Pacific Discovery offers experiential gap year semester and summer programs abroad to some of the most amazing places on earth. Our programs are deliberate overland journeys, blending authentic immersion in diverse cultures, meaningful service-learning projects, rewarding adventures, wilderness exploration, and personal development.
Students challenge themselves in a supportive small group environment, developing empathy for other cultures; furthering understanding of international issues; heightening appreciation for the earth’s wild places; deepening global perspectives; and discovering their own passion and purpose.
Gap Year Semester Programs: 10 weeks
+ 1-3 week independent extension options
Summer Programs: 4 weeks
& 2 instructors
From January to November 2017, Media Intern, Macala Elliott, traveled with our New Zealand & Australia, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America and Nepal & Tibet semester students to capture the essence of the Pacific Discovery program experience. Check out her video to see what our programs are all about.
Pacific Discovery Gap Year Semester Programs are epic! They combine rugged journeys to beautiful places, with authentic immersion, and inspiring adventure. You’ll be in a supportive group environment and learn more than you ever dreamed. Our semester programs are a 10 week journey with an optional 3-week independent extension. Programs are offered Fall, Winter and Spring, and can be taken consecutively for an in-depth and transformative gap year experience. Optional transferable academic credit options are available on all programs.
Pacific Discovery Summer Programs are 4-week journeys designed to be an intense and immersive insight into a country or region. You’ll be inspired by new perspectives, forge wonderful friendships, and gain experience and skills that will be with you for life. They provide opportunities for meaningful connections with local people, pushing personal boundaries, and gaining knowledge of a country or region’s history, culture and environments, facilitated by our knowledgeable and supportive Program Instructors. All can be combined with another summer program in the same region or elsewhere for an incredible 8-week summer experience.
Pacific Discovery Program Instructors are exceptional and innovative educators, facilitators and mentors. They are inspiring people with extensive experience in the countries in which they lead, who share a deep respect for the people and cultures, a fascination with local history, and an in-depth understanding of contemporary issues and politics. Our Program Instructors are people you can trust, and who take a genuine interest in your well-being and safety. They understand the importance of balancing the needs of individuals with group objectives, facilitating group dynamics, inspiring a genuine appreciation for the areas visited and a commitment to minimum impact travel ethics.
We take safety seriously and running safe programs is our primary focus. Pacific Discovery has been taking students and faculty-led groups on experiential journeys since 2001 and detailed safety planning is an integral part of our programming and instructor training. We have more than 100,000 participant days in the field, and we have an exemplary record. Our safety management systems are assessed and accredited by the American Gap Association (AGA), the Year Out Group (UK) and OutdoorsMark (New Zealand). Assessors have commented that our systems are among the best they have encountered.
The Pacific Discovery Travel Journal offers you an insight into the unique world of our programs. Students and instructors regularly post updates from the field, enabling family and friends to follow their journey.
“I had travelled through six of the seven continents before coming on this program but this was by far the most amazing experience I have had travelling. The kinds of people that Pacific Discovery attracts are intelligent, aware, curious, open-minded, adventurous and so openhearted.” Being able to experience the rich diverse tastes, sounds, sights, and cultures of Southeast Asia with this type of group made for a truly unforgettable experience. The trip takes you from the rural villages of Lao to the bustling cities of Vietnam and gives you the freedom and independence to get a taste of what it's like in each place we visit. Along the way we also learn about travelling itself and how to be a safe travel, being responsible in regards to both yourself and the places you are visiting.” Read more Ahladini Veerina, 2016
“My Pacific Discovery program was excellent and I could really appreciate how much thought and experience went into designing the itinerary. The ratio of structured to free time, and the degree of freedom we had felt about perfect.” The program really taught me to be open-minded and adventurous when traveling and also in everyday life, as many of my favorite experiences were parts of the program that I wasn't initially too excited about.” Read more Oliver Hansen, 2015
“The homestays and community stays were what had the greatest impact on my view of the world.” They illustrated to me that many of the things I have at home are extras but not necessities. That people can live extremely happy and fulfilled lives without these things, and even more so without them. Overall I had a terrific experience on the program. I got to travel with a diverse group of people who were all interested in taking the next step in their lives.” Read more Laura Frank, 2015
“This is a new type of education, one of mind, body, and soul, where you and other students your age challenge each other to become the greatest person you can be.” Even though I considered myself well-travelled, Pacific Discovery expanded my horizons more than I anticipated. The program challenged my emotional states, gave me opportunities I never dreamed of, and let me achieve the cultural awareness I was hoping for. I had wanted to go to Thailand for years and when I was finally given the opportunity, I wanted to explore the depth of the country in an environment that was safer than traveling alone, and which also gave me the benefits of a group. This program surpassed all of my expectations. Each day is filled with group activities and the chance to explore individually, so you can make friends but also give yourself a chance to grow outside of the group. This program is perfect for those who wish to grow and explore, for it gives you all the opportunities to do so, while making friends, and learning in depth about a new culture. I cannot give a higher recommendation.” Read more Sasha Howes, 2014
“It takes an average of 66 days to form a habit, so 62 days of traveling, exploring, and learning definitely turned into a habit while with Pacific Discovery.” I can only hope that it stays a habit. My time in New Zealand & Australia sparked a curiosity about unknown places & people while simultaneously teaching me simply how to travel and how to be. Since my very first call to Pacific Discovery after getting the number from an impulsive google search in between classes, I have experienced nothing but incredible patience and top notch professionalism from Pacific Discovery. Rachel & Scott clearly care about every participant, which earned the trust of my overprotective parents (which is an accomplishment in itself). The time and work you put into every trip is evident to every participant, and is much appreciated. Thank you for everything!” Read more Paulina Tse, 2015
University of California San Diego
“You will grow in ways you'd never imagine. You will learn what you never could inside a classroom. Come for the adventure, you will get so much more.” Pacific discovery is more than a tour company. It's a close family embodied with the true spirit of travel. This adventure is unique in that it doesn't fall under any particular category. One day you’re relaxing on a cruise ship in Ha Long Bay, the next you’re trekking through the Laotian jungle and spending the night with a native hill tribe. The variety of activities offered on this trip is incredible. Each day of the itinerary is thoughtfully planned. You can tell that Rachel and Scott really care about the experience they are providing for their participants. This program offers a great balance between group and independent travel. The perfect ratio of structured activities, to free time, to explore and make the trip our own. Many participants feel comfortable enough after the trip to extend their stay, traveling either with someone they met on the trip or independently. I spent a week learning Thai massage, living in Bangkok and went on a ten day silent meditation retreat. PD was more than helpful with preparations such as my visa extension paperwork. I remember before leaving to go on the program I was at REI and had a question about a whether I needed something and they responded to my email while I was still in the store. This is only one example of their passion and dedication. I'm bringing home a deep understanding of Southeast Asian culture, great memories, and friendships that will last a lifetime.” Read more Eli Susman, 2014