HQ Team

Based at Pacific Discovery HQ in Queenstown, and in Nelson, New Zealand, we have an outstanding and dynamic team leading Pacific Discovery.

Zach Johnston

Executive Director

Pacific Discovery & Pure Exploration

Zach grew up on a farm in the North Island of New Zealand. In his youth he hunted on horseback and scuba dived for food. At age 18 he joined the military and soon became a captain, commanding tanks and then to a specialized role in sniping and reconnaissance. After several other leadership roles, it was a 12-month position as the Senior Leadership Development Instructor at officer cadet school,  that he discovered his passion for mentoring young adults. 

After the military Zach ventured around the world rock climbing, discovering a passion for travel, exploration and adventure, believing they open and strengthen the mind, as well as inspire us to connect with ourselves and others.  He worked as an ambulance EMT and then began working as an Outdoor Educator and an International Expedition Leader, guiding expeditions on every continent except Antarctica. He has also ran a rock climbing company and a small group tour company. Wishing to enable more young adults to gain the skills and experience necessary to safely undertake adventures he developed the adventure travel program Pure Exploration.

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Austin Rogers

US Admissions Director

BA International Studies
Baylor University

Austin grew up in Texas and graduated from Baylor University with a B.A. in International Studies with a concentration in Political Science, during which she studied abroad in Italy at John Cabot University studying foreign affairs. Afterwards, she served an AmeriCorps VISTA term as a community organizer at the Texas Hunger Initiative, a capacity-building and collaborative organization seeking to develop and implement strategies to end hunger through policy, education, community organizing, and community development.

Having enjoyed her VISTA year, she became a VISTA Leader and recruited, trained, and oversaw 25 VISTAs across five southern states, simultaneously serving as a manger, events coordinator, and program assistant with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. To gain more for-profit experience Austin joined Gap Inc in Washington, DC and managed a 6-million-dollar business for four years. Wishing to apply her experience to her love of traveling and adventure she moved to New Zealand to pursue an outdoor adventure guide program with Pure Exploration, Pacific Discovery's sister organization.

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Oritt Blum

Partnerships Director

Pacific Discovery

Oritt was born in the Northeast of the United States, with her mom's curly hair and her dad's ice hockey fever. Oritt was a competitive athlete for much of her younger years, until an injury sidelined her, forcing Oritt to reevaluate her circumstances. Oritt pursued a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and after graduating from Syracuse University, spent the next four years settled into a routine at home in New York City.

Finding herself on a trajectory that she was no longer passionate about, she realized she was in need of some personal time. Oritt embarked on a year-long self-directed journey beginning in New Zealand, continuing throughout the Pacific, eventually crossing into Europe and onwards to South America. This experience, which exposed her to so many unfamiliar cultures, lifestyles, and languages, was nothing short of humbling and inspiring. Oritt returned to New Zealand with a determination to build a life for herself with the foundation of her newly identified values.

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Poppy Kupreichik

Programs Director

Pacific Discovery

Originally from the South West of England, Poppy moved to Queenstown 7 years ago and never left. Having travelled through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali and lastly Australia, Poppy found that immersing herself in new cultures and unknown countries ignited her passion for adventure and experience.

Since settling in Queenstown, Poppy has taken up numerous activities and continued her journey of self development. Now an avid hiker and explorer, Poppy enjoys everything this beautiful region has to offer right on her doorstep, the beautiful summers and the fluffy winters. She loves being active, spending mornings and/or evenings as a Les Mills Instructor and her weekends hiking around the area. On lazier days you can find her with her cats and partner with a good book, relaxing in their home.

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Mary Mitchell

Marketing Manager

BA Media Studies / Marketing
Auburn University

Mary grew up in a coastal town on the North Island and quickly became a keen traveller and outdoor enthusiast! Having visited 27 countries (and counting) adventure travel is right up her alley. Mary lived abroad for 5 years, exploring the deserts of Australia, Nepalese Himalayas and floating villages of Malaysia before settling in Auburn, Alabama to complete her Bachelor's degree in Media Studies and Marketing.

After university Mary worked in large advertising agencies in Auckland but after a few years she decided to pack her bags and move to the mountains of Queenstown. Being able to combine her passion for media and the outdoors is a dream come true and has never looked back! On the weekends you'll find Mary hiking, snowboarding, organizing surf trips to the east coast and mountain biking...and always with a camera in hand!

