we use that power not just for our own personal growth, but to also grow connections between amazing organizers who might not otherwise have the chance to meet? I would love to find out.
Please consider contributing to this cause, even a small sum can go a long way!
[post_title] => Supporting Bridges of Solidarity between Bolivia and Honduras [post_excerpt] => A longtime Dragons instructor, Gina Collignon, has started a campaign to help bring our friend Sandy Pinto, a well-known Afro-Bolivian activist and organizer, to Honduras as part of a delegation supporting human rights, feminist initiatives, and awareness-raising surrounding violence against women... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => supporting-bridges-of-solidarity-between-bolivia-and-honduras [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-24 10:57:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-24 16:57:04 [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] => 669 [name] => Engage [slug] => engage [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 669 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [parent] => 0 [count] => 11 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 669 [category_count] => 11 [category_description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [cat_name] => Engage [category_nicename] => engage [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/engage/ ) [1] => 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] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 31 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => Engage, Announcements )
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    [ID] => 153683
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-09-20 10:53:31
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-20 16:53:31
    [post_content] => 

Did you know Dragons now offers an advanced level course for alumni of Dragons and other expedition, leadership, and international experiences?

The new program is for participants ages 18-25 and runs from Feb 7 - Apr 29, 2019. The itinerary was handcrafted by veteran Dragons instructor Tim Hare and includes wilderness exploration, Andean culture, Spanish language, and rock climbing. The course was developed in shared-vision and collaboration with the High Mountain Institute.

Read on for a bit of Tim's inspiration in designing the course:

TIM HARE
DIRECTOR OF RISK MANAGEMENT
----------
ON THE ANDES LEADERSHIP SEMESTER*
"The Andes mountains have captivated me for over 15 years, drawing me back to climb granite spires in southern Argentina, or walk through spacious wilderness of Patagonia or high glaciated peaks of Bolivia. The diversity of landscapes and cultures along the Andes Mountain range is breathtaking and I continue to learn so much from the various mountain communities and ways that humans have learned to relate to their natural surrounding in this region. "
ANDES LEADERSHIP SEMESTER*
PATAGONIA TO PERU
*The Andes Leadership semester is for students who have participated on a prior travel program or HMI course. 
[post_title] => New Program (crafted for Dragons Alumni): Andes Leadership Semester - Patagonia to Peru [post_excerpt] => Did you know Dragons now offers an advanced level course for alumni of Dragons and other expedition, leadership, and international experiences? The new program is for participants ages 18-25 and runs from Feb 7 - Apr 29, 2019. The itinerary was handcrafted by veteran Dragons instructor Tim Hare... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-program-crafted-for-dragons-alumni-andes-leadership-semester-patagonia-to-peru [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-20 10:56:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-20 16:56:32 [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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 21 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 21 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) [1] => 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] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 31 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => Alumni Spotlight, Announcements )
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    [ID] => 153377
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-07-24 14:18:03
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-24 20:18:03
    [post_content] => 
i remember thinking to myself, i am pain; pain is all i am.
On the first full day, I experienced intense altitude symptoms, especially fatigue, nausea and extreme headache. As the group trudged through the final couple hours, i remember crying, screaming and laughing in the course of minutes. i remember thinking to myself, i am pain; pain is all i am. but the pain passed, and by the second day i fell into a rhythm and came to deeply enjoy the hours of walking. i reflected on the parts of my day, the aspects of my life, that i often look forward to at home, especially on an emotionally unfulfilling day: a hot shower, a good meal, my warm and soft bed. on the trek, each of those material comforts was completely unavailable, so to maintain happiness, i learned to look forward to, and take joy in, the walking itself. and to walk for long hours with purpose does indeed provide a singular peace and satisfaction. The Inca people who still live in the vicinity of Ausangate revere the mountain as a god. I understood the logic partially before the trek: the mountain provides water; water is life. But only on the fourth day of the trek did I really grasp it, through a conversation with our instructor Brian: it was snowing lightly and the summit was shrouded in clouds. From our angle the mountain looked a million feet tall. The summit seemed so close and yet completely unreachable and out of this world. I imagined living in the shadow of that giant for decades and seeing the summit everyday in all its glory but being incapable of touching it. I imagined some teenage boys climbing up as high as possible one day and maybe stepping one foot into the unreachable for a moment. The high parts of the mountain like a different dimension, and not unlike a realm of gods.
each of those material comforts was completely unavailable, so to maintain happiness, i learned to look forward to, and take joy in, the walking itself.
After Ausangate we began our first homestay in the city of Urubamba. The homestay has been my favorite part of the course so far. I stayed with a middle aged couple, Beti and Augusto, and their 12 year old son, Andre. Andre, like me, is an only child. Beti and Augu are teachers. They’re a busy family and they live in a small apartment on the Plaza Pintacha near our Spanish classes. In the mornings, Beti woke me up at 7:20 for me to get to our morning group meetings in the plaza at 7:30. Needless to say, I had the most convenient location. I was alone in my spanish class. My teacher, Reiner, is also a very skilled painter, and our classes took place in his fourth floor study, surrounded by his paintings and bookshelves and with a view of the red tile roofs and the surrounding mountains and glaciers. In the afternoons, I studied Cajon for my ISP. The cajon is a peruvian instrument, basically a box that you sit on and play like a drum with two different types of strikes, one higher pitched on the edge and one deeper in the center (see pictures in ISP yak). On the first day, Brian told me to go to to the seviche restaurant Pa Mi Gente with my cajon and ask for Cristian. I arrived at the restaurant and found some people watching the world cup in the back patio. Cristian turned out to be a 25 year old afro-peruvian man. He and his wife, Pati, are seviche chefs. They have a 1 year old son named Gael. At first my lessons with Cristian were difficult because I had trouble understanding his Lima accent and he had a very “just copy what i do” teaching style, and when a customer would come in and he had to serve drinks or help Pati with the cooking, he would make me keep practicing the beat and would yell corrections at me from other parts of the restaurant. Over the course of the week it got easier, and i learned a medley of 4 four typical afro-peruvian rhythms that he and i could play almost perfectly in unison by the end. I also started to feel like part of their small family by the end, given how many hours i spent hanging out in the restaurant, learning, chatting with Pati, and playing with the baby. Pati let me try spoonfuls of a lot of her dishes. In the evenings, I played soccer in the street with five or six boys on the block and my host brother, Andre. I found that sports are sometimes a better way to bond than conversations, and I felt very close with all the boys after a few days. A couple times, we walked to the Charcahualla, a local field, and played soccer, basketball, a strange version of four square, and dodgeball (their name for which literally translates to kill people) with kids we didn’t know. I love sports, and I had so much fun playing four hours on end in the street. Having friends my age was also a bridge to the community. After soccer, Andre and I went inside and had dinner, played video games, and had strangely philosophical conversations. It was wonderful for each of us to have a brother, however short the time. I will miss them so much.

