The United States is, in many ways, a country unlike any other, and this experiential travel semester offers an amazing absorption into just how diverse its eastern regions are.

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.

Facilitated by our supportive and experienced Program Instructors, this is an excellent opportunity for students wanting to develop personal and leadership skills, have new experiences and challenge themselves, be immersed in unique environments and learn about sustainability - not to mention, have an insane amount of fun!

The program is open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.

  • Get your hands dirty during a sustainable farming project in Ghent, NY
  • Surf camp in Portland, ME
  • White-water rafting expedition in Millinocket, ME
  • National Parks Service Project in Lily Bay State Park, ME
  • Wilderness Field Course in Spruce Knob, WV
  • Self-led backpacking excursion through the Great Smoky Mountains, NC
  • Community service project in Atlanta, GA
  • Yoga & kayaking retreat in Little Tybee Island, GA
  • Service learning project in Bald Heald Island, NC
  • Self-led canoe trip in Merchants Millipod State Park, NC
  • Stand-up paddle boarding
  • Rock climbing in Acadia National Park
  • Overnight on uninhabited island off the coast of Maine
  • Guided tour to sight the moose that inhabit the inner regions of Maine
  • Ice cave excursion in Shirley, Maine
  • Test your skills off the beaten track mountain biking in Errol, New Hampshire
  • Overnight constellation course in a dark sky region
  • Singing bowl meditation
  • Informal lectures and discussions on history, culture, society and environment
  • Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves, working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose.
  • Very personalized and supportive small group experience – maximum 14 students
  • Two experienced and inspiring Pacific Discovery Program Instructors supported by local guides

Day 1 - 2. Orientation: Deep Hole VA


Regardless of how you arrive to the starting point, you’ll be met by your awesome Program Instructors and transferred to our group’s private accommodation for an in-depth 3-day program orientation to focus on getting to know each other and create a positive and reflective group culture to support us in realizing our
program goals.


Day 3 - 4. Canoe Trip: Merchants Millipod State Park, NC

We’ll team up in tandem canoes, we will guide ourselves to a secluded group campsite, providing ample time for discussion, laughter, and, yes, appreciation. Working as the amazing team we will build up our campsites, cook our meals, search for constellations, share stories around the firepit, and simply be. There is no agenda other than enjoyment!

Day 5 - 6. Explore: Chesapeake, VA

As we continue our trail via super cool coastal cities, we would be remiss to not check out the sparkling waters and salty seafood in Chesapeake Bay! Not only will we get the chance to feast on fresh fish, we will actually hop on a boat with a local legend, who has spent longer than his lifetime sailing these waters in search of the best seafood on offer.

Day 7 - 8. Service Learning Project: Bald Head Island, NC


Never in human history have conservation efforts been so important as now. Across the planet, there are thousands of organizations whose sole missions lie in the attempt to mitigate unnatural changes to the environment. For the next two days, we will team up with the Bald Head Island Conservancy in its various efforts addressing its home. Depending on time of year and immediate needs, we will be hands-on in a myriad of programs, including its Sea Turtle Protection Program, its environmental monitoring of ecosystems, and its educational efforts.

Day 9 - 12. Human & Natural History: Charleston, SC


Our road trip throughout some of the best coastal regions of the US continues as we head to charming Charleston, a place rooted in history, as is evident by its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and stylish French Quarter. It’s hard not to fall for its quaint nooks and crannies hiding in its alleyways. We’ll get to walk through its history –
from its founding in 1670 through today – on an interactive night tour as well as check out its lively Historic City Market. We’ll also head off its shores on an awesome Eco Tour to go see its local citizens – its playful and outgoing dolphins!

Day 13 - 15. Yoga & Paddle Retreat: Little Tybee Island, GA


This 3-day excursion will combine the wonders of the body with the wonders of the waters. We will learn all about our breath and internal strength throughout morning and evening yoga courses, and in between we’ll take to the waters to explore the incredible estuaries surrounding this unique island off the coast of Georgia. Our evenings
will find us camping on the shores, truly embracing what it means to be wild and free.


Day 16 - 17. Explore: Savannah, GA


This city is full of character, from its architecture to its inhabitants. We will get to wander around it on bike and foot, absorbing in its relaxed seaside atmosphere and friendly locals..

Day 18 - 19. Community Service: Atlanta, GA


Atlanta is a city well-regarded as the pinnacle of Southern Hospitality, but it’s had a long and treacherous journey to where it is today. It played a crucial role in the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, long fighting for its peoples’ freedom and equality. But much like a lot of our country, having a rich history does not equate to having rich citizens. Atlanta has an incredibly poor population, with one out of every 4.5 residents living in poverty. There are many organizations that work towards mitigating that reality, and we are going to team up for these two days with Atlanta Habitat, assisting in their efforts to build affordable housing throughout Atlanta neighborhoods.