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Scott Burnett

Founding Advisor

Experiential Educator
Practical Guy

Scott's path was shaped by growing up wanting to be an adventurer; climbing mountains and exploring; through the Scout movement with it's emphasis on leadership, group dynamics and service; and through holiday work at a wildlife sanctuary. After high school, he decided that the way to gain independence and fund his adventurous dreams was through hard work and cold cash. He completed a 4-year carpentry apprenticeship. This gave him practical skills, valuable self belief and funded an enviable lifestyle of climbing, mountain biking, travel and adventure. The study of philosophy and experiential education, led to work as an outdoor instructor and to work for the environmental organization Greenpeace, where he met Rachel.

Pacific Discovery grew out of this grounding in practical self-directed learning and a desire to share with others his love of travel, the outdoors, adventure and experiential education. Scott has now led in excess of 30 programs for Pacific Discovery, gaining an unmatched understanding of how to mentor young adults. He's researched new programs, trained our wonderful program instructors, designed our website, and recently took time out to build a solar-powered Pacific Discovery office. He contributes to the gap year field best practice, serving on both the Standards and the Ethics Committees of the American Gap Association.

Scott has also spent 9 years on the board of a grassroots development organization, Books for Cambodia; and has resumed his studies, currently mid-way through a BA in Development Studies. When time permits he loves adventures with his family, mountain biking, orienteering and ultimate frisbee.

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Program Instructors

We value our dedicated Program Instructors - they are the cornerstone of a safe, transformative, and outstanding experience for our students.

Our Program Instructors are inspiring people with extensive experience in the regions we visit, 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.

They are people in whom you can trust, who remain objective and supportive even in challenging circumstances, and who take a genuine interest in your well-being and safety. They implicitly understand the importance of balancing the needs of individuals with group objectives, facilitating healthy group dynamics, inspiring a genuine appreciation for the areas visited, and an awareness of minimum impact travel ethics.

Pacific Discovery Program Instructors are generally aged 25 - 35, with an average age of 28. All are Wilderness First Responder (WFR) first aid certified, and they are trained in experiential education facilitation, group leadership and risk assessment/management.

Kai Gundersen

Instructor: Hawaii, Europe, Central America

BS in International Business
College of Charleston

Kai grew up in the DC area but always had an eye for travel, influenced by his fathers role as a diplomat and his mothers childhood experience in small town Germany. Growing up, he played soccer and basketball and was always competitive in whatever he did.

Once he graduated college, Kai didn’t feel ready to start the rat race so he booked a flight to Bangkok to start a 3 month solo-backpacking adventure around Southeast Asia. This journey was the start of a life of travel and adventure that has taken him to over 50 countries, eating all types of different foods and working various odd jobs. The last two years Kai has worked for Backroads Active Travel, guiding guests hiking and biking around Europe and Costa Rica.

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Gabrielle Jolly

Instructor: Hawaii, Southeast Asia

BA International/Global Studies
Simon Fraser University

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Gabby spent most of her childhood next to the mountains and the ocean. The outdoors have always been a passion, closely followed by travelling. She spent her undergrad in and out of the classroom, venturing off on semesters abroad and outdoor expeditions. Gabby continued this trend long after graduation, dipping her toes in all sorts of career paths, where she now finds herself settled in to the guiding and outdoor education industry.

As an instructor she hopes to share with you some of the knowledge gained from travelling and working in all sorts of regions around the world such as South East Asia, East Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Experiential travel opened up a realm of opportunities for her, and she aspires to pass some of those insights on to you. The world is a beautiful place to explore and Hawaii is an awesome place to start!

In between guiding, you can generally find Gabby hiking, sailing, skiing, lounging on a beach, or playing with every dog that passes by.

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Kimberly Pfeifle

Instructor: Europe, Australia, Hawaii

BS Music Industry
Northeastern University

Kim was born in Boston and raised outside the city before returning for college at Northeastern University. “Curious” has always been used to describe Kim, whether it related to her desire to try every sport and musical instrument growing up or her wide range of internships during undergrad. True to her New England roots, she has spent every summer in Maine kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and hiking.

She has travelled to 13 countries in the last two years across Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania as well taking every opportunity to drive across the U.S.A. Hawaii will be the 25th state she has explored (cue Bon Jovi’s Halfway There).

Since graduating Kim has led two groups of first year college students through a semester abroad in Sydney, Australia, and Berlin, Germany. Her favorite part of these semesters was guiding the students through new experiences and seeing all them - and the staff as well - grow as a result. Her passion lives in access to education. Many people limit the idea of “education” to books and classrooms but there is so much that we can learn from nature and the experiences and cultures of others. Educational travel allows participants to personally develop, step outside of their comfort zones and challenge their perspectives and she's delighted to continue to grow with all of you!

