Multiple Locations +4
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
4 - 12 weeks
General grants/scholarships, Payment plans, 529 Plan eligibility
Health & Safety

Program Details

Backpacking Bird Watching Camping City Exploring Hiking Remote Exploring Rock Climbing Scuba Diving Sightseeing Swimming Trekking Yoga
Fall Spring
Guesthouse Host Family Hostel Hotel Lodge
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max


Starting Price
Price Details
Program Tuition Includes...
- Visas for all countries
- All in-country travel and transport (excluding flights)
- All accommodation & meals (excluding snacks)
- All activities, excursions, entry fees & adventure travel
- Individual mentorship from program instructors
- Lectures from resident experts on history, conservation, development, eco-tourism & sustainability
- 1-3 week optional extensions for independent travel
- Pre-departure information
- 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
- Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
- 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist, for advice and support
- Pacific Discovery T-shirt, water bottle stickers
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Domestic Airfare Equipment Meals Park Fees Tour Guide Transportation Visa
What's Not Included
Airfare Travel Insurance
May 15, 2024
Aug 23, 2023
88 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Experience an inspiring travel semester abroad on this Southeast Asia gap year program through the Buddhist countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Join us on this epic journey through the remote minority villages of Laos, the diverse landscapes of Vietnam, the world-famous Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat, all the way to the stunning beaches of Southern Thailand. This 70-day gap year semester offers you an enriching fusion of community and animal rescue volunteer projects, cultural immersion, Thai cooking, Buddhist meditation, snorkelling, and of course, non-stop adventure!

Southeast Asia can’t be beaten for the sheer diversity of cultures, histories and landscapes in a geographically small area. Your days will be as varied as the countries you visit, with a fusion of hands-on volunteer work with elephants, connecting with locals during homestays, camping under the stars on an overnight rafting trip, and good doses of jungles and beaches.

Video and Photos

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

We understand that we have a long way to go in achieving the diversity we strive for among our students, staff, and partners. We are committed to fostering a more diverse and inclusive organization, and we recognize that this requires time, effort, and resources. At Pacific Discovery, we deeply value diversity, equity, and social justice, and we are dedicated to creating educational experiences that reflect and promote these values. Our program curriculum incorporates social justice education and encourages students to explore their own identities. To further support these efforts, we offer a 'Diverse Voices' Scholarship.

LGBTQIA+ Support

All of our Pacific Discovery programs are LGBTQIA+ friendly, and our operations team have attended CIS Abroad's LGBTQ+ Allyship Training, to ensure we’re doing what we can to support this community. We provide an open and non judgemental space for students to explore who they are at this pivotal time of their life, and in our admissions process we seek information not only on a student's gender, but their pronouns and gender identity. We’re aware of the differing cultural perspectives of LQBTQIA in the countries that we visit, and can direct students to a semester location where they’ll feel the most comfortable. Operationally we ensure that our instructors use inclusive language and can facilitate conversations with students around their identity, and discuss the rooming situations with LGBTQIA+ students.

Neurodivergent Support

Our programs are designed to support students with a wide range of neurodiverse conditions while following our essential eligibility criteria. For students needing extra help, we provide personalized wellness plans . These plans include coping strategies, care protocols, and specific requirements to help them engage effectively in the program. Our instructors have access to mental health first aid resources and are well-prepared to offer strong support to students with these needs.

Accessibility Support

Our programs offer a variety of physical activities, including hiking, surfing, rafting, and mountain biking. We make sure to accommodate students with diverse needs such as asthma, diabetes, and chronic medical conditions, while working within the infrastructure of the host country and our program schedules. We're mindful of the varying levels of accessibility in the countries we visit and can help students choose a semester location where they feel most at ease.



Sustainability is one of the 6 core components of each Pacific Discovery program, where we educate students about the local and global environmental issues, how to travel sustainably, and have them think deeply about their impact and what they can do in their daily lives to affect change.

We recently embarked on a Net Positive Benefit project where we are qualifying what impacts our groups have on the local communities, taking into consideration carbon emissions +/- social impacts +/- conservation impacts +/- community impacts. On our programs, students engage with non-profit organisations such as Litter Intelligence, Scholars of Sustenance, Ulu Mau puanui, Llama Pack project where they directly work for a better future - planting trees, eradicating invasive weed species, helping local communities and food banks.

Ethical Impact

We make a conscious decision to partner with host communities and suppliers who are passionate about our students' participation and involvement with them being of a positive benefit to the community. We want our presence to enable positive sustainable growth for our partners and this mantra is ingrained in the fabric of our programs.

