Have you ever dreamed about traveling the world, and then promptly talked yourself right back out of it? If you have ever convinced yourself that you didn’t have the money, motivation, or general know-how to get yourself on the road, you likely haven’t met Damon Dominique and Jo Franco. These millennial friends and travel duo decided that the saying “shut up and go” was going to silence all of their worries about wandering the world: and they turned it into a successful YouTube and blog career.
Now, Damon and Jo have launched their very own e-book, titled Woke, which can be read in 12 minutes yet shares the motivational messages you need to follow your own passions – whether they’re travel or anything else you dream of pursuing in life. Celeb Secrets caught up with the friends to find out how they translated their love for travel into an empire they hope to inspire all young people with. Check out our exclusive, in-depth Q&A with Damon and Jo below.
Celeb Secrets: Can you tell us about your new book Woke and the inspiration behind it?
DAMON: We have a travel vlog which is pretty motivational in our whole motto and career, “shut up and go.” So while we do travel stuff, we also have this motivation angle. We wanted to write a book that was kind of a collection of all our crazy ideas and so we thought we’d pin it all together in a book called Woke. Also, the idea behind it was just like you could have – especially here in LA, everyone’s on some type of detox or or juice cleanse or they’re going to the gym five days a week – and we thought what about the people who need a push in the right direction, a kick in the butt. We wanted to give them a book called Woke.
JO: Just to pump it up. With Woke, we travel the world. As people who travel, we don’t travel just for the luxury, we don’t even travel for the luxury period. We’ve always done these get-in-the dirt, and with that came a lot of life experiences. Eye-opening moments that we are fortunate to have had and grasp on and when we look back at our lives, yeah we’re only 25, but it seems like we’ve been able to experience a lot of things that people our age or even older people haven’t opened their eyes to see. We just wanted to digest all of the life lessons and kind of package it in a small way so that it’s easy and digestible and not so overwhelming like a 300-page self-help book.
DAMON: Yeah the idea for the book is more like I was saying earlier: a detox. You can read it obviously in one read-through, or you can just spread it out through the entire day. You’re supposed to read 1 minute per hour, and each hour is broken down in a way that’s kind of like youreday’s broken down. So, 7:30 am you wake up – and that’s literal and metaphorical – so 7:30 you’re waking up to your day but you’re also waking up to, “okay this is another day and I’m here on Earth, what does that actually mean to my life and what I wanna be doing? Am I just going to college because that’s what everyone told me to do, or am I going to college because I actually want to be here?”
Celeb Secrets: How did you come up with the book title, and why do you think the title is so important to teens today?
JO: Well we were going back and forth, we’re two people so that also makes the e-book a little bit interesting. We had to co-write it which means we had to put both of our thoughts in a format that makes sense and so at first we were gonna name it something like “The Only Self Help Book You Can Read In 12 Hours,” then we’re like, wait it doesn’t take 12 hours!
The concept is that each hour you’re reading something that should kind of help you reflect on the hour you’re about to experience. Then we’re like okay well let’s look at what the book is about and the way we broke it own was each hour in the day you’re – something in that hour is making you think a bit differently but that entry of woke is supposed to wake you up even if it is at 4pm like are you awake and that;s when woke happened. So that is kind of the reason we chose the title, and it was a good way to organize our thoughts in a format that makes sense with a 12-hour day and how people are kind of zombie-ing through everyday.
What would happen if you lived a day fully awake?
Celeb Secrets: Did you have any challenges while making the book? If so, how did you overcome them?
DAMON: I think Jo and I are pretty similar but were also very different. So we have a travel vlog and motivation blog and our voices are similar but when you try to pair two voices and put them into one book I thought would be challenging to make it a brief through. So I think we were challenged with that but I mean were pretty good with working together in any aspect.
JO: I think that actually adds to the book, the fact that there are two writers, there are two voices but we both have the similar motto. That’s why Damon and Jo is unique because it’s not just a Damon and it’s not just a Jo there are millions of just Damon’s and just Jo’s but…
DAMON: Unique? I don’t know what you’re talking about.