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Amelia Sease

Instructor: South America, Western United States

University of Colorado Boulder

Amelia was born and raised near Boulder, CO and has spent her entire life exploring many corners of the Western US. Her childhood included backpacking and hiking around the West with her family, and when she went to college, Amelia began rock climbing and developing skills in alpine mountaineering, allowing her to explore some of the most isolated and exposed mountains in the deserts of the West, the Rocky Mountains, and the Cascades.

For the past several years, Amelia had a pretty bad case of the TRAVEL BUG, and spend every bit of my free time traveling the world to explore incredible cultures and mountain ranges across the globe. Each culture and country taught her something new about the world and about herself - from rock climbing up steep gorges in Morocco and dining on delicious tagine, to ice climbing up Andean Peaks in Peru whilst practicing her Spanish with local guides. Amelia learned how every person you meet along your many journeys has words of wisdom to learn from.

Amelia isn't a stranger to Pacific Discovery, during her second semester of college, she decided to take some time off and spent the fall as a student our Southeast Asia program. The experiences she had, the relationships she formed, and the incredible mentorship from the instructors coupled with all of the outdoor adventures were an enormous stepping stone in her personal growth and discovery, and since then she has been dedicated to being a part in facilitating that wonderful growth and experience in others.

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Nathan Swanson

Instructor: Western United States, Oceania

Nathan grew up in the beautiful Pacific North West adventuring all over Washington and Oregon from an early age. Soon after turning 18 he started on his journey abroad. Nathan has been to the South Pacific multiple times, East Africa where he volunteered with dolphins in Zanzibar, safari adventures in the Masai Mara and bike-packing expeditions traveling through the Caucasus mountains starting at the Black Sea and finishing at the Caspian Sea.

While Nathan loves to wander around this beautiful planet feeling like a nomad, he finds himself in the same place every summer. Working at a summer camp in Washington is where he feels most at home and is something he's have been doing for just shy of a decade.

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Sheila Moloney

Instructor: Western United States, North Africa

MEd International Higher Education
Loyola University Chicago
BEd Health & Physical Education/Fitness
Winona State University

Sheila was born in Chicago and raised in the northwest suburbs. Her youth consisted of team sports and summers spent always outdoors. Sheila developed a passion for travel during her undergraduate studies through a Semester at Sea study abroad program. She traveled to twelve countries on a ship over the span of ninety days. Eager for more time overseas, she then spent five years teaching in Cairo, Egypt. Living in Egypt allowed her to feed her passion for travel by exploring over sixty countries, planning adventures in scuba diving, mountain trekking and city walking. Sheila's top three adventures are trekking Mount Kilimanjaro, swimming in the Adriatic Sea and overeating in Rovinj, Croatia, and sailing down the Nile River on Friday evenings in Cairo, Egypt.

Wanting to pursue a career in international higher education, she moved home to Chicago to complete her Masters. During her Masters, she studied abroad in Vietnam and Italy. Sheila strongly believes that international and adventure education transcends borders, and opens minds, enabling individuals to go beyond their comfort zone. Since being back home stateside, she have begun to appreciate the adventure opportunities in her own backyard.

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Cade Chapman

Instructor: Western United States, New Zealand

Cade was born and raised in the great state of Texas, Yee-Haw! Growing up he dabbled in just about everything. Cade loves all things outside, from white water rafting and kayaking to rock climbing and hiking, but he especially love board sports ( i.e. snowboarding, long boarding, wake boarding, skating...anything with a board, he's sold!).

Yearning for a new beginning, he ventured off to New Zealand, where he lived for a year and began his path into the guiding industry. The aspect he enjoyed most about outdoor educational programs is that it forces people out of our comfort zones. Cade is extremely passionate about teaching and helping others find themselves. Everyone needs to take the time to figure out who they are as a person. Travel and the outdoors will open you up to a plethora of new experiences—all of which you may not be comfortable with—but if we never step out of our comfort zones, we can never grow.

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Neal Crosson

Instructor: Hawaii, Europe

MA Bilingual and Multilingual Education
Universidad de Alacla

Neal got his first taste of travel from a young age during family vacations to places like Italy, Mexico, Canada, and the Philippines. After that, the travel bug stuck and he ended up seeking out opportunities left and right. Neal love the sense of adventure and taking on the unknown.

He has studied Spanish for his entire life and his passion for language eventually became his major in university. After graduation, Neal moved to Spain where he lived and taught English for 3 years. During those years, Neal worked in various capacities as a bilingual language teacher and cultural guide. He really enjoy sharing his knowledge and experiences with students.

