Javier Garcia del Valle, CEO Happy Tour. When a happy man meets Romania

He defines himself as a pure optimistic person. He sells vacations for Romanian tourists (and not only), but is himself on a “permanent” holiday in Romania. Born in Malaga, near the sea side, he moved from Spain to Bucharest 9 years ago and he never left since. From the fascination of a snow seen from his office to the annoyance of “nu se poate” (“it’s impossible”), Javier Garcia del Valle, the CEO of the travel agency Happy Tour, accepted to share with LeadersReunited.com some of his memories and insights since coming to live in Romania.

Javier Garcia del Valle, Photo credit: personal archive

Cristina Dobreanu: What was your first impression about Romania?

Javier Garcia del Valle: Actually, my first impression of Romania was before coming here. It’s a joke that I keep saying that when I was told that I was moving to Romania, I started realising that I was actually surrounded by Romanians, even in Spain. And in Malaga, where I am from, there are a lot of foreigners, and Romanians are well integrated. So I met some Romanians, and I went to one of them and I asked him: “Are you Romanian? You speak Spanish perfectly . How long have you been in Spain?” “3-4 months”. Then I met another guy, and he was speaking Spanish better than myself. And I started thinking that if they were working in the field, and after 3-4-6 months they spoke Spanish perfectly well, when I would get to Romania, I’d learn Romanian overnight. I mean, I would land and speak Romanian.

And what happened?

Actually, that was about 9 years ago and I am still trying to improve my Romanian. So, the first impression was the fact that you are a country of extremely smart people.

You spent almost nine years here. What is your favorite Romanian word?

As a joke, “nu se poate” (“it’s impossible”). This first impulse of no, why “nu se poate”? Why can’t we do this? Mostly because we are used to doing things one way and we are reluctant to change. But this is human being. Changes are scary. In business, especially, “nu se poate”, it cannot be, let’s find a way to make it possible!

Is this the same for Spanish people?

For Spanish people, the joke would be more about “manana” (“tomorrow”). Tomorrow will be done. As human beings we are reluctant to change, to get out of our comfort zone, this is our nature. But I don’t see this “nu se poate” so often.

What do you dislike about Romanians?

I wouldn’t say dislike, I would say it is something I would encourage to improve – it is the perception of community. I see Romanians as very individualistic. Meaning, and you have examples every day in your life: if I want to stop my car, I stop it and block 300 cars behind me, I don’t care! This type of individualistic behaviour is affecting the rest of the society. Your freedom is finished where the other one’s freedom begins.

If you were to associate Romania with one word, what would that be?

“Future”. This country has to have a brilliant future, that depends on us, people living in Romania. This country has all the ingredients needed to succeed. From oil, gas, to agriculture and the sea line, mountains … we have everything. Romania is a rich country, why don’t we show this?! Because of us, as population. This is what we need to realise, and this is linked with the individualism. Why are so many people leaving Romania? Because they don’t see this word, “future”. From the moment we are born, our parents are looking for a better future for us; as we grow up, we are looking for a better future for us, and as we keep growing we are looking for a better future for our children. If you don’t see future, then you start searching for something else.

When referring to Romania you say “us”? You don’t feel an expat anymore?

I really believe that somebody is not from where he was born but from the place he’s been living in.

So a good advice for expats that have recently moved to Romania or that are spending just a few months here is to integrate in the life of the city they are living in.

You can’t keep comparing the city you live in with your hometown. For instance, if I compare Bucharest to Malaga:  you have 360 sunny days per year in Malaga, very clean air, the sea right there, the longest ride 10 to 15 minutes. Today, it took me one hour for 12 kilometers. If I keep comparing, maybe I will feel like: “What am I doing here? Let’s go back!” The way I approach it is this: I am in Romania, so let’s make sure that I make the most out of Romania. If I am living in Bucharest, this is my city, let’s look at the positive side, otherwise I would be depressed all day long. I am here, good: great gardens, great parks, you have all four season here, we don’t have this in Malaga. I am a positive person so this is Bucharest, let’s take it as it is!

You once told me about the first snow you saw here…

I would never forget it because it really impacted me. Of course, I have been skiing in Granada, in different ski resorts in Spain, but honestly I was never seated in my office and see snow. I was at the office and suddenly I started seeing big snowflakes so I asked all the people to stop for a few minutes for me to enjoy it.

What would you change concerning Romania’s image abroad?

The problem that we have in Romania is to make people come here. Once they are here, they got the real image. The problem is Romania was not on the map for so long. You know, I saw the Romanian revolution on TV, I was 14-15 years old, and I said to myself: “What would I do there?” Nothing attracted me. But life took me to Romania. Now Romania is entering into the map of tourism, and people start thinking about coming here, and once they are here, they love it.

What defines yous as a professional?

I am very detail oriented, very persistent, and I am a very long term committed person. I’m a team player and I think I have my feet on the ground, although as Cancer I am a dreamer. If I may say, I am a hard worker, sometimes I put my work before of my family. This may not be that good, but this is how I am.

What do you do on your free time?

In my spare time I like to play paddle and I love to meet friends. This is a part of my Spanish passport. Actually when we are home and we are alone, I need to call somebody to have a glass of wine, or a cigar, or to make a paella. This is something I miss a lot in Romania. In Malaga, almost every evening after the job we were going out for half hour, no more, with friends, to have a beer or a glass of wine. It was somehow a break. Here, I take the car in the morning to the office, I stay all day long in the office, most of the days I eat at the office, I leave in the evening, either I go to an event or home, and then I start again. So this is like, too much routine.

Who is your hero?

My hero? The closest hero that I have is my father, because from him I learnt the hard working spirit. He was working in a company – he was a director and not the owner – the owner did something bad, and the company collapsed. So, at the age of 40, he had to start again from scratch, with 4 kids. And he did it. From the history of the humanity, heroes are the people that have put the global interest before their own interest: like Gandhi, Marie Curie and Henri Coanda. Every person that has brought the humanity forward, for me it is a hero.

What is your favourite quote?

It is actually something from Guillaume Apollinaire:

“Come to the edge”, he said.

“No, we can’t. We’re afraid”, they responded.

“Come to the edge”, he said.

“No, we can’t. We will fall”, they responded.

“Come to the edge”, he said.

And they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew”.

It is something that has stayed in my mind for a long time. Make a change! “Nu, nu se poate”.”So, try it!” “Wow, se poate” (“it is possible”). So if you don’t try you will never know if it will work or not!

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