JO: Boy what are you talking about? We help each other and mash our voices, and mash our style even in video form. In blog form, it’s a similar effect where you have something you relate to: whether it’s me or Damon, whether it’s the fact that we’re best friends, whether it’s what we’re saying. It gives the reader more to grasp onto. The reason why we made it so that each chapter was an alternating writer was to kind of solve that problem. At first, we were like, “how are we gonna write the same book, like I don’t wanna edit what Damon is saying he doesn’t want to edit what I’m saying.” And that’s why we gave each other the creative freedom to write the full chapter so the only thing that we really had to do was come up with the spine and the topic and then when it came down to writing each chapter we were on our own until the very end we re-read each others chapters, edited it like four to five times. It’s cool to see like, “oh that’s how he would take that topic, and that’s how I would express this idea.”
Celeb Secrets: You are known for traveling a lot. Where was your favorite place to visit?
DAMON: Oh this is always such a difficult question because obviously as travelers, we love so many different parts of different countries but…
JO: We’re two different people, even though some people don’t even know that we are, but I think our favorite is our trip to Thailand and the reason why was because it was spontaneous and so like – we didn’t do the package tours, we didn’t do the big tourist attractions and that’s so Damon and Jo like it speaks to how we are as travelers.
You know you see a lot of these travel shows and they show the top 10 best things to do and we were there, we were like getting lost in the middle of forests making videos about something that always happens when you travel but no one really shows it. You go out with the intention of seeing this beautiful beach and then you end up not seeing it at all and you end up at a viewpoint that truly is beautiful and so we kind of filmed 27 videos of that journey of us just exploring Thailand. We did everything from going to into waterfalls to taking up a tiny motor bike that couldn’t even hold both of our weights on the mountain so I would have to get off of the motorbike so Damon could go uphill. So that is straight up Damon and Jo and till this day we’re like, we need another Thailand travel vlog just living an adventure.
DAMON: Absolutely! And as humans we’re constantly trying to highlight the stories that are great, but then also that are not so great. I remember we have a few episodes or YouTube videos up on our channel now where I have this huge skin rash on my neck, and so Jo and I go to the Red Cross pharmacy just to try to get it figured out. That’s something you don’t see anywhere else. You don’t see two travel hosts I guess you could call us…
JO: Keeping it so real.
DAMON: Yeah so real. Things don’t always go the way you plan them to but you can still have a good time and it’s still worthy of your trip.
JO: And it’s so funny, because there’s lots of people who travel, and these things happen all the time. Like you get robbed, you get sick, you get rashes, you’re hungry, you’re sweaty, and other things that we have no problem exposing. Which I think is really cool, because it removes this layer of superficial vibe that a lot of travelers carry. The beautiful Instagram picture. There are thousands of accounts dedicated towards, you know, the most beautiful island. But that’s not us. We’re the kind of people that are gonna show you if we can get sick, if we can laugh about it we can solve problems – and you can too. And should because it will expand your mind and your life experience which that’s what we stand for, and “shut up and go” is for that.
DAMON: Damon and Jo we are two travel personalities: we’re very goofy, we’re a goofy duo, but we never could relate to any travel shows that were on television when we were growing up. It felt like there was always this void of people. It was like you were either rich and you had the money to travel, or you look one certain way. But we always saw that there was this void in the travel industry and we wanted to change that. We knew that there were people that were backpacking across Europe. We knew that people are studying in language schools, and when Jo and I studied abroad in Paris…
JO: With no money, by the way.
DAMON: With zero money. We started finding out that there are all these cheap flights and free things to do and we wanted to make a YouTube channel about it.
JO: We realized a lot of it was the fear, especially the american culture of just stepping outside of your comfort zone and so before we even met, we met on a Facebook group before going to college in New York. We came from different towns, Damon’s from Indiana, I’m from a small town in Connecticut, and so when we met it was these two kids who literally had no reason to want to travel because everything in our lives was against the idea of travel. So we both had this profound passion of learning languages.