Living (and traveling) abroad, in wholly new cultural settings, has taught him invaluable life lessons. Those experiences take time to process and fully set in, so he highly encourages you all to regularly reflect on them! Lessons can be garnered from the people you’ll meet or even just the awe-inspiring nature you’ll encounter on our trip.

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Jonathan Hakim

Instructor: Hawaii, Australia

Jonathan is an avid traveler, born and raised in Philadelphia, PA and has spent the last six years living in New York City. From an early age, he spent a lot of time outdoors thanks to his father, who often took Jonathan and his siblings out skiing, camping, hiking, and dirt bike riding. As a kid, he spent many summers on the kibbutz in Israel where his dad grew up and enjoyed the time spent with family camping in craters, going on jeep trips in the desert, and snorkeling in the Red Sea.

Jonathan spent a year abroad in Australia during his undergrad and it was a life changing experience. It provided him an exciting opportunity to try new things such as hiking Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and watching the sunset over Uluru. During his time in Australia he developed a passion for international and experiential education and since then has dedicated his professional career to working for study abroad programs to help gap year and undergraduate students experience the personal, professional, and academic growth that comes with stepping out of their comfort zone.

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Georgia Calimeres

Instructor: Asia, Hawaii

BS Environmental Studies; Sustainability & Spanish
Eckerd College

Georgia grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and was lucky enough to grow up in a bilingual household, travelling to visit family in Greece and Albania as a child. This travel bug continued into college, where she moved across the country to study in Florida, and graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies and two minors in Spanish and Sustainability.

Her passion for experiential education was sparked by a semester abroad in Costa Rica during college, where she experienced changes in her world perspective. Georgia fell in love with the challenge of living abroad, which led to working as an outdoor facilitator in Hong Kong after graduation. She experienced the greatest self-development while traveling and stepping out of her comfort zone and considers it to be one of the biggest catalysts for mindset changes in leading a more fulfilling life.

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Peter Benassi

Instructor: Hawaii, Asia, Africa, Oceania

B.A. Education
M.A. Social Justice and Community Organizing
Prescott College

Peter grew up in Wheaton, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. He had the chance to travel to Hawaii the summer after graduating high school (as part of a college course taught by my dad) and has continued traveling ever since. Over the past handful of years, Peter has been fortunate to lead gap year semesters in India, East Africa, and the South Pacific, and backpacking trips across the US.

Peter went to school at Prescott College in Arizona, earning a B.A. in Education and an M.A. in Social Justice and Community Organizing. He is also a Wilderness First Responder. His passions and hobbies include learning about history and cultures, reading, cycling, hiking, playing guitar, playing any pick-up sport, spending time in or on water, permaculture, yoga, podcasts, and watching a good Pixar film or Netflix documentary.

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Jessica Summers

Instructor: Hawaii, Europe

B.S Business Administration

Jess hails from just outside Philadelphia, Pa. Since a young age, she has had a deep rooted connection with the environment and all things science. Jess attended a small agricultural university where she obtained a degree in business administration and a minor in biology. Sports of all kinds, as well as helping others intrigues her most. Field hockey is one of her major hobbies and passions which has opened multiple doors of opportunity. She has twelve plus years of experience playing, coaching and mentoring internationally in Bermuda and Holland. After doing a 7-week cross country/back country trip in the states, her travel flame was ignited and she has been fueling it ever since. Currently based in Denver, CO she spends her time coaching and mentoring HS athletes, snowboarding, hiking, backcountry camping and finding secret waterfalls.

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Joe Gonzalez

Instructor: Hawaii, Asia, Oceania

Joe was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Home for him means family and food. He began to explore the possibilities of adventuring while working in the educational world of children’s theatre. After working for a summer camp, he was inspired to become an outdoor instructor. Acting on this new desire, he took up a few outdoor jobs in the west coast, which has shaped and paved his way to work and travel abroad. He has been grateful for the opportunities as an outdoor educator and trip leader; leading him to work in China, Taiwan, and New Zealand. When not working, he is exploring national parks, eating tacos, writing, and falling in love with farming.

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Sam Thomas

Instructor: Hawaii, Asia

Born in the Chicago area, Sam has had a craving for travel ever since his 2011 study abroad term in Sydney, Australia. He has lived and worked on four different continents (Australia, Asia, South America, North America) and has extensive personal travel throughout many others! He has found and fostered passions for the culture, nature, and cuisine of every place he finds himself exploring. Sam has fine-tuned his teachings in the classrooms by attending graduate school at Metro State University of Denver for an MA in Education, but he truly believes in the deep level of authentic learning that can occur outside of a classroom with hands-on experiences from previously unknown people and places. He is excited to be a part of the Pacific Discovery team and lead programs that will allow him to share his knowledge of and love for the world with the students around him.