Read more Featured Yaks

[post_title] => The Line Between Heaven and Earth - Yak of the Week [post_excerpt] => A student reflection from a day in the life on the Peru 6-week program... "As the group trudged through the final couple hours, i remember crying, screaming and laughing in the course of minutes. i remember thinking to myself, i am pain; pain is all i am." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-line-between-heaven-and-earth-yak-of-the-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-24 14:21:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-24 20:21:22 [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] => 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] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
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    [ID] => 153278
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-06-25 09:57:20
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-25 15:57:20
    [post_content] => 

Congratulations to the winners of Dragons Spring 2018 Gap Year Programs Contest!

FIRST PLACE (pictured): Photo by Romina Beltrán Lazo, Indonesia Semester. Captioned: "The Javanese parents of the bride at a wedding in Jogja."

SECOND PLACE: Photo by Jacqueline-Bengtson, Nepal Semester, Captioned: “Prayer flags from New Hampshire sway in the wind under Annapurna II. Their prayers are sent around the world!"

THIRD PLACE: Photo by Margo Muyres, South America Gap Year Program, titled: "Flower Lady in La Paz."

[post_title] => Spring Gap Year Program Photo Contest Winners... [post_excerpt] => Congratulations to the winners of Dragons Spring 2018 Gap Year Programs Contest! FIRST PLACE (pictured) photo by Romina Beltrán Lazo, Indonesia Semester. Captioned: "The Javanese parents of the bride at a wedding in Jogja." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => spring-gap-year-program-photo-contest-winners [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-03 12:46:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-03 18:46:27 [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] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [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] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 29 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 29 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/mixed_media/ ) [2] => 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] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 31 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Mixed Media ... )
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    [ID] => 153156
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-05-23 11:23:47
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-23 17:23:47
    [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!

[post_title] => Gap Year Planning Q&A with Student Will LeVan [post_excerpt] => 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... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gap-year-planning-qa-student-will-levan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-23 11:32:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-23 17:32:56 [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] => 18 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 1 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 18 [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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 21 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 21 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Alumni Spotlight )
WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 153116
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-05-22 08:45:37
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-22 14:45:37
    [post_content] => 

[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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Slow Travel: The Benefits of Longer-Term Programs and Immersive Experiences Abroad

Posted On

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,… Read More
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