They combine rugged journeys to some of the most spectacular places on earth, with authentic cultural immersion, language study, rewarding service-learning volunteer projects, and inspiring adventures. You’ll be secure in a supportive group environment and learn more than you ever dreamed.
Our programs are based on the concept of experiential education, and blend cultural immersion, personal and leadership development, volunteer and community service projects, ecotourism and sustainability focus, and transferable academic credit options.
They provide opportunities for meaningful connections with local people, pushing personal boundaries, and gaining knowledge of a country or region's history, societies and environments, facilitated by our knowledgeable Program Instructors.
If you are looking for an experience that challenges you, broadens your horizons, and merges cultural insights and environmental sensitivity with fun and adventure - come and explore with us!
Our educational travel programs are suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, college students and graduates, ideally 18-24 years.
For an incredible gap year, you can combine each program with another of our exciting Spring or Fall semester programs exploring Central America, South America, Nepal & Tibet, Southeast Asia, New Zealand & Australia, the Eastern United States, the Western United States and Hawaii & The Western United States!
“I can honestly say that I KNOW Nepal, not that I saw it as a tourist, but that I experienced all that it has to offer as if a Nepali myself.”
I can't say enough good things when it comes to Pacific Discovery. Now that I've gone through the whole process of looking into the program, signing up, getting ready, traveling through Nepal and Tibet… and coming home… it is so hard to imagine any other way to see an area of our world. The experiences we had on this trip would be impossible for someone to have without Pacific Discovery's planning, and connections to people in the area. Every day felt like a dream; I will forever remember my trip as one the best decisions I've made in my entire life, and am thankful beyond words that Rachel and Scott have created Pacific Discovery and continue to offer these life-changing opportunities.”
Kara Barnhart, 2014
This educational travel semester offers a spectacular spring or summer 'down under' combining three week-long volunteer conservation projects in different national parks in New Zealand and Australia; with multi-day outdoor expeditions - a surfing camp, a canoeing journey, a backpacking trip; a rock climbing camp and overland adventure travel through New Zealand and Australia’s stunning mountain, forest and beach environments.
Travel through the diverse and friendly Buddhist countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. You'll get involved in service learning projects. Have opportunities for meaningful connections with local people. Gain knowledge of Southeast Asia's history, societies and environments. Push personal boundaries, develop your leadership skills, and have incredible adventures hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking amidst dramatic landscapes.
A challenging and rewarding semester - you'll trek in the shadow of Himalayan mountains through Annapurna National Park. Get involved in community life and contribute to valuable community service projects. Experience mindfulness during a meditation and yoga retreat. Take an incredible rafting expedition from the Himalayas to the plains. Travel the roof-top of the world between Kathmandu and Lhasa, Tibet. Explore Lakeside Pokhara and Royal Chitwan National Park.
Challenge yourself on this inspiring experiential gap year semester journeying through the astounding cultural and environmental diversity, ancient ruins, and spectacular land and seascapes of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This program combines immersive Spanish language study, hands-on service learning and permaculture projects, and challenging expedition elements - diving, trekking, surfing.
Gain insight into the lives of indigenous Andean and Amazon communities. Immerse yourself in Spanish. Participate in community-initiated service learning volunteer projects. Be astounded by Machu Picchu, beautiful Lake Titicaca and the incredible wildlife in the Galapagos Islands. Trek, raft, cycle and snorkel through diverse environments.
This 10-week semester program offers you enriching and inspiring experiences throughout the United States’ west frontier and the offshore beauty of Hawaii’s Big Island. It combines service-learning conservation projects in diverse reserves; outdoor expeditions including backpacking, rock climbing, yoga, surfing and white-water rafting; and educational adventure travel through the west’s stunning mountain, rain forest and desert environments. Discover the weaving and cooking traditions of the Native Americans, the navigating skills of the indigenous Polynesians, and the National Parks’ efforts to mitigate deforestation and reintroduce endemic wildlife; uncover more about your own backyard than you even knew existed.
The United States is, in many ways, a country unlike any other, and this experiential travel semester offers an amazing immersion into the mountains and deserts of its majestic wild west. It combines service-learning conservation projects in diverse reserves; outdoor expeditions including backpacking, kayaking, rock climbing, yoga and white-water rafting; and educational adventure travel through the west's stunning mountain, forest and desert environments.
Discover the amazing ecosystems of the Adirondacks, the dark sky constellations in West Virginia, and the diverse ecosystems off the coast of Georgia. Explore the vibrant culture in the cities of Asheville, Nashville, Atlanta, and Charleston. Uncover more about your own backyard – and yourself – than you even knew existed.
The following table and comments will help you discern the differences between our semester programs and choose a program that is the right fit for you.
A rating of how out of your comfort zone you can expect to be in terms of cultural differences. Southeast Asia is wonderfully culturally different but compared to Nepal & Tibet, Central America and South America, there is more English spoken and more access to creature comforts.
A measure of how physically demanding the program is. All of our programs have portions that are physically challenging. If you are very unfit, you can expect to feel physically challenged at times. Keep in mind that all of our activities and excursions are catered to beginners!
How often you’ll be staying in basic accommodation, with few facilities.
The comparison takes into account length of travel days, access to bathroom facilities, and how physically demanding the travel feels.
In New Zealand Australia & US-based programs we have our own vehicle driven by the instructors who hold professional bus driver licenses. All other programs charter private transport for longer journeys.
How much time is spent in outdoor & rural environments vs urban environments.
The New Zealand Australia & US-based programs are in the outdoors for roughly 2/3 of the program. South America, Central America & Nepal & Tibet are around 1/2 and Southeast Asia is around 1/3.
An indication of how much of the program is spent in homestays.
Our South America and Central America programs have two weeks of Spanish language lessons at your level. We usually get a mix of students who’ve done previous Spanish study and students who are total beginners. Our other programs don’t have any formal language component.
A measure of how much time is spent doing service learning work during the program.
Travel can be challenging and confronting. How you experience it is all about your attitude. Being open to different ideas & opinions is a big help and although there is safety and support in traveling with a group, there will be times when you are stretched.