I’m Sebastian, the creator of Travel Done Simple. As you can probably guess, traveling is one of my biggest passions, but it wasn’t always this way. Let’s go back to the start:
(FYI: this is a long one, so strap in!)
Act I - My first few years
I was born in a small town in Romania to Romanian parents who were looking to get out of the country and start a new life elsewhere. The country had recently had a revolution and gotten rid of communism, but it was still rebuilding so the economy wasn’t the greatest and they just wanted the best chance at life for their child, me!
Their first choice was France and my dad even got a work assignment there when I was a toddler, but it was only temporary and didn’t amount to a full-time opportunity and since Romania wasn’t a member of the EU at that time, there was no other way they could immigrate to France.
So they had to look into other countries. They sent in applications for permanent residency to three countries: Canada, Australia, and South Africa. They didn’t have a specific preference because they just decided to go for the one that got back to them first, which ended up being Canada!
Can you imagine if I would have been Australian or even South African? I’d have a much cooler accent 😛
They packed their bags soon after, selling all of their possessions and gathering all the money they could to start their new life in Canada. When it finally came time to go, they only had $10,000 with them and they were still learning English. I never really considered how brave they were to actually do this until much later in my life when I made my first move abroad on my own. In a way, it must have subconsciously inspired me!
Their flight was to Toronto which is where they initially decided to settle, but the moment they arrived, a friend of theirs from university who had already immigrated to Canada told them to go to Vancouver instead since the weather is not as cold there in the winters so after a few days, they got on another flight to Vancouver and the rest is history!
I was 3 years old when they made the move so picking up English was pretty easy. It didn’t take long for it to become my de facto first language and at a certain point in my life, I had almost forgotten Romanian completely! It wasn’t until I was in my last few years of high school that I decided that I didn’t want to lose the language so I made an effort to speak it as much as possible with my parents.
Act II - Growing up in Canada
Growing up, I was a pretty average kid with a love for video games and hockey (typical Canadian, I know), but traveling was never really an interest of mine.
My parents would take me on trips as I was growing up, usually back to Romania to visit family or on vacation to the US and Mexico, but traveling with my parents was never really that exciting. Of course, I enjoyed going to the beach and stuff, but as I grew older, traveling with them became less cool.
After I graduated from high school, I went to the University of British Columbia where I decided to study Sociology since I didn’t really know what else to study. In my first year, I needed to take another course because I was short one and I wanted to do something easy so I decided to take Italian 101. This decision ended up being the roots from which my wanderlust grew!
Italian was super easy to learn because it’s latin-based and so is Romanian (and also French which I learned in high school). There were even times where I just wrote down Romanian words when I was supposed to translate from English to Italian.
For example, meat in both Italian and Romanian is carne, bread is pane in Italian and paine in Romanian, and so on. Whenever I would be 1 letter off, I would still get 0.5 points meaning that I was able to pass most of the tests without even studying!
I really enjoyed that class and I ended up passing it with over 90%. I didn’t take it in my second semester, but after my first year, I decided that I wanted to minor in Italian because I liked it so much and I didn’t really have anything else to minor in anyways. To do that though, I needed to take Italian 102 in summer school, which I did.
In my second year, I decided to apply for the student exchange program. My parents were encouraging me to do it so I could broaden my horizons, but little did they know how much that decision would affect me afterwards. I wonder if they ever look back at it and wish they never convinced me to do it 😛
When I applied, I had to give a list of the top 3 partner universities that I wanted to do the exchange at. Since I was minoring in Italian, it only made sense to put an Italian university as #1, which I did. As #2 & #3, I put a university in Paris and one in Lausanne, Switzerland since I thought that if I was going to do an exchange, I might as well do it in another language.
I ended up getting accepted to my top choice so at the beginning of my third year, I was off to the University of Bologna!
Act III - My first taste of living abroad in Italy
This was my first time ever traveling abroad solo, let alone moving to another country! All I really knew about Bologna was that it’s something you put on sandwiches so I was really going in blind. It turns out that apart from going great with mustard, it’s also the top student city in Italy and where my passion for traveling ended up starting!
It was a totally different experience to university in Canada. The university there isn’t on a campus outside the city, it’s literally part of the city center. Each faculty has a different building in a different part of the city so to go from one class to the next, sometimes I had to cross the city center to get there!
