Based at Pacific Discovery HQ in Nelson, New Zealand, and in Portland, Maine, we have an outstanding and dynamic team leading Pacific Discovery.
Founder and Executive Director
MBA Business Sustainability
Growing up in a small town in New Zealand, international travel seemed like an unobtainable dream! Fuelled by a thirst for adventure and an unwavering 'can do' attitude, she studied, scrimped and saved for her very first overseas experience - backpacking through Sumatra, Indonesia in the early 90s. She went on to cycle 5000kms around Europe, and then four years sailing the world, visiting over 50 countries, and pursuing her interest in environmental education.
Rachel continues to be inspired about learning and immersing herself (and our students) in different cultures, communities, and environments. She has researched and led programs in all regions, loves working with our wonderful network of colleagues all over the world, and is passionate about creating inspiring and transformative experiences for our students.
Rachel values the richness of cultural diversity and others perspectives - while also being amazed at how we often share so many core values, aspirations for our children, and hopes for our future, despite our varied backgrounds and life experiences.
These days she is mostly based in Nelson, New Zealand, with Scott and their son, Kahurangi. When not pulling crazy hours in the office, she can be found on local mountain bike and hiking trails, practicing Spanish, yoga or working on her new-found surfing skills.
Founder and Executive Director
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. Today he researches new programs, trains 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.
Instructor: Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia
MA Higher Education Leadership
University of San Diego
Stacey grew up in San Diego where she enjoyed the beach and annual trips to California’s high sierras. She had the privilege of beginning her travels early in life through trips with her sister and grandparents. During her undergraduate career, Stacey spent six months in Tanzania where she simultaneously fell in love with East African culture and international living and became perplexed by western interventions abroad.
With a Bachelor's in Social Science and concentration in Sociology, Stacey turned her focus to domestic issues after school. She spent two years in Pensacola, FL serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA and VISTA Leader working on poverty-related initiatives. During her service, Stacey grew to love building the capacity of volunteer teams be it through coaching individual AmeriCorps members or writing curriculum around nonprofit management.
With this discovered passion for service-learning education, Stacey went on to earn a Master's degree in Higher Education Leadership at the University of San Diego. While there, she also served at the university's women’s center, lived on-campus as residential support staff, and co-instructed leadership courses for undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students. Through her thesis research on social justice education, Stacey deepened her commitment to expanding social and ecological consciousness. Believing that international education is a powerful vehicle for supporting this work, Stacey has since had the privilege of leading international programs for several organizations in eight countries around the world. Most recently, she lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she was able to enjoy the region’s amazing rock climbing, yoga, and trekking
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.
Instructor: Southeast Asia, Latin America
BA Spanish Literature & Education
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.
Instructor: South America, Southeast Asia, China, New Zealand, Australia
BA History, Latin American Studies
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.
Instructor: Central & South America, Southeast Asia
Country Director: Latin America
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.
Instructor: New Zealand, Australia, Nepal & Tibet, Thailand
BA Sport and Leisure Studies
Andy was born and raised in the rural west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Much of Andy's youth was spent on the farm, playing sport, and finding adventure with friends and family. He completed a Bachelor and Postgrad Diploma in Sport and Recreation, with minors in Geography and History, from Waikato University, and then studied Outdoor Education at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Center. Andy has worked and travelled all over the world - most notably New Zealand, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Japan, Eastern and Southern Africa. He is focused on sharing his passion for the outdoors, whilst keeping his clients (and our participants) safe, especially in whitewater and oceanic environments, where his expertise comes to the fore. When not on expedition, Andy seeks fulfilment in sea kayaking, spear fishing, surfing, music, cooking, and living a sustainable life.
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.
Instructor: South America, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia
BA Peace and Justice Studies
Laurel grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she cultivated an early love for the outdoors through canoe trips in her home state and backpacking trips across the country. Her parents, who met as Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay, also fostered a strong sense of social justice and love for travel. Graduating with a degree from Tufts University in Peace & Justice studies, Laurel has worked for non-profits in the United States and abroad. She speaks fluent Spanish and also works as an outdoor instructor, running multi-day backpacking trips in Colorado. Laurel is mature, confident and outgoing, yet is also thoughtful and compassionate – perfect attributes in a Pacific Discovery instructor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Instructor: Southeast Asia, Nepal & Tibet
BS Communications with theater focus
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.
Instructor: New Zealand, Australia
Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and Management
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.
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.
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.
Instructor: Central America, South America
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!
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.
Instructor: Southeast Asia, South America
BA Cultural Anthropology
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.