Staff Spotlight: Lee Neale

Program Instructor
Lee loves wild places, and his favorite ways to see them are with a backpack, on a rope, in a kayak, or on a bike. After graduating from Furman University, with a degree in History and Latin American Studies, Lee has worked as an Outdoor Instructor, EMT, and Director of Student Life at a small boarding school. His travels through Latin America and Asia, for both work and pleasure, have driven Lee to commit himself to studying the culture, language and history of these incredible parts of the world.

What position do you hold at Pacific Discovery? What has been your career path so far?

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I am so happy to be working as a Program Leader for Pacific Discovery. The Program Leader position is a perfect fit for me as it combines my professional experience and passion for learning into a dynamic position. In University I studied History, with a concentration in Latin American studies. Since leaving University, I have pursued a career guiding and mentoring youth. I discovered my passion for helping foster personal growth as a Field Instructor at a wilderness therapy program in western North Carolina called SUWS of the Carolinas. At SUWS I helped facilitate personal growth and crisis intervention for teens living with addiction, depression, anxiety, learning disabilities and a variety of mental health issues, while on extended backpacking trips.

After a year and a half I moved into the Medic position, using my training as an EMT and a relationship with local doctors and psychiatrist to provide medical care for our students. After an extended trip in Patagonia, I moved into a managerial role as the Director of Student Life at a boarding school in NC, where I developed the outdoor education program, as well as trained and managed the direct care staff. In 2014, I began leading international trips for several different programs in China, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Panama.

What country have you always wanted to visit?

I have always wanted to explore Kyrgyzstan due to the immensity of the landscape, it's alluring culture and difficult history. As a climber and outdoor enthusiast, Kyrgyzstan seems like a playground. Ninety percent of the country is covered with mountains, with thousands of possibilities for first ascents and back-country climbing objectives. This type of landscape inspires a certain toughness and tenacity. especially when combined with a complex history involving religious extremism to the west, and being sandwiched between two superpowers; China, and Russia. I would love the chance to make connections with Kyrgz, while exploring the back-country (and avoiding landmines).

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

Cultural immersion adds so much depth to a travel experience. The people, animals, plants, cuisine, landscape and language all contribute to the personality and flavor of a place. When travelers are able to step inside a local's world and see, even for moment, the world through a new perspective, then they gain understanding. Understanding allows travelers to feel competent, confident, and connected. It inspires a perspective of unity and likeness. In my opinion, unifying practices are sorely needed in our times. Language can be such a powerful vehicle for connecting with locals, showing respect, and gaining a new perspective. Even learning "hello" and "thank you" can be the difference between spending the evening in a lonely hotel room or being invited into a local's home for a home-cooked meal and good company.

What language have you always wanted to learn and why​?

I would really like to become conversational in Mandarin. I have traveled through Yunan, Guangxi and Guizhou provinces in China, and have really fallen in love with rural China. The people I met were so kind and interested. It was so great to interact with them through the little bit of Mandarin that I know. I find the tones and characters in Mandarin to be especially challenging, which makes for fun problem solving.