It was also much easier academically because there were no quizzes, assignments, essays, or midterms during the semester. My grade for each class was based on one final exam per class, but here’s the kicker: they were oral exams, meaning that all I had to do was have a conversation with the professor about the course material and they would give me a grade based on my knowledge of it.
This was not reserved only for foreign exchange students, every Italian student also had the same course and exam structure, but the difference is that professors were much more lenient towards the foreign students.
Here’s how it worked: if you were a foreign exchange student, you would automatically pass as long as you showed up to the final. If you were able to speak Italian decently, you would get a B. If you were able to speak Italian decently and also made an effort to study the course material, then you would get an A, regardless of how well you knew it!
This meant that I could slack off during the semester and just devote one week before each exam to study the course material, which is exactly what I did. It was pretty easy to do since the student life in Bologna was also top-notch.
The student life was totally new to me. Rather than some kind of student housing, most students lived in shared apartments in the city center. Everyone was within walking distance to their classes, each other, and all the bars and clubs in the city.
This made it super easy to socialize and make friends. Add in a great foreign exchange student organization called ESN Bologna that organized events and trips for foreign exchange students, and I was having the time of my life.
It was also the first time I ever did a solo backpacking trip as well. In my last month there, I decided to do a mini eurotrip all on my own for a month which was extremely nerve-wracking.
I started in Manchester, made my way up to Edinburgh, then Belfast, then Dublin and London. After that, I went over to Amsterdam to celebrate my birthday, then Brussels, then Cologne, Stuttgart, and Munich before returning to Bologna to catch my flight home to Vancouver.
My year in Bologna truly was the highlight of my life up to that point. I was partying every week, meeting so many awesome people, learning about so many different cultures, and traveling all over the continent! I didn’t want it to end, but alas, I had to go back home to finish my degree.
By the end of my time there, I made so many international friends, traveled all over Italy and Europe, became fluent in Italian (and improved my French), and got hooked on life outside of Canada!
Act IV - The post-exchange blues back home
Coming back home was a bit of a shock for me. I went from having the time of my life in another part of the world to returning to a very average life back home. I suddenly felt out of place being in the city that I grew up in.
I had finally discovered that my real passions were languages, traveling, and discovering new cultures, and being in Vancouver meant that I was not able to fulfill them so I made it my goal to return to Europe as soon as possible.
I still had a degree to finish though, so I spent my 4th year finishing up all my classes at university. I made a lot of German friends in Italy and that influenced me to start learning German so I took a German course as well with the plan that I would move to Germany once I graduated.
I wasn’t able to graduate after my 4th year because the credits I earned in Italy did not transfer over correctly and I was missing 1 credit to be able to graduate so I had to do another semester.
Before I started my final semester, I wanted to get a business internship to earn a bit of money and gain some professional experience since I was about to graduate with a sociology degree and I had no idea how I was going to make it to Europe again. I applied to many different internships that I found online, but most of them never got back to me and the ones that did just sent me an automated rejection letter.
At the same time, I was trying to keep my language skills sharp by going to meetup events dedicated to different languages throughout the city. I was going to French, Italian, and multilingual events, but it was a French one that gave me the opportunity I was looking for.
I went to this meetup not expecting anything more than a chance to practice my French, but I ended up meeting a guy who was the vice president of a new division at a major telecommunications company in Canada.
I immediately recognized the chance I was being given so I did my best to present myself well and when I told him that I was looking for a business internship, he immediately said “I’ll hire you”. That day I learned just how important networking and connections were. We spent the rest of the evening drinking and bar-hopping because his French was non-existent so staying at the meetup wasn’t an option.
Once I started the job a month later, I realized that I would make enough money to be able to move to Europe again and I was so excited about this that I decided to book my flight 7 months in advance! I initially wanted to leave right after my last final exam, but my mother didn’t want me to miss my graduation ceremony so I ended up booking the flight for 2 days after the ceremony.
I originally just booked a flight to London because it’s the cheapest city I could fly to in Europe from Vancouver with the intention to book another flight from there to the actual country I wanted to move to.
I also initially thought that it would be Germany, but in the meantime I changed my mind and decided to go with Spain instead because the weather is better and it’s cheaper to live there too. I enrolled in some Spanish classes at home outside the university to get a base for the language.
I then spent the rest of the year working the internship in marketing and product management, saving as much money as possible, learning Spanish, and getting that last credit so I could graduate.
