When I roadtripped across Texas with my sister in a big white van. I was directing a course near Big Bend National Park, and my teams needed a van and a trailer full of gear transported to them from the east coast. My older sister decided to join me for the journey and it has become one of our most memorable experiences. We explored hidden waterfalls in the desert and at night were amazed by the countless stars in the sky. We had hours of quality time to talk and speak of our dreams for the future as we traveled across the bizarre landscape of Texas. From Big Bend to the Guadeloupe Mountains, and El Paso where we said our goodbyes. Camping and Roadtripping are always a special way to share an adventure. I think that’s why I like the style of Pacific Discovery programs so much. It is the slower way of seeing all the beauty along the way and the adventures that spring up on the road.
What is your favorite travel memory?
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I had worked in a lot of different settings before Pacific Discovery, but I had never worked a seventy day shift before with one team. It was an extraordinary learning experience to empower and support students over an extended length of time. The rewards are immense in the sense that you are sharing an incredible journey with them and you get to see all ways that everyone including yourself grows from the experience. I personally learned a lot about adjusting my leadership style according to the skill set of a team. Throughout the course, the students were becoming more and more independent which required me to use discernment in the ways that I stepped back in order to give them opportunities to lead themselves autonomously.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
One of my students wrote a lovely blog about volunteering alongside an elderly woman who was once a world class surfer.
Please enjoy below:
“We have arrived in New Zealand! Wahoo! Our first stop was the Tawharanui park and campground. Riddled with sheep, cows and plenty of birds, including the endangered Takahe, we awoke each morning to a symphony of moos, baas and indescribable birds tweets.
Throughout the week, directed by park rangers Morris and Amy, we “tickled” trails to create easier walking paths, planted trees with retired volunteers and took advantage of our surroundings by exploring the park, jumping in the ocean, and watching the sunrise over the rolling hills.
My personal favorite moment of the week was talking to Gale, one of the retired volunteers, while we bagged some young trees. Gale was the New Zealand woman’s surfing champion in 1969 and represented her country at the world championships in Australia the next year. As an aspiring surfer bum myself, I was eager to learn anything I could from her. Though I expected her to discuss the nitty gritty mechanics of surfing and how to dominate waves, she spoke of it as if it was still just a fun hobby. She wasn’t concerned with being the best surfer in the water. She just loved the ocean and riding the waves, both surfing and bodysurfing. As someone who gets in their own head about perfecting every single detail of riding waves, it was refreshing and calming to hear how to dominate surfing: chill out.”
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Toughest question yet! All of the locations are exciting and beautiful. I am a bit biassed for the Australia and New Zealand Course though. You can’t beat the activities such as canyoneering through the Blue Mountains, surfing the beautiful waves of Australia, and rafting the highest navigable waterfall in the world! The volunteer opportunities are also interesting and enriching. We work with the local park service to fight invasive species, learn how to maintain trails in New Zealand, and live on a beautiful permaculture farm South of Sydney for a week. It is a marvelous course and I highly recommend it, but all programs at Pacific Discovery have something special and different to offer for everyone.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
Pacific Discovery is different in the sense that the program is designed to empower you to become an independent ethical traveler. The adventures are outstanding and there are a lot of other companies that could simply take you sightseeing, but Pacific Discovery provides an educational viewpoint on each region and has an excellent curriculum to help you reflect on your gap year. One of the moments I was most proud of my team is when they designed their own itinerary for their student led section of their program. It was amazing to see everyone collaborating and creating a wonderful experience traveling across New Zealand. They did an excellent job and it was great to see how comfortable they had become with trip logistics and designing an adventure. I hope they utilize those skills in the future so that they can continue to explore the world outside of the course.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
How companies treat their employees always speaks volumes to me. Companies that place value in everyone on the team have a much better atmosphere that people want to be around and a part of. It is an incredibly feeling to work for a company that is such a team player. Even though we are spread out all over the world on course, everyone knows that they are a part of something wonderful and meaningful and it connects us. From the local vendors and guides that conduct our adventure activities to the folks in the office that make sure our logistics are running smoothly we are all focused on giving students the best experience possible.