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

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

Operations Director

BA Broadcast Journalism
Syracuse University

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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Mechi von der Becke

Program Director

BA Tourism and Hotel Management
Facultad de Altos estudios en Ciencies Comerciales (FACC)

Mechi was born into a large and close-knit family in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After graduating from university with a
degree in Tourism and Hotel Management, Mechi decided to leave the comfort of her family and home for
world travel.

Her global repertoire includes South and Central America, Europe, the USA, the Philippines, East
Asia, Southeast Asia, Fiji, and Australia. It was true love when, after all that traveling, Mechi landed in New
Zealand 10 years ago; she hasn’t called another country home since! Mechi values traveling for allowing her to
step out of her comfort zone, build confidence, and develop cultural sensitivity and empathy for others.
Since arriving in NZ, Mechi’s zeal for the outdoors has flourished.

In winter, you will find her on the tops of mountains, snowboarding her heart out. In summer, Mechi enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and camping around the beautifully lush South Island of NZ. When she’s not working, Mechi is either at the gym training for her next marathon, FaceTiming with her many nieces and nephews in Argentina and the USA, or planning her next international adventure.

Mechi is bilingual in Spanish and English. She deeply cares for others and is thrilled for the opportunity to
combine her love of travel, and passion for bringing the world to reach with the students of Pacific Discovery.

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Becky Hensman

Administration Director

Bachelor of Social Work
University of Otago

Becky has grown up in our very own hub location of Queenstown New Zealand. She developed a love for travel at an early age with her family taking yearly visits to explore the USA in their RV. Throughout school she partook in any exchange programs she could get her hands on which allowed her to have home stays in Japan and New Caledonia.

After high school she completed her Bachelor of Social Work at University before spending 3 months backpacking around South East Asia. Upon returning to New Zealand she began combining her two loves in life travel and people by stepping into the industry as a travel agent. After 4 years with Helloworld and travelling to 13 countries within that time she took a break to see her own backyard and has just completed a 4 month campervan trip around New Zealand.

All of her travel has spurred her on to help others have similar life changing experiences. Opportunities that will let individuals grow into incredible human beings, which is how she's stepped into her current role.

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Poppy Kupreichik

Headquarters Manager

Originally from the South West of England, Poppy moved to Queenstown 9 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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Jessica Thomas

Program Director

BA International Studies

I’ve been a soldier, officer in training, fairy floss maker, sports shop attendant, waitress at the football boxes, barista, babysitter, tour guide, hiking guide and desk worker. I keep landing my ideal job, and right now that is program director of Pacific Discovery’s epic spread of international programs.

I’ve covered about one third of our 195 countries. But I’ve been to Nepal five times and India three, they’re my current all time faves. When I quit the army I became a tour guide in places like these, which was quite a big swing on the pendulum. Other favourites include Kenya, Mongolia and Iceland. I would like to hit Patagonia, Antarctica and many of the Stan’s over the next decade.

Over the past few years I’ve spent time guiding groups through Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, China, countries in south east Asia and South America as a guide for Pacific Discovery.

I speak terrible Spanish and have had many unforgettable travel experiences. I 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 my reflection in the salt flats of Bolivia; dined with highland minorities in northern Thailand. I’ve has become more hungry for life and it’s endless possibilities with each new experience. I am passionate about designing connective experiences for the young people who join our programs.

In my spare time you'll find me studying for my masters of community development, practicing yoga, hiking new trails, listening to podcasts, cultivating community, eating great food, solving the worlds problems.. and always planning the next adventure.

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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

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.

BS in International Business
College of Charleston

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Gabrielle Jolly

Instructor: Hawaii, Southeast Asia

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.

BA International/Global Studies
Simon Fraser University

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Kimberly Pfeifle

Instructor: Europe, Australia, Hawaii

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

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, Central America

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 has begun to appreciate the adventure opportunities in her own backyard.

During the fall of 2020 Sheila led the Western USA Program and couldn’t rave more about what an awesome experience it was to see our own backyard in the US and explore with students from all over the States. She is eager to continue to be a part of the Pacific Discovery team for Spring of 2021 with Discovery Campus.

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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

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. He joined Pacific Discovery after returning from Spain and began leading gap-year programs in Hawaii.