A month before I was set to leave, I got the idea to ask my boss if I could continue doing my job remotely while I was abroad and to my surprise, he agreed! The team I worked with was based in Toronto so I was working remotely already, all that would change is the time zone that I would be working in.
So once I graduated, I got on the plane to Europe and started another chapter in my life.
Act V - A taste of the digital nomad lifestyle in Spain
Since I wanted to make the most of the summer, I decided not to settle in a city until the fall so I opted to do some backpacking around Spain instead. I had a friend that I made during my time in Italy that lived in Barcelona and he was generous enough to let me keep my stuff at his place as I traveled around the country, coming back every few weeks to rest and wash my clothes.
I partook in memorable events like the Haro Wine Fight, La Tomatina, and the Running of the Bulls and visited so many amazing places in the country. This is also when I took a stab at vlogging, but I was so focused on living in the moment that I never got around to actually editing the vlogs I filmed.
Since I had taken some Spanish classes back home before I left, I had no trouble getting around and by the time I settled in a city, I was already conversationally fluent!
Once it came around to picking a city to settle in, I was initially going to go with Valencia, but I ended up changing my mind and going with Seville instead. I wanted a city that wasn’t too big, but not too small and Seville stole my heart from the first day I set foot in it.
I still believe that it is the most beautiful city in Spain and I highly recommend it to everyone. And since I am an EU citizen, I didn’t have to get a visa to move there!
I enrolled in advanced Spanish classes for foreigners at a local language school and got myself an apartment to work from. I essentially became a digital nomad without even realizing it. I also wanted to meet other people so I started to mingle with foreign exchange students since they were in a similar position as me (solo in a new country) and before I knew it, I was living the same life I had in Italy.
My Spanish classes were flexible and let me show up on whichever days I wanted so I could go away for weeks at a time and come back without losing out on any classes, which is exactly what I did. The school was called Sevilla Habla in case you’re wondering and if you choose to enroll in classes there, say hi to Pablo for me! They helped me become completely fluent in Spanish.
I ended up living two lives: one of a digital nomad in Seville and another of a traveler exploring Europe. I would spend two weeks in Seville and then two weeks traveling meaning I would never get bored!
I did this until the summer which is when the heat in Seville becomes unbearable and most of the foreign exchange students leave anyway. In my travels, I visited the Sahara desert in Morocco which was awe-inspiring, learned to surf in Portugal (not very well though), and did so much more.
My work contract didn’t get renewed when it expired halfway through my time there because they kinda realized that it was a bit silly for a Canadian telecommunications company to be paying an intern who was living in Spain, a country where they had no foothold whatsoever. So once the summer rolled around, I realized that I needed to get another job to continue living this lifestyle.
I also made some more German friends during my time in Spain so I decided that it was time to give Germany a try. I tried to apply to some jobs and even got an interview for one in Dusseldorf, but it was connections once again that ended up getting me a project management job for an IT company in Munich which is where I really wanted to be anyway.
So after a few more months of backpacking around Europe during the summer, I made the move to Munich.
Act VI - Taking a real job in Germany
Since I arrived in the fall again, I was able to take part in one of the most famous festivals in the world, Oktoberfest! I bought some inexpensive lederhosen and drank beer to my heart’s content. I had already been to Oktoberfest before so it wasn’t my first time, but it was just as fun. Germans have a reputation for being a cold bunch, but put a beer in their hand and they suddenly turn into the warmest and friendliest people you can imagine!
Since the job I took in Germany was a local one and would not let me travel for weeks at a time, I had to take a more settled down approach. I made both local and foreign friends and created a little life for myself in Munich.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t travel though! At every opportunity I got, I made a trip somewhere else. I also got 30 days of paid vacation and you can bet that I used them all!
Anytime there was a bank holiday or some kind of festival, I would take a few days off to make it a longer trip. And even if there weren’t any holidays, I would still do day trips to nearby destinations on weekends. I traveled as much as possible, taking advantage of the fact that there were so many great destinations around me. I visited pretty much all of Germany during my time there.
I also tried to do as many business trips as possible to combine work and travel. I was sent to Nice, France to visit our office and team there, Madrid to visit the headquarters of the company, and Berlin for a project management conference. I was often able to combine these business trips with a few days to myself in other destinations as well which extended my travel time even more!