Day 20 - 21. Head in the Sky: Cloudland Canyon, GA


Even though Cloudland Canyon conjures up images of, well, clouds, this awesome state park is just as much about the waterfalls, canyons, caves and wildlife as it is about its cloud views. We’ll set up basecamp and spend the days bopping around its various trails as modern-day explorers! As a group we’ll have the chance to decide in what direction we want our feet to take us, and which various natural features we feel like traipsing towards that day. And the ability to return to our already- built-up campsites at the end of each day means we can use all our daily energy reserves on the simplicity of exploration!

Day 22 - 23. Music, Music, Music: Nashville, TN


All right folks, we did it – made it to the hotbed of music and history. Whether you play seven instruments, want to follow Phish on tour, or techno’s your idea of a good time, it’s hard to not be swept up in the downright pride Nashville has for its music history. We’ll get to learn all about the GOAT’s who called it home and even run wild
throughout the city as we pair up and complete the Amazing Race – Nashville style!


Day 24 - 26. Backpacking: The Great Smokey Mountains, NC


Ahh the allure of the Great Smokies, what a treat! This is the US’ most visited national park – and if you don’t get the hype, google it. No seriously, we’ll wait. Yeah – there it is. But don’t worry, we’ve got three full days of tramping carved out, during which we’ll get far away from the crowds of day tourists and ill-prepared influencers and into the true magic that its ancient mountains hold. From the diversity of its flora and fauna to the endless panoramic viewpoints, this is a weekend you’ll be telling your best friend’s uncle about.


Day 27 - 29. Explore: Asheville, NC


Ashville, is a super laidback city with town vibes that’s known for its art and spirituality, often attributed to its picturesque destination among the surrounding mountains. We’ll have a few days to relax and explore its downtown, hopping on a trolley tour to discover its hidden gems before partaking in a unique singing bowl meditation session underground in a natural salt cave!


Day 30 - 36. It’s All About the Wild: Spruce Knob Mountain Center, WV


Over the next few days, we are going to learn an immense amount about each other – and ourselves. Our customized wilderness program will ask a lot of us, from blind trust and reliance to navigation and survival skills. We will develop our communication skills and relationships through different exercises specifically targeting the growth of grit, determination, and confidence. This is bound to be the most fun you’ve had in the woods – trust us, we’ve
spent a lot of time in the woods. After we’ve completed our 4-day course, we’ll head over to the nearby peak of Green Bank, where we will get to spend a night learning about the constellations from the gals and guys who study this stuff for fun. We’ll camp out under the stars we spent the evening identifying – all in an official dark sky destination!


Day 37 - 40. Culture & Caves: Beacon, NY & Centre Hall, PA

Continuing our southward trajectory, we get to explore the creative artists hub that is Beacon, New York. From an immersive afternoon at the Dia Museum to a full day exploring the massive grounds of Storm King, littered with larger-than-life sculptures and the abstract work of visionaries, we’ll get to walk the line of where humanity and mother nature blend. In proper chronology, we’ll follow that up with an exploration of one of nature’s coolest remnants – the underground cave! We’ll hop on a boat and navigate through the networks and streams that flow throughout this complex cavern as we absorb the history that caused its creation.

 

Day 41 - 43. Adirondacks, NY


It’s hard for us to resist the call of the mountains, the rush of the rivers, the sparkle of the stars – and since you’re along for the ride, we’re all headed into the magic of the Adirondacks! Covering over 6 million acres – yep, 6 MILLION ACRES – the Adirondack Mountains are the largest protected natural area in mainland USA. And for three days, we get to call it home as we explore its endless beauty via canoes, kayaks, and legs. We’ll splash around its lakes, play volleyball on its shores, and maybe come a few inches closer to appreciating the magic of change and transformation.


Day 44 - 46. Explore: Burlington, VT


From here we continue our journey west, arriving to the cozy vibes of Burlington. Much loved by locals and college students alike, Burlington has never tried to be anything it’s not. Things that it is: beautiful, chill, welcoming, the home of Ben & Jerry’s (and Nectar’s!). Things that it isn’t: boring, overcrowded, unwelcoming, the home of anything it isn’t. We’ll get a few much needed and much deserved days of downtime, with plenty of optional activities ranging from the physical – hiking, biking, rock climbing – to the spiritual – yoga, meditation, eating loads of Ben & Jerry’s.

