Sept. 13, 2021

One-of-a-kind Adventures in Romania with Raluca Jianu

One-of-a-kind Adventures in Romania with Raluca Jianu

In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Raluca Jianu, co-founder of EpicVisits. We discuss her childhood, how she created a replica of a communist-style apartment from the 80s, and how her travel and booking platform EpicVisits is showcasing all the unique and epic retreats Romania has to offer.

 | In this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, I sat down with Raluca Jianu, co-founder of EpicVisits. We discuss her childhood, how she created a replica of a communist-style apartment from the 80s, and how her travel and booking platform EpicVisits is showcasing all the unique and epic retreats Romania has to offer.


 [00:00:00] Luca Gianni is the co-founder of epic visits, which is a travel platform that combines the unique stays in experiences of travelers. Now their mission is to bring back the thrill of excitement.

Building a community of like-minded travelers that value, quality and originality. Raluca welcome to innovators. Collab. How are you doing this morning?

Hi, Eric. Thank you for this opportunity.

Yeah, of course. So I'd like to get started with a few fun questions just to get to know you a little bit better. Okay. Question number one. What's better goes though. Nuts or good. Yeah.

Wow. What. Questioning it's so hard. I would say, cause a knack. Yeah. And the reason for this is because yesterday I even bought a Porsche Hume that was especially creative. By by a perfume company which has some essences and which brings the tribute [00:01:00] to Casa Knuck. And it's called EA, which in Romanian means that traditional blouse.

But yeah it's a pretty awesome.

okay. So you're saying that this perfume, does it smell a little bit like clothes?

A little bit.

Okay. Interesting.

I think you need to like, send me the link to this so I can give it out as a gift to my sister-in-law and maybe my mother-in-law. I think they'll appreciate it.

yeah. Sure.

They're very, Procosa not okay. I'm very pro crypto.

Shh. When I have touched the first time I made the mistake of telling them that this was much better than Kozo not, I'm still in the family. But the look they gave me was, nah, no, it's not, but anyway.

Yeah. I was pretty surprised when I discovered this perfume, but yeah, I think it's a really awesome idea.

Okay. Second question. Does pineapple belong on PC?[00:02:00]

All right. Okay. I totally agree with you now. There are some people who like to put it on. They say that, it helps with the flavor. Maybe even digestion. I don't know why.


me neither, but I have a confession to make Eric I keep the ketchup in the fridge. So I listened Another podcast with with a founder from Vermont and you had this this really funny conversation about ketchup and it made me realize that I keep the ketchup in the fridge. And the reason for doing this is because I eat cold food.

I eat cold pizza. I always eat cold food somehow. And then it was it was an interesting, good discovery. I made about myself.

Yeah, it's so fully when I have my mother-in-law during the week, she comes over and stays with us. And so there's all these like little things that she does that I don't understand why. And that's why it's a question [00:03:00] on this podcast, like who puts ketchup in the fridge? And I'm discovering a lot of people would do.

Okay. I thought it was crazy, but a lot of you will do. Okay. So what was one of your favorite stories or. Or books or toys when you were growing up?

My, my favorite toy was a Barbie doll that I received on when I turned up, I think 10 years. Yeah. When I was 10 years old. And I really loved this this Barbie doll. I always used to dress her up and the considered her, my sister somehow. And yeah, she was she was present in my life for a very long time.

And actually she still is because now I gave this door to my to my daughter and Diana still plays with her and it's.

That is. Does she play with her and have like that emotional attachment that you did when you were younger?

Yeah. I told her that it was my favorite Dole And she treats her really well. She's really careful not to break anything or she [00:04:00] brushes her hair. Yeah. It's.

And that's very sweet. I don't think I have any toys back in the day that I could give my son, but I'm wishing I did cause that's very cool that you could see your son playing with something that you really share it when you were a kid. Very cool. Okay. So another question for you where are your, where were you from?

Where were you born?

I was born in Bucharest. Yeah. I was born in Bucharest. But my family comes from a more Dave. Yeah. Yeah. And my grandfather had some relatives in Greece because


My name before getting married was a Papa, Nico. Yeah, it was a very difficult childhood from this point of view because it was a difficult name to pronounce and teachers and my colleagues used to say, like the test Papa Nicola.

And I was no not like the dad it's different name, but Yeah

I used [00:05:00] to live in New York. And I always used to hear like the Dominicans and Puerto Rican say, oh yeah, poppy. So I'm just imagining if you were in a school, like in the Dominican, they would be saying, oh yeah, Papa.

Yeah. Better than be called after the test.


better. I think I would have preferred that.

Hey, when I see you in person, I'm just going to say, oh yeah, Papa. And you know what I'm coming from? Okay. Now, what would your parents say about raising you where they say, what would they say where you difficult, where you easy.