Program Highlights

  • Volunteer in service learning projects in Elephant Conservation
  • 2-day rock-climbing and caving introductory course in Northern Thailand
  • 3-day Buddhist meditation retreat run by Thai monks in Chiang Mai
  • 2-day riverboat journey down the Mekong River
  • 3-days hiking and boating in the amazing jungle, rivers and lakes of Khao Sok National Park, Southern Thailand

Program Dates

Application Deadline
Program Dates

Program Reviews

4.86 Rating
based on 37 reviews
  • 5 rating 94.59%
  • 4 rating 2.7%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 2.7%
  • Housing 3.85
  • Support 4.9
  • Fun 4.75
  • Value 4.85
  • Safety 4.85
Showing 1 - 8 of 37 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Pacific Discovery SEA Spring 2023

Going into this program I had no experience or expectation of what it was going to be like. Not only was I able to step completely out of my comfort zone but I was genuinely supported and encouraged every step of the way. It was the best mixture of teamwork and independence, exploring and learning, and the ability to truly be present and focused. This program, along with the people I have met and learned from within it have impacted my being in such an incredibly powerful way, that it has inspired me in my approach with how I move forward through life. I recommend an experience like this to anyone and everyone.

  • Support & encouragement
  • Personal development
  • Comfort zone expansion & first hand exposure to different perspectives
  • Re-integration when back home
  • Indirect conflict
114 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A Joureny of a Lifetime

I mean what I say when I say that this program is an experience of a lifetime. You are constantly moving, and do, see, and experience so much every single day. You also get to experience local culture and customs in a safe environment. My counselors Grace Crema and Manuel Olvera are good, experienced world travelers. The other people on my program were all interesting and from backgrounds. Every single day I spent with these people felt like an exciting adventure into uncharted territory. I couldn't wait for what came next. Being away from home, parents, and being put into this new environment allows you to explore your identity and grow on your own. It allows you to present facets of your personality that you typically don't present to the people at home. Through this process you learn self sufficiency and gain confidence in yourself. I cannot state enough how this program was one of the most happiest times in my life.

  • You only stay in one location (hotel/city) for 5 days at most. Oftentimes you only stay in one location for 2 nights. This way, if you are bored or uninterested in your current area, you do not stay for too long.
  • Community service: you work with a lot of organizations to help marginalized groups through manual labor. This can include helping build a fence and moving mounds of dirt to construct a volley ball court. You will also appreciate the value of a machete
  • The counselors do a good job introducing each student and mingling everyone together through ice breakers and constantly changing your roommate. They do a good job of helping you make friends in the group.
  • These countries are traditional Buddhist, so they are somewhat sexist towards female students. This includes requiring them to cover knees and shoulders at temples and holy grounds as well as limiting physical contact and interactions with monks.
  • Most of the hostels and hotels you stay at are good (Water, electricity, wifi). However a few of them in rural areas are very primitive (sleeping in wood hut.) They were not unbearable and added to experience of living in these communities
  • Check for BUGS. I got bed bugs rhe first night.
120 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

SE Asia Gap Semester

A great 10 weeks! You get an all-encompassing experience of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia that most people will never come close to.
From the mountains of Thailand to the beaches of Vietnam, the itinerary brings students everywhere they could hope and more. Cultural immersion, natural beauty, fantastic food, and meaningful service all play a large part in the experience.
Pacific Discovery has fantastic leaders and encourages students to make the most of out of the experience, leading to a life-changing semester. I look back at this experience as one of my best ever decisions and would recommend it to anyone.

  • The greatest food I have ever had
  • Constant engagement; never a dull moment
  • All encompassing itinerary
  • Traveler’s sickness (just a fact of travel)
121 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience!!

Pacific Discovery does a great job choosing where and with whom you work on the Southeast Asia gap semester. They choose ethical and sustainable organizations and practices while you travel and they teach you how to identify good ones on your own. My instructors, Grace and Manuel, were very capable and knowledgeable. They were a reliable resource for concerns or questions that came up. Additionally they added a personal touch as mentors and leaders making me feel safe and giving me a positive environment to learn and grow in. The program is incredible and you will get outside your comfort zones and grow as an individual learning to live and travel with a small group. Overall, I recommend this program to anyone looking to explore and learn about the rich cultures of the areas.

  • Amazing food
  • Gorgeous views
  • Rich Culture
  • Tap water is not potable
  • Constant moving around
  • Not for the weak stomachs
128 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Spring 2023

Basically, it takes some getting used to but never unbearable. I was challenged in ways I didn't expect but learned a lot about myself and SE Asia. The places, people, and experiences make all the difficulties worth it tho.

Don't expect 5 stars hotels with super nice amenities. A few of the more rural areas don't have hot water, great insulation, nice bathrooms, wifi, etc, but never straight up camping. Most places are 2-3 star hotels in small cities, with wifi, ac/heating, hot water, other hotel things.

It does get tiring to live out of a backpack and be traveling to different places every few days. And traveling with the same group of people for 10 weeks can be hard. But remember that everyone else is literally going through the same. Be understanding and respect other's comfortability and they'll do the same for you!