We’re shutting up and going and it’s better than shutting up and staying.
That’s how we became friends: we were both interested in studying French in college and then when we met in person in New York City, the most expensive city, we somehow found these small adventures, we would take these huge buses to Baltimore. Like who’s going to Baltimore? We are! Because we’re shutting up and going and it’s better than shutting up and staying. Then we took it to the next level when we both studied in Paris, again with no money.
And that’s what it really became “shut up and go,” because we realized it’s possible. We don’t have trust funds, we don’t even have money being put into our accounts, but what we do have is a brain, we have the internet, and we can google the cheapest flights to Barcelona and we can see what it’s like to live in a 25-person bed household and which we still do today. We still stay in houses. We still walk around in our little flip flops and shower cap to the bathroom, and it gives more to the experience. There are other people doing this in the world so why can’t we bring that as we do today.
DAMON: [Friends] would ask us, you know, “Damon and Jo we know you’re so broke, how are you guys doing this?” That we knew if our friends and family were asking that then there are probably thousands of other people in the world, millions, billions of people in the world wondering how to do the same thing were doing and so we wanted to influence people to go out and live their best life.
JO: So what it really turns out to is if you think about what it takes to create a YouTube channel, it takes a lot of consistency. So if you’re creating a travel channel the biggest problem is money. Because regular YouTubers can just sit in front of their computers and cameras and just vlog. We were vlogging on trips and on our own adventures.
So in the very beginning, it was as many odd jobs we can find to work and have a flexible enough schedule while in college to travel. Somehow we stayed afloat, and we did that for about 4 years with all of these television executives telling us at the time young people aren’t traveling. We believed in it so much that it became part of our lifestyle, we didn’t want to stop. Even if you say that it’s not gonna work. This is how each of us want to live our lives and so basically no-brainer for us, but then we believed that other people really did want to travel the world and young people were interested in the things that we were doing and here we are making a full-time living on all of this 5 years later.
DAMON: Yeah and the best part is getting emails daily or Instagram DMs of people who have literally taken a trip or have started learning a language because they watched our videos on YouTube, and that is exactly what I want executives out there to know or even anyone reading Celeb Secrets even just that there’s always been this void of people not feeling this travel industry or not feeling the faith in the travel industry and I feel like that’s Damon and Jo we are filling that.
By no means were no gurus, were no spiritual leaders but we are people who want to think outside the box organically.
JO: It’s not even just with Woke, if you read it it has nothing to do with travel. On this topic of Instagram DMs, yesterday I was looking through my messages and I received a message from this girl who read one of the motivational blogs that I posted because on our site. It became more motivation than travel of course, you have your travel guide, and you have trip stories and things like that but we definitely saw ourselves more full-blown motivational people like we can go out alone and it has nothing to do with travel and somehow well come back with a life lesson.
This girl messaged me and she was like, “Jo I read your story about having been shot and it was so motivating because I’ve gone through things in my life and I never saw the way that you explained it,” and with Woke, it was similar people were like I never saw a 4pm chapter or a 2pm chapter the way that you guys described it, and I think that’s really powerful that we can just not only from travel and inspiring people to travel but we can inspire people to kind of zoom out the same way we constantly train ourselves to zoom out. By no means were no gurus, were no spiritual leaders but we are people who want to think outside the box organically an so it was nice to be able to put all of those thoughts in a book and to be able to put those thoughts onto blogs and videos every single day.
DAMON: We just wan to make it accessible to everybody.
— instantdotme (@instantdotme) September 25, 2017
Celeb Secrets: What are your travel essentials?
JO: I always have to go with the granny sweater because it doubles as a towel, it doubles as a blanket, it doubles as a pillow and it doubles as a neck brace too. When you’re on airplanes you just fold it up, I feel like that is you can make as many multi-functional items in your bag as possible.