Oh actually I was raised by my grandparents. Yeah I really had a great childhood because they were really cool grandparents and everything I am today, I owe to them. And I was a pretty

At first in, in the beginning I was, I didn't make any troubles. I listened to them. I was rather shy when when I [00:06:00] was in, when I was in school. I remember it was we always had a lot of fun in the house, making jokes, planning, trips, going to theater, listening to music, and the way you did it was a great period for me then.

Wow. It sounds like they were great grandparents.


All right. All right. Okay. Let's imagine you're in the world's toughest race and this is like a real reality adventure travel show. Okay. And I'm wondering which person would you want to park? If you could partner with anybody in the world, maybe it's even a celebrity or an actress or a politician.

Anybody who would you want to partner with in this world's toughest race?

I would say Louis.

Okay. This is the F1 car racer, right?

Yeah. Yeah.

He's for a, yeah. He drives for a [00:07:00] Mercedes. Yeah.


Yeah. Because Because he's because he's a champion and because he knows about him, he knows a lot about resilience and the pressure and setting your goals and pushing limits. Yeah.

that's a very good choice. I saw this documentary. For him when he was younger and his dad made a lot of sacrifices so that he could race and they would show up with the crappiest go-kart, it was just crappy and people would look at them like you're really gonna race with that.

And I love it.


so much because it's not so much about the tool that you're using. I still play with the tennis racket. That's probably 15 or 20 years old. I haven't changed. My strings are like three or four years, but it's not so much about the tour. Great choice. So let's talk about, let's talk about some of the things that you've achieved or you've accomplished prior to epic visits.

And one of them was you co-founded fetish , [00:08:00] which was a museum of family life and communism. Can you tell us more about that? Why did you realize you wanted to create this.

It's more like a time capsule experience. It's not the museum because it recreates an authentic experience, but in a three room apartment, and actually it's the apartment in which I grew up. I spent there my 20 years of my life with my grandparents it was their house. It didn't belong to them.

At the beginning, I had the idea of organizing a communist dinner and authentic communist dinner in which travelers, especially foreigners could get a glimpse of the eighties and understand more about our history and about the legacy of the communism that is still present nowadays.

Whether we like it or not. Yeah.

Influenced us. And in the beginning I searched for other other locations, other other areas and [00:09:00] apartments where I could organize this this dinner. But one day I was in my grandparents house and decided. Popped into my head. Wow. What if I what if I use their story and create a concept using storytelling history and a little bit of entertainment to, to create like a mini museum, like a time capsule experience.

And my dad was living there at the time. And I told him about my idea and he said but are you sure it's gonna work? You're not in the city center. How are you going to bring all those all those visitors to, to your place? Are you sure You want to do that? And I said yes.

I'm pretty sure I wanna, I want to try. He agreed to move. And yeah. And yeah, I started I started working on on the project. I used Ferris, Troy car, actually a friend [00:10:00] gave me this idea of Ferris three car in Romanian means a small wheel.


And so Ferris Troy car was the concept that would invite people to, to open the window to the past. Yeah. And I found the historian I found the and other people that got involved in the project, donating staff and I worked with a set designer to recreate the atmosphere. We searched for a lot of pictures from my early childhood and before, so we could recreate the perfect setup and the whole process.

Of preparation lasted for about eight or nine months. And then we called some friends and they were like, oh my God, this is really like a time capsule. I get shivers on my hands. And it worked, in less than one [00:11:00] year, we ranked in top 10 museums in Bucharest, according to TripAdvisor we received.

Over 500 visitors from more than 20 countries especially Americans.


And it was a great experience.

What is so you said that there was people from many different countries where there are a lot of locals also visiting the apartment as well, like from the city and from other parts of

Our target audience W where the foreigners, especially Americans. Yeah. Because we were a little bit afraid about the about what locals might think about the project. And I'm not sure if you're aware, but in Romania there are two sides. One part of of the people thinks that Communist meant nothing but terror, horror and the end of discussion.


And the other part, things that CA communities had the, a lot of positive things that [00:12:00] they were coming as gave people jobs and so on. And so on. They're the.


We don't have a balance because we chose not to talk about communist, but communist means is such a subject of interest for for 49ers, especially for those who didn't have the chance to experience this regime.

What say long held belief about communism life that, that you disagree. It seems like there's two sides of the coin here, what people think, but because you saw a lot of foreigners and a lot of Americans what do you think their belief is about communism?

And it's something that you disagree.

All the visitors were open-minded when it comes to, when it comes to discovering more about about the communist regime and especially about the eighties, because we focus at fair historical in the eighties of family life in the eighties. And this is what I, why I chose [00:13:00] to.

The story of my family to make sure that it's an authentic, and it's a real story. And you cannot claim otherwise because it's our story with the good, the bad. Some some people, especially from the south end path of of America had this had a more positive idea of communism, especially since for some of them What happens nowadays and especially capitalism is not it's not the bright side of their life.