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Keshet Miller

Instructor: Central America, South America

BA Sustainability
Arizona State University

Keshet is originally from New York and moved to the Arizonan desert as a teenager. She has always been happiest when outside and was lucky enough to grow up camping, hiking and finding the quietest corners of National parks across the country.

A backpacking trip in the Colorado Rocky Mountains as a high schooler ignited her passion to protect and teach others about the beauty and importance of the natural environment around us. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability at Arizona State University, focusing on international development and environmental policy.

Keshet fell in love with international travel and the Spanish language while studying abroad in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua and since then has continued to follow her passion for the love of the outdoors and youth development within the international community. This has led her to a variety of roles including trail maintenance, conservation biology, wilderness therapy, organic farming and environmental education.

Keshet is a compassionate mentor and teacher, and wishes to inspire and empower the next generation of environmental stewards. She is excited to be a part of the Pacific Discovery team!

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Kevin Connelly

Instructor: Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet, India

BA Fine Arts
University of Montana

Kevin is a documentary photographer and avid traveller, and for several years has led many young people on inspiring experiences throughout Southeast Asia.

Kevin graduated from the University of Montana specializing in fine art and photography. After graduating in 2008, Kevin began leading photography and adventure trips through Southeast Asia where he has spent most of his time since then, also working on various human rights projects. He has worked with refugees, landmine victims, migrant workers, transgenders, and ethnic soldiers. He has also conducted several photography workshops for non government organizations along the Thai/Burma border.

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Kate Sabo

Instructor: Southeast Asia, South America

BA Cultural Anthropology
Willamette University

Kate hails from the farmlands of Western Massachusetts and has spent the better portion of her life pursuing her next big adventure. Kate has lived in Spain, summited mountains in the Andes, backpacked through Morocco, and worked at a tea shop in Turkey. From a young age Kate learnt the importance and power that comes from travel and engaging with different cultures. Kate holds a BA in Anthropology, completing her capstone research on the influence of cultural tourism on rural communities in developing countries. In 2013 Kate moved to Asia where she has lived ever since, working as a rock climbing guide in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay and on the limestone karats of SE China. Outside of travel Kate enjoys whitewater sports, spontaneous dancing and getting dirty from long days outdoors.

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Arlen Horton

Instructor: New Zealand, Australia

It was from a very early age that my love for the outdoors and Australia grew. My school holidays were usually a 2-week trip exploring NSW’s towns, National Parks and campgrounds....Minnie Waters, New England National Park, Crescent Head, Mullumbimby, Warrumbungle National Park, Katoomba and Blue Mountains, Perisher and the Snowy Mountains to name a few of my favourite places!

I love surfing and spending time in the ocean, if I am not surfing it is snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, treasure hunting (sea glass) or diving in the big blue. These things have allowed me to spend as much time in the ocean as possible. I find it to be relaxing, a way to forget and be in the present and a sense of cleansing; of leaving everything behind you and moving forward.

I thoroughly enjoy working with others and relish the opportunity to learn from students as well. I believe that due to everyone having a different upbringing they will have their own ideas, beliefs, or what the world calls common sense to share.

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Rebecca Thomas

Instructor: Southeast Asia, Latin America

BA Spanish Literature & Education
Colorado College

Rebecca is a former Pacific Discovery participant, subsequently Outreach and Alumni Director and a program instructor with us for many years. She grew up outside Baltimore, Maryland and went to university in Colorado.

Colorado was the perfect playground for Rebecca where she continued her passion for traveling and the outdoors. When she was not in the classroom, Rebecca spent most of her time hiking, skiing and camping. During her junior year, she spent a semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain, living with a host family and studying advanced Spanish. To complete her minor in Education, Rebecca received a grant to study teaching methods at a special needs school outside of San José, Costa Rica.

Since she graduated in 2010, Rebecca has been a leader and facilitator for various organizations, leading groups in Southeast Asia, the US Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru and Tanzania.

Rebecca is now based in Portland, Maine, where she combines leading our shorter custom programs, with work with local youth getting them into the outdoors.