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.


MA Bilingual and Multilingual Education
Universidad de Alacla

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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

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

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.

BA Education
MA Social Justice and Community Organizing
Prescott College

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Lucy McGrath

Instructor: Hawaii, Western USA


Lucy grew up on the Jersey shore collecting seashells and swimming in the sea. While studying at Arcadia University, she spent two semesters abroad in South Africa and India, then decided she wanted to travel the world forever. After college, she served in the Peace Corps and spent two years in Zambia.

Lucy goes with the flow and lives where she ends up. Since Zambia, she's lived in New York City, New Orleans, London, Boston, and currently San Francisco.
She considers herself an exceptional problem solver because once while camping when her french press broke, she made coffee in a sock. She's held a diverse array of jobs from a-balloon-animal-making princess for kids' birthday parties, kitchen product demonstrator, podcast host, waitress, and teacher. She's devoted to social justice, art, and educating kind and mindful citizens. She's happiest on a bicycle; and loves laundromats, her grandma's attic, and forests.

BFA Theater for Social Justice
Arcadia University

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Jeff David

Instructor: Europe, Oceania, Central and South America, Asia

Originally from Pennsylvania, Jeff got his first taste of living internationally while studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. While there, he found himself consistently impressed with the program staff and wondered how he might one day facilitate similarly eye-opening experiences for young adults. Jeff’s desire to be an adventurer and educator led him first to life on a small island off the coast of California where he instructed marine science and spent his working days in a wetsuit and mask.

Since California Jeff has led life-changing student programs from pacific island villages, to cobblestoned European streets, Caribbean reefs, the vast and varied landscapes of central and south America, and most recently to the streams and towns of ancient Asia.

Steeped in the belief that global citizenship is a young person’s ticket to the future, Jeff is looking forward to inspiring passion, building community, and supporting Pacific Discovery students on their path to self-discovery through the journey of a lifetime.

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Jack Leathers

Instructor: South America

Jack grew up in College Park, MD, and owes much of his love for the outdoors to his mom, who took him hiking and on road trips whenever the chance arose. After graduating college, he worked on some boats on the Potomac River in DC and Maryland and a Marine Science Institute in Wallops, Island, VA.

Jack then took his enthusiasm for education to a pair of schools in Washington, DC; teaching Environmental Science, Biology, and coaching basketball. Jack eventually settled in his favorite country - Colombia, where he started a socially conscious hiking organization and worked as an Environmental Educator at the city’s Botanic Garden. When he’s not leading groups of travelers you can find him playing basketball, messing around on his keyboard, or trying to convince dogs to hang out with him.

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Austin O'Brien

Instructor

Austin grew up on the South Shore of New England before heading out West for University. Graduating with a degree in expedition leadership from Western State Colorado College Austin took pride in actually using his degree! As a Guide for hire in expeditions all over the globe, Austin loved the fact he was advancing his career surfing, rock climbing, and skiing with absolutely amazing people.

Austin took to experiential education as well as working with schools like Outward Bound, The Brandon school, and co-founding Soulstainable. Austin is spending most of his free time in the great outdoors getting after it but also loves his ever-growing Spotify playlist and crushing a good book!

BA Expedition Leadership
Western State Colorado College

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Jenn Amos

Instructor: North America

Jenn grew up in Arizona and spent a lot of her childhood traveling around the country and the world with her family. It wasn't until Jenn got to college that she found her love for working with people and sharing the amazing connections the outdoors can bring.

Her college years were spent exploring the mountains of North Carolina while gaining her degree in Parks and Recreation Management. She made sure to take the time to study abroad in Ireland and spent the year exploring Europe while working towards her Outdoor Education degree. Jenn was able to climb, cave, surf, canoe and hike all over Ireland while learning and growing.

Jenn has spent many years working in different capacities at Summer Camps in North Carolina and Washington. For the past few years, she has been living in Washington working at a summer camp teaching kids about the outdoors. She believes there is no better way of learning and growing than through travel and emerging yourself in the community that you are surrounded by.

