Rares Dumitru has worked for rail Europe for just over three years.
But, it was a stroke of luck that he ended up in the travel industry.
"After I graduated university back in Romania in a totally unrelated field, I got hired by one of the first travel agencies in my hometown, purely based on my knowledge of English and computers," Rares says. "That was 19 years ago."
He's currently the regional sales director for Canada, where his main job is to grow European rail sales in Canada.
"That includes visits to travel agencies, trainings and webinars, participating at various conferences, working with both the retail partners and tour operators to try and integrate trains in their clients’ itineraries, helping travel advisors with booking related issues and other questions they might have, sourcing out new business and the list can go on and on," he says.
Here, PAX checks in with Rares to learn more about the fast food joint he can't stand abroad, the souvenir he bought that made him ask his wife not to check the credit card statement, and a warm-hearted prank that resulted in a lot of free cake.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Rares Dumitru (RD): My headphones, a book and an open mind since not everything is the same way as it is at home, nor should it be.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
RD: It really does not matter as long as I travel with my family, but if I have to choose from the places where we have been, I would have to pick Italy for the history, culture, and food; Greece for the same reasons; California for its vibe and amazing weather. I'm looking forward to Arizona with the family for Thanksgiving. And we have a very long list of places we would like to travel to.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
RD: Toronto Pearson because it is either the beginning of a new adventure if we travel for pleasure or it means I am home when I have to travel for work.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
RD: What is there not to love? We are helping people realize their travel dreams and that has to be the best job in the world.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
RD: I remember going to the Romanian seaside with my parents and grandparents as a kid. Always towards the end of August, always in the same place, my father driving too fast for my grandfather's liking in my grandfather’s 1978 Romanian-made Dacia car (really a Romanian version of the Renault 12) and me getting squished in the back between my mom and my grandmother.
It would take us close to 14 hours to get to the seaside but once I was there it was fun for 10 days. Later, my first trip to Greece with my wife (girlfriend back then) was memorable as we travelled for 24 hours on a small bus through Romania and Bulgaria before getting to our apartment in Paralia Katerini. But that is where I had calamari for the first time and could not get enough.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
RD: I do not normally buy things for myself with the exception of the odd dress shirt, but rather for the kids and my wife. Last year I was in Switzerland on a FAM trip and picked up a nice scarf for my wife at the airport in Geneva and told her to not look at the credit card statement that month.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
RD: Quite a few here. Best pizza with a view – Mediterraneo Café in Taormina, Sicily (I need to go back); best seafood in a very unassuming place – Trattoria Il Lurido in Rimini – unfortunately closed now; best steak – the bisteca alla fiorentina at the I Fratellini restaurant in Florence and for cold cuts and cheeses plus wine and limoncello - I Pizzicaroli in Rome. Can you guess what my favourite cuisine is?
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
RD: People who eat at McDonalds when abroad – I hated when I saw that for the first time in Paris, on the Champs Elysees, because you are surrounded by thousands of restaurants in a country that has amazing food.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
RD: My hidden talent is that I am a vampire, having been born in Transylvania (he's kidding, we hope).
PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?
RD: Always carry-on!
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
RD: Down as I like to catch up on movies for most of the flight but up as we come in for landing.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
RD: Not an anecdote but a real story about celebrating a former colleagues’ birthday during a conference in the DR last year in May for a whole week, even though his birthday is not in May.
What started as a joke over dinner at one of the restaurants of the resorts with a band of mariachi turned into an entire week of singing Happy Birthday, cakes, toasts and even interrupting his presentation to acknowledge his birthday in front of the travel advisors – and he took it like a champ even when the flight attendant on the way back asked the entire plane to wish him a Happy Birthday! I'm not sure I would have coped with it as good as he did.
PAX: What are 1-2 things travel agents should be aware of right now in regards to Rail Europe?
RD: We are working hard to meet all their needs and answer all their questions every day and help them sell more trains and we thank them for their continued support in a time of transformation and evolution of our company.
I also want to emphasize that Rail Europe is currently in the middle of implementing a whole new booking engine and that when all is said and done, booking with us will be even better and will offer them more info and choice for our mutual clients. I also want them to take advantage of our great discounts for certain train tickets and passes and I would like them to take advantage of these discounts and experience travelling in Europe in the most elegant and efficient way possible – by train.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!