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Lee Neale

Instructor: South America, Southeast Asia, China, New Zealand, Australia

BA History, Latin American Studies
Furman University

Lee grew up happily playing soccer and shredding out guitar riffs while planning a life of adventure from the quiet suburbs of Charlotte, NC, USA. In 2009 Lee earned a Bachelor's degree in History with a concentration in Latin American Studies from Furman University. During his sophomore year in college, Lee took a short break and hiked for 1800 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail through the state of California. This experience inspired a love for the wilderness and allowed him to experience the transformational power of adventure travel. Lee has had the privilege to meet wonderful people and experience breathtakingly beautiful places while paddling, climbing and mountain biking throughout the United States, Central America, Asia and Patagonia. Lee has developed a passion for working with young adults through a variety of roles over the past six years, including Outdoor Instructor, EMT, Guide and Director of Student Life at a small boarding school. Lee is currently based out of Yangshuo, China, guiding, climbing beautiful Karst peaks, and studying Mandarin.

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Caitlin Dee

Instructor: Central & South America, Southeast Asia

Country Director: Latin America

BA Spanish
Skidmore College

Ever since learning her first word in 8th grade Spanish, Caitlin discovered the thrill of understanding a new language and knew that she wanted to learn Spanish in its entirety. Reaching near-fluency in high school inspired her to spend her junior year of college studying in Spain. After graduating with a BA in Spanish Language and Literature and Studio Art in 2006, Caitlin taught French and Spanish. She then became a Spanish medical translator. However, her hunger for travel motivated her to leave the teaching world and travel.

Since 2010, Caitlin has been working as a program instructor in Latin America, sharing her love of travel, adventure and cultural exchange. She is a great mentor for our students - easy to connect with and providing such a depth of experience for them to draw from. She is a safety and risk management pro! She spent the past Fall finalizing the development of our new Central America Semester. Caitlin is fluent in Spanish and French, and conversant in Italian.

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Jessica Dick

Instructor: Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet, India

BSc Environmental Science
University of New Hampshire

Jess is thankful for her small town start to life in Northern Alberta, Canada. At age 4, she began to explore by horseback, quickly developing a sense of adventure, a respect for nature, learning how to nurture that which you love, and a strong work ethic. When she finally climbed down from the saddle, Jess found herself on a volleyball court. Her perseverance and dedication resulted in the invitation to play for the University of New Hampshire, USA, where she divided her time between passions - the environment and volleyball.

After graduating, Jess set off to provide support for organic agriculturalists throughout India. Her continuing quest for adventure led to Nepal where she trekked in the Solu Khumbu towards Everest. She has been based in Thailand for the last three years, where she's had opportunities to pursue her love of diving, traveling and a discover a surprising passion for teaching. Her grasp on Thai language, appreciation for different cultures, and a love of the outdoors enable her to be both mentor and inspiration to our students.

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Joshua Moreton

Instructor: New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia

BA Outdoor Education
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology

Josh picked up the adventure bug at an early age. He grew up in a hardworking family farming environment in the South Island of New Zealand, and during his teenage years spent most weekends fishing, kayaking, hunting, diving, mountain biking, tramping and rock climbing. These experiences fueled his passion for the the outdoors, and he went on to complete a Bachelor's degree in Outdoor Education. Ever since he has pursued a career in outdoor guiding and group facilitation...interspersed with time off for his own adventures (kayaking in the USA, rocking climbing in Thailand, trekking in Nepal). Josh has a permanent hiking-boot tan (which some say he was born with!), a vast repertoire of jokes, and is always excited when off on another adventure, be it with old friends or new. He is an incredibly genuine, supportive and inspiring program instructor.

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Beth Farrell

Instructor: Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia

BSc Human Movement Studies/Education
University of Queensland

Beth grew up in the outdoor playground that is Magnetic Island in north Queensland, Australia, and rarely a day went by that she and friends were not off on an adventure. Graduating from the University of Queensland with a degree in Human Movement Studies and Education, Beth has taught in various styles and environments in England, Spain and Australia, but firmly believes the outdoors to be the best learning environment. Beth is an avid traveller and loves spending time in new environments, getting to know the people and culture. She lived in Spain for 2 years and has recently spent a year in Fiji developing accessibility to sport for people with disabilities. Her favorite mode of travel is by bike, followed closely by sailing - but is quick to jump onboard any adventure, often packing a slack-line, ukelele and skateboard, in the belief these tools facilitate the most fun out of any experience.

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Devin Perno

Instructor: Southeast Asia, China

BS Environmental Science
University of Colorado, Boulder

Devin Perno was fortunate to grow up in the beautiful sunny state of Colorado, where he developed a passion for the outdoors and everything related to nature - camping with the family, going on hiking expeditions, skiing through the mountains, and biking . Devin completed a BS in Environmental Science with two minors in Geology and Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He pursued experience in this field working at the US Geological Society and Colorado State Parks.