Day 47 - 49. Ice Caving, Disc Golf & Mountain Biking: Shirley, ME & Errol, NH


These days are going to be a whirlwind as we traipse from adventure to adventure! We spend a full day exploring the ice caves in Shirley, Maine – yes, year-round ice caves! During planet earth’s most recent ice age, heavy boulders were shoved together by glaciers, creating these magical caves in Maine’s north woods. We descend
down handy metal rungs into the natural freezer! The next day we’ll be trying our hand in the fun-natured sport of disc golf, before mounting our bikes and zipping through the forested trails in Errol, New Hampshire.


Day 50 - 51. National Parks Service Proect: Lily Bay State Park, ME


Volunteering time and energy to the organizations that manage public parks and forests is tantamount to those areas’ health – and the public’s ability to enjoy them. We will dedicate two full days to tackling some of the threats to Lily Bay State Park – including the health of its rivers and the maintenance of its trails.

Day 52 - 54. White Water Rafting & Moose Spotting: Millinocket, ME


We are sure to get our heart rates going as we embark on an overnight white-water rafting expedition, bringing us to the most remote of corners to set up camp and feel what it’s like to work for the view. We’ll have a proper camping experience, complete with stargazing and breakfast over the fire. We’ll also get the opportunity
to have a professional guide take us on a wildlife life tour to get up close and personal – though not too personal – with the local citizens: moose!


Day 55 - 60. Biking, Rock Climbing & Hiking: Acadia National Park, ME

Acadia National Park is a gem that sits on 47,000 acres of the Atlantic Coast. Defined by woodland, rocky beaches, and granite peaks, it is home to the highest point on the East Coast – Cadillac Mountain – as well as moose, bears, whales, and many a species of birds. We will get to explore it from so many different ways during the three days we spend there: bike tour, rock climbing, and good ol’ classic hiking! We will also have a full day to check out the entry gate to the park – the adorable town of Bar Harbor - and have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of camping out on one of the most remote – and uninhabited – islands right off its coast!

Day 61 - 63. Surf Camp: Portland, ME


Our journey continues along the vast coastline enroute to our destination: the laidback and lovable city of Portland! We will have an afternoon to explore at leisure before hitting the water for some sunset stand-up paddle boarding. After all, we need to get used to the water – we’re tackling an epic surf camp over the next few days!

Day 64 - 67. Sustainable Farm Project: Ghent, NY


This is an amazing opportunity to connect to and get involved in the growing, harvest, and preparation of fresh foods. This experience is as much about education as it is about participation. Many topics will be explored, including the various challenges confronting the food industry, how COVID-19 has affected the country’s food supply chain, and what it really means to eat healthy.

Day 68 - 70. Program Wrap: Hudson, NY

Sadly, the time has come to begin our process of digesting the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that the last 70 days have taken us on. Our lives are all somewhat chaotic right now, so we are sure that you will reflect on how amazing it was to have a chance to take a break from everything, learn about ourselves, but also prioritise time to experience and have gratitude for our own stunning and important national culture and environment.


*Each week there will be some designated free time in a town or city so that you can catch up on email and laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.


**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates and availability.

 

 

 

For full program details, please request the information booklet

Suitability

Open to students, graduates and non-students, ideally 18-24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for the outdoors, conservation and new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer components of the program i.e. trail building or the removal of invasive plants and while on the outdoor activities, be prepared to give-it-a-go. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack. You don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.

The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.

Accommodation

Our accommodation will be a mixture of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and WiFi facilities will be available most days, except during the weeks in the field on the volunteer projects and on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.

Meals

Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. All meals are included in the program cost. Food preparation, shared by all students, is fun, social and often a highlight.

Program Tuition Includes

  • All program-related travel and transport included 
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
  • Environmental education and service learning projects
  • Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves - working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose
  • Individual mentorship from program instructors, supporting you in your personal goals for the program
  • Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • 1-3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue travelling independently after the program
  • Pre-departure web-page with all information you need in one place to prepare for the program
  • 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
  • Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
  • Instructors have 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist, for advice and support
  • Pacific Discovery T-shirt, water bottle stickers and a buff
  • Online image library for your program

The Pacific Discovery United States West Gap Year semester combines conservation volunteering, adventure travel and experiential learning through different nine states. 

 

Spring Dates 1 Feb - 11 Apr, 2021
Duration 70 days
(plus independent extension options)

Program Tuition $13,500 USD Estimated Flight Cost $200 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 14 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 18 - 24 ideal
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Start in Deep Hole, VA
Finish in Hudson, NY