I was also taking German classes in the meantime, but this language was a whole new beast to me. Whereas Italian and Spanish are other Latin-based languages meaning that I could rely on my knowledge of Romanian and French to give myself a good base to learn those languages with, German is a Germanic-based language and the only language I was able to draw from for a base was English which is also semi Germanic-based, but trust me, it doesn’t feel like it when learning German.
Some German vocabulary is similar to English vocabulary (beer = bier, house = haus, etc.), but most of it is incomprehensible (pen = kugelschreiber, science = naturwissenschaften, etc.). Add in complicated grammar with 3 genders, 4 cases, and what seems like a million different case endings, and I met my match.
I am able to understand a good amount of what is said and have a basic conversation, but I was not able to become fluent after living there, even with classes.
After a year in Munich, even though I was making some decent money and was given ample time to travel as a result of my job, I was not satisfied there. I could have started my professional career with that company, but I decided that I was not ready for that yet and chose to leave Germany to start another chapter in my life, the backpacking one.
Act VII - Becoming a real backpacker
As soon as my work contract ended, I got on a bus and started a month-long backpacking trip through the Balkans, beginning in Slovenia. I worked my way through Croatia down to Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. It was quite refreshing to be on the move again after spending a year settled in one city and I saw some really beautiful places.
The Balkans is an amazing part of Europe that is often overlooked by people. Lake Bled in Slovenia is absolutely stunning, the Croatian coast is beautiful, Montenegro is a hidden paradise, Albania has some really good food, Kosovo is super friendly, and Macedonia and Bulgaria are super cheap to visit. I highly recommend making a trip to this part of the world!
After visiting Bulgaria, I went back home for 2 months to spend Christmas with my family and recover after my year in Germany since it was a bit overwhelming. I took some time to relax, meet up with old friends, and prepare for my next trip which was going to be a 4 month-long backpacking trip through Southeast Asia!
This was going to be my first time outside of North America or Europe (not including Morocco and the Caribbean) and also the longest backpacking trip I will have ever done so a lot of it was new to me. I bought a travel backpack for the first time and officially became a backpacker.
I started my trip in Hong Kong since it was the cheapest destination in Asia for me to fly to and also visited Macau while I was there. It was pretty cool being able to eat Portuguese pastel de nata in Asia which is still my favourite pastry to this day.
My first Southeast Asian destination was Singapore. It was my first time trying the controversial durian which I cannot say I particularly enjoyed, but it had to be done!
I then worked my way up the west coast of Malaysia, my favourite destination there being Langkawi. Not many people talk about Malaysia, but it has some hidden gems and the people there are the friendliest I have ever met in my travels!
I then took a ferry to Koh Lipe in Thailand and started a 6 week trip exploring the whole country. Some highlights include learning to scuba dive in Koh Tao, partying at the Full Moon Festival in Koh Phangan, exploring the nightlife in Bangkok, and hanging out with elephants in Chiang Mai! Thailand has so much to offer and is my favourite destination in Southeast Asia for sure.
I then took a night bus from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang in Laos which was an experience in and of itself. I traversed the whole country from north to south, the highlights of which include tubing down the river and trying a mushroom shake for the first time in Vang Vieng, renting a scooter and exploring the Pakse region, and relaxing on the Thousand Islands on the southern border with Cambodia.
Crossing into Cambodia, I visited the famous Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, raced a scooter on an abandoned airport runway in Battambang, learned about Cambodia’s dark history in Phnom Penh, hung out in Kampot, a backpacker favourite, and enjoyed the tranquility of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia’s version of tropical islands.
Afterwards, I went to Vietnam which I explored from south to north starting in Ho Chi Minh City. I went up to Da Lat which is like a Swiss town in the middle of Vietnam, Nha Trang which is full of Russian tourists, Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An which are three super cool cities right next to each other, Phong Nha where I explored some caves, Ninh Binh which is like the land version of Ha Long Bay, then the bay itself, and finally Hanoi where I stood against a wall with a beer in my hand as a train passed right in front of me.
After a few months on the road, I was getting a bit tired and I decided I wanted to do something where I would stay in one place so I chose to volunteer at a party hostel in Thailand for 2 months. I worked at Bodega hostels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, being a party host and making sure people were having a good time which was super fun, but also super exhausting. Bodega is easily the best hostel chain in Southeast Asia by the way!