With an urge to see more of the world, Devin packed his bags to work at an outdoor company in Hawaii before venturing further afield to work at an outdoor education company in Yangshuo, China. He gained valuable insight into how a change of scene can cause a change of mind - boundaries were pushed, new experiences gained. Devin discovered that working in outdoor education allowed him to be in the outdoors, sharing with others the same experiences that he loved, and the valuable learning and personal growth implicit in this. Three years later, Devin is still based in China while working as an educator all across Asia. He enjoys being in an environment that can teach others new experiences and gain new insights. In his free-time he is climbing, hiking, playing music, studying mandarin, and exploring the hidden corners of Asia.

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Jessica Thomas

Instructor: Australia, New Zealand, Nepal & Tibet

BA International Studies
University of New South Wales

Jessica Thomas is a travel writer, facilitator of empowerment, adventurer and cycle-tourer. She grew up on the beautiful South Coast of New South Wales. At six she would visit the elderly in hospital to ask about their lives, and at 16 she was raising money to send wheelchairs to children in developing countries. When she left home at 17, her father’s last words were ‘don’t join a cult’. Jessica carried these words with her while she trained as a soldier and army officer in the Australian Defence Force, before having a pivotal experience in Nepal and subsequently leaving the military to travel the world. Jessica graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of International Studies, majoring in development. She has explored over 50 countries, many of these by bicycle. She stood on Kala Pattar for Christmas; looked at the pyramids from the back of a camel; slept in the Gobi desert watching shooting stars; walked with a blind boy along the Camino de Santiago; made cheese in the Swiss alps; peered at her reflection in the salt flats of Bolivia; and dined with highland minorities in northern Thailand. Jessica has become more hungry for life and it’s endless possibilities with each new experience. Her next big life goal is to cycle around the world.

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Susy Stokes

Instructor: New Zealand, Australia

BA Sustainability and Outdoor Education
Diploma in Instructing and Guiding
Ara Institute of Canterbury

Growing up in Christchurch, New Zealand, Susy's had a life-long love of the ocean and all things water-based - surfing, kayaking, snorkelling, swimming, sailing and her new favourite spearfishing. Working as a camp counsellor at an outdoor summer camp near New York was her first experience abroad, and she has been chasing fun, adventure and soul-fulfilling work ever since.

After graduating college Susy worked in experiential education in Italy, Australia and New Zealand – most recently at the Hillary Outdoors Centre on spectacular Great Barrier Island. Susy has a passion for helping others grow and develop through experiencing all the magic a connection to the outdoors offers.

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Benjamin Jacobs-Schwartz

Instructor: Central America, South America

BA Environmental Studies & Biology
UC Santa Cruz

Growing up on the West Coast of the US, Benny’s innate love for nature was evident at a very young age. His experiences in the natural world grew rapidly through his participation in multi-week adventure programs during his summers in high school.  Here he was introduced to sea kayaking, white-water rafting, mountaineering, rock-climbing, mountain biking, back packing, the ethics of leave no trace and of course ultimate frisbee. Inspired by his instructors, the profound impact of community, and the healing aspects of the natural world, Benny has committed himself to a life of education, outdoor recreation and group facilitation.

Since graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 2013 Benny has passionately pursued work as a field biologist, backpacking guide, land steward, and bird photographer. These positions have afforded him opportunities to work in Central America, The Sierra Nevada, US’s mid-west and north east.  A selection of his photos can be seen in his self-published, “A Field Guide to Birds of UC Santa Cruz” which serves as a tool for introductory bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.  When not poring through dense field guides, and chasing rare bird sightings, Benny ardently pursues outdoor recreation, empowering others, and working with youth. He is an accomplished naturalist, great company, and is fluent in both Spanish and fun! He hopes his love of the natural world will inspire others to conserve and preserve the open spaces around them.

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Caitlin Neal

Instructor: Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet

BS Communications with theater focus
Montreat College

When your father is a US Army officer, travel and moving are a way of life. Caitlin was born on the largest populated post in the United States and spent her preschool years in Heidelberg, Germany. Learning to snow ski in the Barbarian Alps, exploring medieval castles, and crisscrossing Europe on family vacations provided “childhood as usual” experiences that would be bucket list items for most folks.

Later, while living outside urban Washington, DC, she spent weekends and holidays marveling the natural and cultural history preserved at the Smithsonian Museums and climbing the steps of many of America’s most notable monuments.

