GoAbroad Interview

Josh Moreton - Program Leader

Josh Moreton - Program Leader

Josh is an outdoor educator and guide from Nelson, New Zealand. He has worked extensively leading groups throughout New Zealand and Australia focusing on adventure, education, and conservation. Working for Pacific Discovery enables him to combine his desire to travel, form connections with new people, and help students have unforgettable adventures in the outdoors.

You grew up in New Zealand, how did you initially get connected with Pacific Discovery?

I was working in Central Australia as a bushwalking guide, taking adult clients on 14-day expeditions through the remote West Macdonnell Ranges, on what is known as the Larapinta Trail. It was awesome work, but I was craving something that allowed me to work with younger people in the context of service work and adventurous travel. My mum actually put me onto Pacific Discovery, they were advertising for new leaders on a NZ website. I took one look at the job description and sent in an application immediately! A month later I was having coffee with Rachel and Scott at Pacific Discovery HQ in Nelson, NZ, and it has been all go since then.

Shelter building project in Cambodia

School reading shelter building project in Cambodia.

What makes Pacific Discovery’s intern, study, and volunteer programs unique when compared to all the other international programs out there?

Pacific Discovery programs are so much more than just an overseas experience. They are a journey INTO a country. They are designed so that students are able to see what really make a certain place tick. While building a new home for a misplaced family in Cambodia we will live in their village. We enable the students to get to know the people, and get a real understanding of what their daily struggles are, as well as how important our efforts are to their livelihood. Also, we want our programs to be a part of the students individual lifelong journey. We focus on the transference of learning from program to home. How are we going to take what we have learned, and use it to make our world at home, wherever that may be, a better place?

What does your role as Program Leader look like on a daily basis?

It really depends on the program, but let’s focus on the NZ/Australia programs. The program is set up so that the students can really take control of their experience, so early on in the trip the leader has to be quite proactive in terms of putting some good systems in place. We spend a lot of time in the first few weeks showing the students how to shop, cook, and clean and pack, but after that we really have to take a step back and let them work out that if they forget to make a sandwich in the morning, they might get a bit hungry! Of course there is all the usual forward planning and troubleshooting that comes with having a group on the road, but the best thing about running a Pacific Discovery trip is that every day of every trip runs differently, so as a leader you are constantly on your toes, always challenged in some way, and mostly having a total blast.

What advice would you give to someone interested in applying to a Pacific Discovery program?

Take the leap! We all have concerns about heading off to some foreign place with a bunch of complete strangers, but when else are you going to get the opportunity? Every journey with Pacific Discovery results in a group of young people discovering more about themselves and the world around them than they could possibly imagine. You will make life-long friends, discover mind blowing places, and laugh until it hurts more often than your doctor would recommend, so why wait?

Arts dance workshop in Cambodia

Epic Arts dance workshop in Cambodia.

Your academic background is in Adventure Recreation and Outdoor Education. How do you use these skills and knowledge in your role as a Program Leader?

Training as an outdoor educator has been a massive help for me in terms of my leading capabilities. Having completed that qualification I can now take groups into the outdoors and feel comfortable that I am competent to do so. A qualification in that field gives you sound safety management skills, good judgement in risky situations, and overall confidence in your own abilities. It enables me to be more relaxed, and focus more on interacting on a personal level with the students, helping them to engage with the environment in a constructive way. When the leader appears relaxed, it puts the students at ease, that’s high on the list of priorities for me.

What has been your biggest accomplishment as a Program Leader?

Giving young people the confidence to step outside of their comfort zone, be that in a mental or physical capacity, has always been a massive highlight for me. We do rock climbing on a couple of our programs, and this is a good format for getting folks to push themselves a little further than they would normally. Everything is managed and totally safe, so it is just a matter of helping them to push through those personal barriers such as thinking “I don’t think I can do this”. Some of the biggest grins I have ever seen have been on the faces of students who have just completed their first rock climb, stoked!! It is such a privilege being a part of those experiences.

Hiking near Sapa in Northern Vietnam

Hiking near Sapa in northern Vietnam.

You’re a very adventurous outdoorsman, you fish, kayak, hunt, dive, mountain bike, and rock climb! Which one of Pacific Discovery’s program is most suitable for the adventurous type?

Being a kiwi, I accept that I may be a little biased, but the New Zealand & Australia semester program totally rocks! Rafting the Kaituna River, a canoeing expedition on the famous Whanganui River, trekking and bushcraft in Kahurangi National Park, rock climbing in super-scenic Wanaka, and that’s just the New Zealand half! The action continues in Australia with snorkeling, a dedicated surf camp in Byron Bay, and canyoning in the stunning Blue Mountains. Whew!

What is your favorite part about working for Pacific Discovery?

I love the connections that we are able to form all over the world through this job. Be it with local rock climbing instructors in Thailand, trekking guides in Nepal, or a conservation ranger in one of New Zealand’s national parks. Not to forget the students themselves! With social media making communication a breeze these days, it’s super easy to stay closely in touch with buddies on the other side of the world.

Studying Thai in Thailand

Enjoying the shade and working on my Thai phrases.

You’ve traveled to Thailand and Nepal, if you had to go abroad tomorrow on a Pacific Discovery program, which one would you choose?

I would be heading to Nepal and Tibet. I love the variety of cultural interaction you can be exposed to on any given travel day in that part of the world. Massive changes can be observed in the people as you move from the rainforests of Nepals humid Chitwan National park up to the mountainous headwaters of the Kali Gandaki, through into the high altitude Tibetan plains. Culture, landscape, history, language, and of course food. It is all part of the melting pot, and it’s all outstanding.

We hear you are quite the jokester, tell us your favorite joke:

I am a massive fan of puns, but most of my jokes are SUPER lame, so I tend to just weird people out a little bit with them. This is one I heard a little while ago that pokes a bit of fun at our Australian neighbours!

Three Kiwis and three Aussies are traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three Aussies each buy tickets and watch as the three Kiwis buy only a single ticket.

"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asks an 

Aussie. "Watch, and you'll see," answers a Kiwi.

They all board the train. The Aussies take their respective seats but all three Kiwis cram into a bathroom and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the bathroom door and says,"Ticket, please."

The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on. The Aussies see this and agree it was quite a clever idea. So after the conference, the Aussies decide to copy the Kiwis on the return trip and save some money (being clever with money, and all that).

When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the Kiwis don't buy a ticket at all.

"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one perplexed Aussie.

“Watch, and you'll see," answers a kiwi.

When they board the train the three Aussies cram into a bathroom and the three Kiwis cram into another one nearby. The train departs. Shortly afterward, one of the Kiwis leaves his bathroom and walks over to the bathroom where the Aussies are hiding.

He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket, please." 

International volunteer with children in Cambodia

Taking a break from house building to play with the local Cambodian kids.