BS Parks and Recreation Management

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Chris Davies

Instructor: North America

Chris hails from Auckland, New Zealand. He has a background in sport science and physical education, and absolutely fizzes over any outdoor pursuits! Chris has spent the last two and a half years working and traveling around North America, currently calling Fernie (a small ski town in British Columbia) his winter home. He cannot wait to swap the snowboard boots & thermals for flip flops & boardshorts and spend some time at the beach.

Chirs is most looking forward to donating his time and energy to the local communities on Oahu and Hawaii. The ecosystem in these areas can be pretty slammed by tourism, so it'll be quite rewarding for the program to have a positive impact in the weeks that they spend there.

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Justin Ming

Instructor: North America,

Reigning from the rocky shores of Victoria, B.C., Justin loves all things outdoors. For over half his life, he has been an avid rock climber, scaling cliffs in Senegal, China, and western North America. In 2008, he competed for Canada at the World Youth Climbing Championships in Sydney Australia.

Mountain unicycler, highliner, and acroyogi, Justin has an inclination towards niche outdoor sports. On the water, Justin regularly goes kayaking and surfing off the coast of Vancouver Island. In his downtime, Justin loves to play music, read, and chainsaw carve - a classic Canadian pastime. Linguistically, Justin is fluent in French, speaks Spanish conversationally, and knows a fair bit of Mandarin.

In 2010, his zest for discovery took him 8,607km cycling from the west coast to the east coast of Canada. Over the years, Justin has facilitated engaging outdoor educational programs for youth in Central America, China, France, and Canada. More than anything, Justin loves to share his passion for adventurous self-discovery with young aspiring minds.

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Daniel Thomas

Instructor: South East Asia

Growing up on small-town farms ignited Daniel's adventurous imagination and encouraged his parents to take the family overseas to open his eyes to what happens outside of their microcosms of existence. Vietnam and Cambodia, Indonesia, French Polynesia, and throughout our home country of Australia only made him want to see more of the world.

On weekends, his family would travel an hour and a half to the beach; this was when Daniel was introduced to surf lifesaving and started his passion for all things ocean. This has been the main foundation of how Daniel has based his travels since. It has taken him to over thirty islands in Indonesia, through central and South America, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines to name a few.

Daniel spent nearly a month trekking through Nepal to the Tibetan border and through the sacred Tsun Valley. Hiked the Quilotoa loop in Ecuador, got lost, and stumbled upon a view that had him struggling for words. Used crampons and ice picks to summit a snow-covered volcano only to pass out from the altitude near the top. Spent nights under the stars on sandy beaches on uninhabited islands in the pacific. He was lucky to make it through an ocean storm somewhere between Australia and Sumba but was rewarded with memorable waves on a reef pass near Papua New Guinea. Held hands with wild orangutans in the Sumatran jungle and swam with river dolphins in the Amazon.

Daniel has met countless smiling faces and been invited into homes to share meals and stories. Travel broadens your understanding of the world, other people, how we got to where we are and gives you overall gratitude for our planet. Daniel is passionate about joining others on their journey, and sharing the adventure along the way.

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Jordan Richardson

Instructor: North America, Africa, South America

Jordan attended the University of Missouri where she majored in Animal Sciences and minored in Captive Wild Animal Management. During her time in University, Jordan was fortunate enough to study abroad several times. Her first trip was to Ireland where she spent four weeks exploring the country and learning all about its history while focusing on agricultural systems. Jordan continued to seek out new and exciting international experiences, such as participating in a wildlife management internship in South Africa and spending a semester in New Zealand. All of these experiences allowed her to look at life through a lens different from the one she had been accustomed to.

After graduating college she signed up for the Peace Corps and was assigned to Paraguay where she spent 27 months serving as an environmental conservation volunteer. After completing the Peace Corps in 2017, She backpacked through Colombia and Peru, and then returned to the US to reconnect with family and friends.

Jordan was drawn to the Gap Year community because of the dedication to providing students with meaningful and impactful service opportunities all around the world. Having had incredible mentors in her own life that helped her navigate the new, exciting, and sometimes uncomfortable experiences she faced traveling abroad, Jordan felt that becoming a Gap Year Instructor was a perfect opportunity for her to become that mentor for students seeking to discover more about themselves and the world around them. Jordan has led programs in East Africa, Chile, and most recently in Hawaii. She is excited to return to Hawaii this semester to eat all the exotic fruits, rides some waves, and have some major fun under the sun.