Growing up on the move (7 moves and 9 different schools), Caitlin's local neighborhoods provided terrific diversity — military family members originate from all parts of the world! This allowed her to develop childhood skills of empathy for others who are new to a place, and to use her big smile and interest in all people to make new friends!

Caitlin chose Montreat College in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains - she was drawn to the beauty of the area. One course provided her with a deeper appreciation for the wilderness through a month-long excursion whitewater canoeing, rock climbing, backpacking, and a three-day solo. This experience at such an influential period in her education provided her with the motivation to share wilderness instruction with other young adults. The next summer, she was asked to join an environmental scientist along the South Carolina coast and chronicle his work through her photography. University also allowed her to star in multiple theater productions, as varied as Shakespeare to the tale of Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic adventures.

Recognizing the immense healing power of authentic wilderness experiences, Caitlin began work as a wilderness therapy instructor with struggling teens. For two and a half years, she led adolescents through the mountains of Western North Carolina and found a tremendous passion in aiding the development of individuals at such an impactful stage of life. Her enthusiasm for their personal growth combined with her creativity in theatrics made for epic ceremonies and fun times around the camp fires.

Always inspired by her former students, Caitlin recently followed one of her own life goals and traveled to India to study Ashtanga yoga. Her course was followed by a trip through ancient ashrams and temples, treks in the Himalaya mountains of Nepal and rock climbing in Thailand.

When Caitlin is not leading Pacific Discovery trips she enjoys searching for hot springs in remote places, practicing yoga on mountain tops, visiting her international community of friends, capturing her experiences through photography and painting, and adding recipes to her forever growing cookbook.

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Ricki Hurst

Instructor: New Zealand, Australia

Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management
Otago Polytechnic

Ricki was lucky enough to be born and raised at the base of the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, in the North Island of New Zealand, where his youth was spent working on the farm and playing sports with his friends and family. Discovering the wonders of the outdoors at High School led Ricki to study outdoor leadership at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, where he majored in white water kayaking and sea kayaking. Since the completion of his studies, Ricki has devoted most of his time to his number one passion in life: the water. Whether it be sea kayak guiding in the Abel Tasman and Fiordland National Parks in New Zealand, or raft guiding/safety kayaking in Thailand and Wales.

Ricki is passionate about sharing his love of the great outdoors with others, with a major emphasis on safety and having a really fun time.

When not on expedition, Ricki can be found exploring rivers and oceans around New Zealand in his kayak, scuba diving and freediving in the beautiful fjords of Fiordland, climbing in the mountains, or just relaxing playing his guitar or reading a book.

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Karlee Taylor

Instructor: New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet

BS Ecotourism, Flinders University
Grad Dip Environmental Management
University of Queensland

Karlee grew up on Kaurna and Peramangk country in Humbug Scrub, South Australia, often spending the whole day roaming the family property and adjoining National Park.

Ever-curious to look up the little things admired on these adventures, she developed a passion for ecology and went on to work as an Interpretive Guide on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

Karlee lived in rural Laos for two years developing a community-based ecotourism model in a newly-formed National Protected Area and later established a not-for-profit organisation, Creative Literacy Laos, sharing a love of literacy, passion for story-telling and life-long learning with remote communities in the Annamite Ranges.

Recently, Karlee discovered a passion for bicycle and motorcycle touring, travelling from Laos to London overland.

When not exploring elsewhere, Karlee loves to garden and believes that learning in the outdoors can help us to connect as creatures of the earth with the wider community of the natural world.

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Richard Bassett-Smith

Instructor: Australia, New Zealand

Diploma Outdoor Instruction & Guiding
Tai Poutini Polytechnic

At the age of six, Richard’s father flew the family up the east coast and down through the 'Red Center' of Australia in a five-seater Cessna plane - launching Richard’s adventurous life.  At the Outdoors Club at Melbourne University Richard became a climber, a mountaineer and a paddler (kayaker). While at university, Richard realised he needed a way to fund beckoning adventures, so he switched to a building apprenticeship and full-time work in construction.

He has enjoyed numerous expeditions to climb mountains in New Zealand and Central Asia, and most recently a river journey through what is called the Grand Canyon of South America, the Maranon River, head waters tributary of the Amazon in Peru - a river that may no longer flow should they build the twenty-one dams that have been proposed. He also served in the Australian Army reserves and was deployed to East Timor for 8 months on a peacekeeping mission.

Seeking work/life balance and a career in line with his passions, Richard moved to New Zealand to live on the West Coast and completed a Diploma in Outdoor Instruction and Guiding. He enjoys teaching, paying forward what he has gained from his life in the outdoors, and enjoying seeing others develop and experience the wonders of the world around us.

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