SE Asia is also super hot and humid, be ready to be sweaty 24/7.

All in all, there'll be really awesome good days and some pretty hard bad days. The unforgettable sites, super nice people, unique experience makes it absolutely worth it.

  • Personal Growth
  • Seeing different places
  • Unique experience
  • constant traveling
  • always with people
  • sweaty
121 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing program!

This program absolutely changed my life. My instructors were spectacular and guided me through so many incredible experiences in Thailand. I can genuinely say this program was everything I hoped for and more. I would recommend this program to any graduating high school student, I feel much more prepared for life and future travel after completing this program. I undoubtedly learned way more in those three months than I did in all of my secondary education. It’s the perfect bridge in between high school and college/life!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Throw your all into the experience! Take in every moment and enjoy every second.
204 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

please read this before signing up

Bear with me, I know this review is long but it is worth the read.

In theory, this trip really does seem lovely. You get to make new friends, see new places, have the safety net of a program with instructors to guide you. In reality, it is the absolute opposite. I went in the fall of 2019 on the Southeast Asia trip. I was BEYOND excited when I was preparing for the trip all the way through the 24 hours of flying. So beyond the price tag(12k+ could last you a whole year easily in Asia, most people don't understand how severely overpriced this trip was, even I didn't till I was there), what could be so wrong with this seemingly amazing trip?

The amount of freedom you get is virtually zero, you always have to have someone with you. It is not about not being allowed to drink or have sex, it is that you are constantly being watched, where you are, and what you are doing. As young adults, you will be treated like toddlers. The instructors that led my trip were incredibly unprepared, Pacific Discovery put two leaders together who had never led a trip. There was so much drama between everyone it was sickening, we had all graduated high school and some were in college yet some acted like petty middle schoolers, no action was taken against them. The time I enjoyed the most was when we were not doing anything in particular, and that was RARE. We barely got any free time whatsoever, you were not allowed to tap out of activities that went against what I was told when I signed up.

The elephants, that is what I was really looking forward to when I signed up, as a lot of people are. It is not what they advertised it to be, it is all volunteer work meaning scooping feces, cleaning their water bowls, etc etc. You do not get to bathe them or really hang out with them at all, the food is very good though I’ll give them that. This is just one example of the misleading information they put on their site.

Food, you would not think it to be such a huge issue on the trip but it was. For how much money you put into the trip, you got so little money for food I was always hungry. You were not allowed to use your own money in addition to the budget as it became “too complicated for them”. I was never able to even afford a drink with my meal, let alone enough to feed myself properly.
Now the big issue that sent me over the edge, being removed from the program only a month or so in. I was also not the only one, there were several others on my trip for various reasons. They mentioned constantly that they will support you if you struggle mentally, that it’s hard on everyone. That simply is not the case, they will just kick you off if they do not want to deal with you. In my case, I did struggle mentally during the program. It really is a lot to take in and to deal with. After getting in trouble for breaking a rule, which I signed a slip saying I would not do it again, I cried a lot. We had a few days in Vietnam free so I spent those days mostly in my room because yeah, I was really sad. Pacific told other parents and their kids that I had decided to leave which was so far from the truth it was almost comical. I reached out several times to either resolve this issue emotionally or financially after the trip and they did not respond for months, when they finally did respond they just said no, they wanted nothing to do with me as I was now just a liability as I apparently was before.

Overall, just do not go on this trip. You would have much better luck just going by yourself or finding another tour group.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Choose another program. Choose another program. Choose another program.
225 people found this review helpful.
Response from Pacific Discovery

Dear Hanna,

Thank you for submitting a review. We really appreciate your feedback and are sorry to hear that you felt misled or that the group-structured elements of the program were not what you were looking for in your semester abroad experience.

We find that well structured programs allow for our students to fully immerse themselves in the country, culture and activities during their travel while also ensuring the cohesiveness of the group. As part of our detailed itineraries, the service learning component is a highlight of the trip and are planned around the expressed needs of the community or non-governmental organizations we partner with.

The health and safely of all our students is paramount and decisions are made on an individual basis. In order to deliver the best possible experience for the group, we employ behavioral contracts and uphold these when required. We are sorry that you feel your situation was not managed to your satisfaction.

Wishing you all the best, Zach Johnston, Director.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

do it!

My time with Pacific Discovery surprised me. I was challenged emotionally, physically, and mentally and I learned an incredible amount about myself and the cultures we visited that has broadened my perspective in the best way possible. The program is so well organized and the experiences are authentic and meaningful. You see beautiful places, meet beautiful people, grow as a human on the earth, and make memories that will last a lifetime. If anything it just gives you time to enjoy the fruits of life, grow, mature, question and be curious, get inspired, and experience settings that truly are once in a lifetime.

224 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers