Instructor Intro: Laurel Starr
My name is Laurel Starr and I, along with Andy, will be one of your program instructors for your New Zealand/Australia semester with Pacific Discovery. As the mercury drops below freezing in my native Minnesota, I am counting down the days until I fly back to Australia and welcome you all to one of my favorite corners of the world for my seventh semester with PD.
After several years working in the outdoor education world - leading trips in the Rockies of Colorado, and across the world with Pacific Discovery - I took a bit of a gap year myself in 2017 to spend five months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, and then joined Andy (your other instructor) for some white water kayaking and backpacking in Nepal. These experiences have left me more inspired than ever to support you all as you adventure through this beautiful planet, learn about yourself and the world, and build some pretty rad friendships along the way.
While just signing up for a program whose goal is to put you outside of your comfort zone takes a lot of guts, I encourage you all to arrive in February committed to making the most of our ten weeks together. Whether it’s waking up early to explore the breathtaking beauty of the natural landscapes we travel through, building a friendship with a group mate from a different background, leaving your cellphone buried at the bottom of your duffel bag, or rappelling down a waterfall in Australia - every time you push yourself to be fully present in your experience and say “yes!” to the incredible opportunities available, will result in profound growth and lifelong memories.
In the meantime, take a good long read of the packing list, introduce yourself on our Facebook group, and peruse the NZ/OZ books and movies. The more effort you put in now, the easier it will be to hit the ground running when you arrive. Pack as lightly as possible (I’m not joking - I spent the last 8 months backpacking with a sawed-in-half toothbrush and two pairs of socks), but make sure to bring everything listed (extra points for finding used or borrowed gear!).
Know that Andy and I are more than happy to answer any of your questions or address any concerns. Feel free to email us, or better yet, post it in the Facebook group.
After many years of leading with PD, I’ve found that undeniably the most crucial factor in an awesome program is a unified and compassionate group dynamic. This takes discipline and patience, and a whole lot of smiles, laughs and openness. Get ready to show up with your whole and wonderful self, and we will have an adventure of a lifetime!