And so they tend to like EDL allies communist men, the R period, and say, oh, I'm sure it wasn't this bad because I heard the childcare school did a lot of good things and they give people jobs and it wasn't that bad. My colleague historian. Tries to put them in in the place of Romanian family and tells them about [00:14:00] the food rationalizing and all the restrictions and they tell them about and why the walls of the house were so thin.

Because neighbors were listening to you and they could report you to security and the lack of freedom, which was for now, for us now, it seems insane, but it was a reality.

yes, you couldn't leave the country. I remember watching a documentary where video tapes, like movie tapes were being smuggled in

yeah, the black market, we had the black. mark.

And there was a lady who became famous because she translated a lot of the the movies and people knew her voice. Yeah.

one. And we actually had fairly straight guy have have an extract from Terminator with her voice and the seeing Arnold Schwartzenegger with the voice of it's very hilarious. [00:15:00]

I wonder if that's on YouTube anywhere I should go look for that.

Yeah. Yeah. I can send you the, I can send you the extract it's there. It's really fine.

We'll include that in the show notes. Yeah. Yeah. Cause I've just heard about it. I haven't yeah, that would be funny. Imitating Arnoud I'll be back. Yeah. Okay. Now. Okay. So let's jump into traveling. I read something interesting that the most booked Airbnb in the world is like this little 100 square foot tree.

In California and thousands of people from all over the world booked this place several months in advance. It's a little Treehouse,


So that tells me, and, there's this huge demand for unique stays and experiences, so tell me a little bit about epic visits, what is it, what do you want the audience to know what it is and what you.

Actually we gained some insights from third striker because after fellow striker become, became successful we [00:16:00] knew it wasn't scalable. So we needed to come up with a, with another project. And we also gained various insights from our visitors. Such as well, it was really hard to find you because you weren't on Airbnb on booking.

Actually we were, but it was really hard for them to find. Because we had a different concept. We didn't offer just stays. We offered a whole experience and people are used to, when they search for stays on Airbnb, they are used to use some filters such as price being in the city center and so on which didn't put us into advantage there.

We've started gaining all these insights and all this feedback from visitors. Regarding what what problems they have when it comes to travel and when it comes to planning their trip. And we then started to do a [00:17:00] little market market research. And we discovered that travelers, especially millennials, and because this is the key audience are underserved when it comes to inspiration.

Of course, you have this booking platforms like Airbnb booking, Expedia which are great when you search for a low price and when you have some specific needs, but What do you search when you don't know what to search when you need inspiration, when you have all these needs and you have to make your own research, but Time is also a valuable resource, especially nowadays.

And you actually don't have time to spend on all these all these researches. So we we discovered that no, the travel industry or started from the stays experience. From the states part and then another segment experiences [00:18:00] was created. But now we are somewhere in between where people are not only searching for just stays or for just experiences.

They're searching for more transformational travel experiences. They are searching for journeys in which they can discover, try new things experience and get Valuable memories. And so this is where we, this is where we come in because we are a booking travel platform, a curated booking, travel platform.

And as you said, we combine stays and experiences, but basically we want to help people create their special getaways and holidays and journeys.

Yeah, I think it's really awesome. I told you earlier, I was looking for a place for a getaway outside Bucharest and I ended up just. It was almost like I was on Pinterest. I couldn't [00:19:00] leave your site. There was like a cool farm that I found there was this other, like unique house that looked like something you would see in a scientific or a science fiction magazine.

And I just couldn't believe like the number of unique stays that there are in Romania. So right now, are you focused specifically in a certain region of Romania or are you trying to focus on having these unique stays and experiences and the intensity.

We are focused on on the whole Romania, and we try to gather other unique stays, but the main focus for us right now is to Is to improve the product from the technical perspective. We know we have some barriers. We know we have to finish them mix and match configurator that will give you flexibility when you want to combine and create your own getaway.

So by the end of the year we want to focus on on the product is better.

okay. I think it's pretty awesome. And so [00:20:00] for people that can just go to epic visits dot aro, or is it epic visits?


Got it. Got it. All right. Kate, last question. What book or mentor has had a big influence on your life

Romanian or in general?

in general? It could just be, a book written by an author, somewhere outside of Romania, just in general.

I'd definitely say measure what matters by John Dover. He's the one promoting this framework of objectives, key results. And he has helped Google With this with this framework. And we actually use this framework in our team and we try to be very focused and established the key objectives and the big, hairy, audacious goals and the key results that will help us get there.

All right. Okay. We're looking at, thank you so much for being on the show. This has been a pleasure.

thank you, Eric. Yeah. it has been a pleasure for me. Fun conversation. [00:21:00]

Okay. And for everybody listening, we'll be back next week while river DETA.