BS Animal Sciences
University of Missouri

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Tari Kumari Shrestha

Instructor: South East Asia


Tari has been traveling between worlds ever since she arrived on earth. Tari was born in Yuin country, on the remote south coast of Australia. Her life has been shaped by the boundless beauty of Australia’s coastline and Nepal’s majestic Himalayas: the two contrasting places she calls home as a half Nepalese half Australian person. Her curiosities and unique lens for experiencing the world have instilled a deep sense of social justice and global citizenship, leading her to study anthropology and development. Tari’s love of adventure has inspired her travels throughout the Middle East, southeast and central Asia, east Africa, remote Australia, and Europe.

From community organising within the grassroots women’s movement on the streets of Kathmandu, architecting capacity building training for indigenous women leaders, facilitating accelerated education programs for students throughout Indonesia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia, participating in humanitarian food aid distribution initiatives on the Jordanian-Syrian border, taking students on learning adventures in nature at the Green School in Bali, working in facilitation and program development with experiential education initiatives in Australia and America, providing support to recently arrived refugee communities in Germany and teaching trauma-informed yoga often as she can- Tari is a student of the world and facilitator of connection, inspired by the boundless human potential for learning and growth.

BA Anthropology, Arabic
Deakin University

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Kimberly Guzman

Instructor: North America

Originally from Athens, Georgia, Kim spent most of her childhood traveling in some form or fashion. Whether it was weekend city explorations, holiday road trips or summers visiting family in Colombia Kim has always had a spirit of adventure. She pursued opportunities, such as study abroad programs, through her educational career that took her further on her path of global exploration and self-discovery, visiting more than 30 countries.

As an instructor, she hopes to share with you some of the knowledge gained from her experience in and out of the classroom. Experiential travel programming has and continues to inspire and influence her outlook, she aspires to pass some of those insights on to you. Every day is a journey of its own, it's all the better if we get to go through and make meaning of these experiences together in beautiful places!

She loves being active while learning new skills, she is currently learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but on lazier days you can find her revisiting some of her favorite books, tv shows, or movies while cooking up some yummy dish.

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Marcus Michael

Instructor: North America

Marcus grew up in farmland Ohio. With four siblings and no TV, he learned to spend all of his time outdoors.  As a teenager, he bought two kayaks so he could invite others to join him in his favorite way of spending time. Marcus has spent the last 4 years living outside of the US. He is an EFL teacher and spends his days off exploring hikes or anything outdoors. This most recent summer has given him the opportunity to kayak more than 1000+ miles.  Marcus loves being immersed in natures classroom! 

 

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Jackie Palmer

Instructor: Hawaii

Originally from Maryland, Jackie has always had a passion for education and learning. She had the opportunity to attend Rider University for her Bachelors where she had an amazing study abroad experience in Ireland and London. During undergrad Jackie began really embracing the importance of experiential learning, which gave her the desire to pursue a Masters Degree in Student Affairs which she received from Clemson University. Through her experiences in Graduate school, she became more intentional about fueling her combined passion of experiential learning and international education. Jackie is excited to be able to hop into this new venture to assist in challenging students as they continue to find themselves and their passions. She is a big advocate that learning never stops and recognizes she is always learning from and alongside students. Jackie believes educational travel to be extremely powerful as it provides the chance for challenge, ability to broaden one's perspectives through lived experiences of others and allows for intentional reflection. With a passion for new experiences and a spirit for adventure, Jackie is eager to begin assisting the students of Pacific Discovery in identifying their passions, fostering community, engaging them through learning and challenging them outside their comfort zone to continue working to become their best selves.

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Verny

Costa Rica Instructor

Hola!! My name is Verny, I am from beautiful Costa Rica. I grew up in a sporty family and my father became the first Costa Rican triathlete at the World Championships. I spend my childhood practicing all kinds of sports such as triathlon, adventure racing, open water swimming and more. Oceans, lakes and mountains were a big part of my childhood.

