Staff Spotlight: Philip Russell



Philip founded Plan My Gap Year in 2011 after looking for similar opportunities to volunteer and travel whilst at university. He wanted to provide an affordable and informative option to like-minded travelers around the world, and as a result, PMGY was born.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite memory is my visit to Sri Lanka in 2013 where I first met Ashika, our Sri Lanka project partner.

I was amazed by the hospitality of his family and their willingness to get involved in starting PMGY Sri Lanka. Since then the whole family has been a key part of PMGY worldwide, ensuring Sri Lanka is a flagship destination.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have become a lot more confident, improved my public speaking and gained experience of different cultures around the world and how to manage working with them. I've also developed my business skill set, working on all different aspects of running a small business.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I think India is one of the best countries for project development and participant involvement, and it is where one of our previous participants, Sam, helped to establish a new project.

Through a fund from the program fees, Sam and a local team set up Isabella's school in Delhi, which provides free healthcare and education for disabled children, who wouldn't have had access to these facilities through the government.

I thought it was a really inspiring and a truly motivational initiative, which helps future generations for years to come.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Definitely the Big Five Conservation program in South Africa - it is a dream program for any animal lover, as you are immersed completely on the wildlife reserve for the duration of your time. The local team are people who have worked in animal conservation all their lives, so they have a real passion to share with the PMGY participants.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

It's no secret that there are a lot of organizations offering these opportunities around the world. I think that what makes PMGY unique is that it's not only affordable, but it's personal and informative as well.

We try to make our website and all forms of communication as user-friendly as possible. We try not to 'sell' our opportunities, rather we try to provide honest advice on all our destinations and try to point people in the right direction based on what they're looking for on the overall experience.

As a result, participants and parents view us as a really trustworthy and honest organization. We also have developed a sister charity (PMGY Foundation) which provides people with a platform to fundraise for their projects alongside their volunteer placement. This charity ensures that 100% of their donation is given to need-driven projects around the world.

Every year PMGY hosts a reunion in London for all participants who have traveled with us over the past twelve months. Our local teams from around the world join in the celebration; it's amazing to see how many peoples lives have changed by talking to them about their experiences overseas. This is all made possible by the UK and international teams and the commitment they have.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

The main thing you have to be is very determined, and you have to fully appreciate that things aren't always going to go according to plan.

You're going to have some days that don't work out for you, but you have to keep going and look at things from a long-term perspective. I would say the same thing applies to traveling and volunteering -- it's good to take the same approach and embrace each experience as it comes. Keep learning and stay passionate.