At first, Damon Dominique and Jo Franco seem like typical Millennials: they’re bubbly, goofy, obsessed with travel, and love a good Azealia Banks song. But once you start learning more about them, you’ll realize that they’re anything but. For starters, they know five languages… Each. They pursued their dreams of disrupting the travel television industry… As college kids. And now they hope to inspire their quickly growing audience to, well, shut up and go.
“Our channel is different from your standard travel show because we show what’s real,” The duo said. “Our motto is Shut Up and Go, and we encourage people to stop making excuses and start living their dream lives.”
And they really don’t take any excuses. For every reason someone could make an excuse to not fulfil their travel dreams, they seem to have a doable solution. If you really want to travel, they suggest, you’ll find a way to do it – some way, somehow.
“There are always options; you just have to reverse engineer your life, and find the best solutions to make it happen,” Jo explained.
And that sort of mindset is exactly what their 626,000 YouTube subscribers love most about them – they don’t see the world in terms of unattainable dreams. They truly believe that life is about making the most of their time here… And they inspire their viewers to do the same.
Once they’ve drawn people in with their hilarious antics and truly unique take on travel, most people want to know: how did this dynamic duo come to be? The two of them met in college in NYC. They soon hit it off because of their shared love of language. But they took their partnership to the next level when they studied abroad together in Paris – and began to realize their dream to start a travel show.
“It’s been about six years since we met, and we now travel for a living, and each speak five languages,” They told us. “What’s best is that we get to inspire other people to do the same.”
Their story is a testament to their mantra: if you want to travel badly enough, you’ll find a way. They wanted to travel and they found a way to make it their reality. At the time, they were broke college students, making videos about getting around Europe on the cheap. Now, their job is to travel and people look to them for advice on anything ranging from how to pronounce that damn French “r” to carry-on must-haves to advice on living life to the fullest. Mostly, they look to inspire their audience to widen their worldview through travel.
“The fear of complacency is greater than the fear of leaving our comfort zones,” The pair said. “To us, it’s part of the excitement. You can’t grow as a person by always being comfy.”
Just a couple months ago, Damon and Jo were faced with one of their biggest travel challenges yet. They were spending time in Brasil, Jo’s home country, to celebrate Carnival. An attempted car robbery left Jo with a souvenir she’ll never forget: in the form of a bullet to the back. The bullet lodged innocuously in the muscle tissue directly next to her spine.
“While yes, that is a terrible thing that happened that could’ve ended in so many ways, it was also an opportunity to share with the world how fragile life is,” Jo said. “I would never let an accident like that inhibit me from living the life I’ve always wanted to live. We take these trials and tribulations and turn them into triumphs.”
This sort of tenacity and brightness of spirit is another key reason why their viewers love the pair so much: they don’t view travel as a thing that can be all planned out, but a thing that’s ever-changing, sometimes chaotic, but always rewarding.
“I think we have enough travel fails to write several books,” They said. “We don’t see them as fails though, just moments to learn what NOT to do, or how to handle a stressful situation with smiles.”
One of the things that they are most passionate about is the idea that everyone should travel — even if it’s just outside of your own comfortable bubble.
“When you’re out of your comfort zone and meeting people from all around the world, everything you’ve ever known is questioned, which in turn, makes you question what you value, and what you don’t value, and if the country or city you live in (or friend group even) corresponds to the way you want to live the rest of your life,” Jo said about the importance of getting outside of your comfort zone.
Beyond just getting outside of your comfort zone, though, the two are especially passionate about the benefits of international travel.
“I remember taking a class while studying abroad in Paris on American Civilization, but in French and from a French perspective,” Damon reflected. “It became my favorite class of my entire college career – when you grow up learning American history from an American perspective, you only hear one side of the story. French students asked questions I had never heard American students ask – and I would have never had that experience if I hadn’t studied abroad.”
Their travel experience is different than most professional travelers’ because they can go to French-, Portuguese-, English-, Spanish-, Italian-, and German-speaking countries and actually speak the language with locals.
“Every time you learn a new language, you’re seeing the world through a new lens due to the fact you’ll understand and use expressions you didn’t even know existed before,” They said. “Humor, affection, leadership, it’s all different in each language.”
But of course, even knowing as many as six languages between the two of them leaves out a ton of international dialects, which definitely makes travel to those locales much different.
“Traveling to a country where everything is foreign to you, including the language, makes it a lot more of an adventure, for better or worse,” The duo said. Then, taking their constantly optimistic outlook, they added, “The key is to know you’re going to be vulnerable, but to not be afraid; the more mistakes you make, the faster you learn.”
The most important thing to the pair is that people are following their travel dreams regardless of the barriers that seem to be there. For anyone that tries to make up excuses, they have just four words:
“Shut up and go.”