Staff Spotlight: Rachel Sanson

Founder of Pacific Discovery


Rachel has spent most of her adult life wishing she had taken a gap year! She went straight from high school to university with little idea of what she really wanted to do. After graduating from Canterbury University with an MBA, she promptly went and volunteered for the environmental organization, Greenpeace. She spent the next 5 years traveling and sailing all around the world and thus, discovered her passion for sustainable living, experiential learning and cultural immersion. Twenty years later, Rachel is still living and breathing her passion and feels incredibly lucky to have created Pacific Discovery and be a part of an organization that values community, diversity, sustainability.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

In my early twenties, I spent three months cycling through Europe (Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, France & Spain, a total of 5000km). It was a quite an ADVENTURE. We had a budget of ten dollars/per day and lived incredibly frugally; we camped in vineyards, barns, ruined castles, on beaches and even under a few bridges. My friend and I avoided big cities and were immersed in the elements, the local cultures and rural life. We met so many wonderful people and had so many beautifully spontaneous encounters and experiences. I still rate this as my best travel experience ever!

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

Spanish! When I was a young girl growing up in a small town in New Zealand, so international travel seemed unobtainable... to travel the world seemed like an impossible dream. Fueled by this thirst, I often dreamed about what my adult life 'abroad' might be like, and a reoccurring theme was living in a small village in the mountains of Spain with a swarthy Spanish-speaking compañero!

Happily for my family, I fell in love with a swarthy New Zealand mountain man and am now settled back in my home town, but I never lost my thirst to learn Spanish. I continue to pursue this by whatever means I can... practicing online, spending a month-long immersion trip in Ecuador and cultivating a Spanish language group back home; I feel like I am still only at intermediate level so my next big plan is to plan a year long sabbatical and have a full immersion experience!

What unique qualities does your company possess?

We are family! Seriously - what sets us apart from the rest is the value we put on the relationships we have with our local colleagues, our program instructors, our students and their families. We value integrity, honesty, respect, compassion, empathy and openness.

We have wonderful friendships with people all over the world - people we've been working with for almost 20 years; students on our programs who have become friends and keep us updated on the amazing things they're doing; parents of students who've come to visit us (and vice versa). These connections grow and become stronger and are really the most rewarding and valuable part of what we do.