When I finished my 2nd month at Bodega, I decided to book a flight home after 2 more weeks exploring the east coast of Malaysia this time and taking an advanced scuba diving course. I took a flight back home from Singapore and started the current chapter of my life.
Act VIII - COVID changes everything
I realized that it was time to get a real job again, not only to make some more money, but also to advance my professional career. However, employers seemed to start to catch on to the fact that I probably wasn’t going to stick around longer than a year and weren’t giving me a chance, even ones that I had connections for. And even though I had experience in marketing, product management, and project management, I wasn’t getting callbacks.
I took it as a sign that it was time for me to stop relying on getting jobs for income and instead to work on building something for myself that I could do from anywhere. Since coming back home, I tried to work on a few different projects, from lead generation to e-commerce, and this website.
Some of my endeavours never worked out, but I was making good progress on this website! At least, until the coronavirus hit in March of 2020 and all hope I had of launching it and traveling over the summer was lost.
To add insult to injury, I also went through a gut-wrenching breakup before the lockdown started which really messed me up emotionally. And since I had been on the road for so long, all I really had back home was my family and not much else.
This brought me to one of the lowest points in my life, if not the lowest that I had ever experienced. Never had I ever felt so lost and alone in my life than during that time.
Times were really tough for me and I know I’m not the only one who had it rough as a result of COVID-19, but it sure felt like it at times. However, I tried to distract myself from it all by making the most of all the free time I had to really dedicate myself to this website and fine-tune it as much as I could, preparing it for an eventual launch in July 2020.
After launching the website, I felt really empty as I had no other project to work on at the time. This made me realize that my dream of making my own income was still a bit of a pipe dream and that I should re-enter the workforce again if I wanted to get out of this hole I was in, so I started looking for jobs again.
Initially I was looking for jobs in Europe as I just wanted to get away from Vancouver as soon as I could, but I was experiencing the same issues in my job search as I was when I got back from Southeast Asia. Luckily however, a former colleague of mine from that telecommunications company I worked for before I left for Spain got in touch with me and told me she was looking to hire someone on her team.
It was truly a saving grace for me and it couldn’t have come at a better time because even though it would limit me to staying in Canada, it still gave me the opportunity to re-gain all the hope I had lost. Plus, there is a lot of Canada that I still haven’t seen so I saw it as an opportunity to explore the country I grew up in.
My mind began to race with ideas for how I could take advantage of the fact that my boss would let me work from anywhere in Canada and I decided that the best way would be to work from everywhere in Canada. I would travel across the country, spending at least a month in each province on the way and experiencing everything that my country has to offer!
However, COVID was making this idea a little complicated so I chose to delay the trip to 2021 and spend some time in another part of my own province (BC) for the rest of 2020 instead. After comparing all of my options, I decided that the best place for me to go to was the Kootenay region of BC, which is the mountainous region between the Okanagan and Alberta.
I initially planned to spend the rest of 2020 in Nelson, but after a month there, I decided to split my time between that city and Revelstoke after I read some more about Revy and thought that I would enjoy spending more than just a weekend there. I was definitely right about that too!
It was a much-needed escape that helped me reset and rebuild my confidence. It was also good training for my cross-country trip that I was planning to do in 2021. I made some great friends, saw some beautiful sights, and did some awesome things!
If you’d like to read more about the Kootenays and my experience there, check out my blog post titled “What it’s like to live in the Kootenays (BC, Canada)”.
Where am I now?
At the moment, I am on my cross-country trip! This post will be updated as I traverse the country, but if you like my story and you find value in my work, your support would be most welcome!
If you’d like to help, there are three ways you can do that:
The first is to share my website, guides, and posts with your friends! Every guide and post on the website will have a share button for you to spread the word to your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Email.
The second is to follow me on social media and join the official Facebook group! I will be posting content on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube as well as talking directly with you about everything to do with traveling in the official Travel Done Simple Facebook group.
The third is to buy me a coffee, help cover the costs of running this website, or even help pay for my next flight ticket!
You decide how much to support me with and every little bit helps.
The best way you can donate is by becoming a patron of mine on Patreon.
However, if you prefer a one-time gift, you can also send a donation via Ko-Fi.com or send bitcoin to the following wallet:
However you choose to support me, just know that it is greatly appreciated!
This post will get updated as time goes on and there are new developments in my life, but let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed my story so far!
And if you’d like to hear more about a specific part of my life, let me know and maybe I’ll make another blog post about it 🙂