After high school, I started training to become an adventure guide. This included river guiding, white water kayaking, sea kayaking, rappelling, horseback riding, mountain biking, trekking and much more. Being around the water and the mountains for my whole life has made me so passionate about the outdoors. I have worked in adventure travel since high school and it has been such a great journey.

Working with people from all over the world and having the opportunity to visit countries such as Peru, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, United States, and recently Mexico has been a life-changing experience.

Working in an industry that allows me to share my passion, my hobbies, my knowledge and skills with others makes me feel very fortunate.

Pura Vida and see you all soon.

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Ashley Bertolini

Costa Rica Instructor

Hi, I’m Ashley!

I am from Jamestown, New York, a small town south of Buffalo. Growing up, I spent most of my time outdoors, always seeking new adventures around my neighborhood. In college I studied Social Studies Education and History. I loved learning about global history and really wanted to experience the world first hand so I moved to New York City to pursue my masters in International Education. I believe combining the fields of international relations with teaching and learning help us to gain a broader worldview of the ways we use our relationships with others and our environment to facilitate learning.

I love to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone to meet new people and learn from shared experiences. Over the past several years, I have traveled throughout Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Most recently, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone where I taught high school English and co-facilitated a program for out of school girls. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I held various positions working in non-formal education as a mentor, tutor, and leader. I spent 7 summers working for the Girl Scouts of Western New York facilitating camp activities and backpacking in upstate New York. I have always been passionate about experiential, “hands-on” learning and look forward to continuing that work with Pacific Discovery. I am so excited to be joining the Costa Rica MiniMester program this spring. This is a unique opportunity to learn directly from different communities while experiencing the breathtaking scenery.

When I am not working, traveling, or studying, I love to spend time with my family. I am the oldest of my 3 sisters. On any given day you can find me reading a book, hiking a new trail, playing badminton, or practicing my violin.

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Annie Waschko

Program Instructor

Annie Waschko was born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania (near Scranton if you’re a fan of The Office!) but has committed to exploring as many new places as possible. Her motto is “life is not short; it’s the longest thing you get” - she believes that there is lots of room for growth and adventure in life as long as you step intentionally towards it.

She received her BA in English from Loyola University Maryland and her MA in Cross-Cultural Communication from Newcastle University. Her travels have taken her to more than twenty states and more than twenty countries, but the most meaningful, extended amounts of time have been in Boston, Texas, Thailand, Greece, Spain, England, and Vietnam. Led by her curiosity, she sees every day as a school day in the most fun way possible and as a result, places the utmost value on experiential learning. Her passion for working with children and young people has taken her through the worlds of study abroad, TEFL, outdoor education, summer camp, and now gap year programming.

Annie is thrilled to help guide Pacific Discovery students through this incredible experience and to promote empathy, community, and self-reflection. She loves cats and goats, punk rock, any and all cuisine, hiking, open-air markets, thrift stores, and museums with unusual themes.

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Keshet Miller

Instructor: Central America, South America

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!

BA Sustainability
Arizona State University

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Kevin Connelly

Instructor: Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet, India

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.

BA Fine Arts
University of Montana

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Kate Sabo

Instructor: Southeast Asia, South America

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.

BA Cultural Anthropology
Willamette University

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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

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.

BA Spanish Literature & Education
Colorado College

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Lee Neale

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

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.

BA History, Latin American Studies
Furman University

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Caitlin Dee

Instructor: Central & South America, Southeast Asia

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.

Country Director: Latin America

BA Spanish
Skidmore College

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Jessica Dick

Instructor: Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet, India

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.

BSc Environmental Science
University of New Hampshire

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Joshua Moreton

Instructor: New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia

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.

BA Outdoor Education
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology

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Beth Farrell

Instructor: Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia

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.

BSc Human Movement Studies/Education
University of Queensland

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Devin Perno

Instructor: Southeast Asia, China

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.

BS Environmental Science
University of Colorado, Boulder

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Jessica Thomas

Instructor: Australia, New Zealand, Nepal & Tibet

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.

BA International Studies
University of New South Wales

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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

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.

Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management
Otago Polytechnic

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Karlee Taylor

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

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.

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

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Richard Bassett-Smith

Instructor: Australia, New Zealand

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.

Diploma Outdoor Instruction & Guiding
Tai Poutini Polytechnic

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