DAMON: There’s always one that we used to say but we would always recommend people to take a tennis ball because its something that’s really small you can fit it in your backpack and when you’re walking miles and miles and miles uphill the thing you really want it a foot massage and so if you have a little tennis ball or any kind of little ball in your backpack.
JO: For your back too, your back muscles. Travel = painful sometimes.
DAMON: It’s one of those things that costs little money and its something that has big benefits too.
JO: Another thing you will never find us without is a water bottle, because we are always always always drinking water. When you go through airport security you gotta make sure that water bottle is empty, because after you get past security you can refill it and that saves you so much money. Airport water is like $7! Too expensive and you gotta stay hydrated.
Celeb Secrets: Dos and Don’ts when it comes to packing?
DAMON: We pack differently. My do is to lay out all of your shirts together and then fold the sleeves together instead of just folding each piece of clothing individually because you’ll save your space.
JO: We change it up sometimes. Now we have like 3 seconds to pack, so sometimes you just throw everything in there. But I’ve mastered out a strategic plan with planning outfits and making sure that in my carry-on I have at least two spare outfits with underwear. We’ve had some bad moments where like we went to Venice, Italy a few months ago and they lost our bags and we were there for an event and i had to be in the same dirty clothes for like 48 hours. Which airplane clothes? You already wanna burn them the minute you get off the plane. That was how I learned my lesson of always prepping for luggage being lost.
Celeb Secrets: What is the greatest memory you’ve shared together?
DAMON: That like asking a married couple – we’re not married by the way – but we always joke that we’ve been on so many honeymoons together. We’ve seen beautiful things and I mean that’s really the whole point showing people that what we do is actually possible.
JO: For some reason one of the memories that comes to mind is the day that we went hiking. We took this bus. We were in France and we took this public bus to this area because we had Googled what a calok was and a calok was like a rock formation by the ocean and so here you have two kids walking in the middle of a desert until we get to the border of a humongous cliff and we look down and its nothing but blue clear water.
DAMON: Crystal clear.
JO: And we’re like, were gonna get down there, and so of course were still hiking this tiny very dangerous trail called Pias Dombe which literally means failing rock and we were like, okay let’s go see it. We climb down this beautiful mountainside and we get to the bottom of this water Â – and this is all on video by the way – and we just go into the freezing ocean and that was one of the best moments because nobody – it wasn’t a guided tour or never somebody who really told us it was just straight up we wanted to go, we found a cheap way to do it and we went and we go home knowing that we did that all on our own.
DAMON: But I think the way we actually found out about it was because Jo and I were staying with a French family that we either found on couch surfing or airbnb and we were just occupying one little bedroom in this French mother’s house and she even packed a little lunch for us for the day, fishing rods, like I’m a vegetarian but sure, I’ll take it. She told us the route to go on and that’s exactly what it is like.
JO: Be with locals, step out of your comfort zone, meet someone you didn’t know then they’ll lead you on your next adventure and then you’ll actually grow and its like actually mind-blowing that some people don’t even leave their house on the weekend. Some people don’t even understand that you can step out and explore but they don’t see the value in it when all we see is in travel is value but when it comes to your mind its making you realize that anything is possible.
Celeb Secrets: Why do you think our readers should pick up Woke and read it?
JO: They should pick up Woke because we’re like the older brother and sister that would actually encourage them to do everything that they want to do and can see the insides of our brain in a way that you can’t really see in our channel and in our blog. I think honestly it’s just one of the easiest reads and one of the most blunt, down-to-earth, no-BS read with powerful messaging.
DAMON: And yeah this is coming from two social media influencers. I think a lot of the times we can all get caught up in social media, all the likes and the comments but then if you again zoom out which is what Jo and I do all the time and realize wow this is so little, this is so petty compared to what I could and should be doing in life. I think Woke the e-book is really for those who need a wake-up call or a push in the right direction to get them on the track of the life that they actually want to be living. Which, I don’t know, could be in Austria or something and they just haven’t even realized it.
Celeb Secrets: Since we are Celeb Secrets, what’s a behind the scenes secret from making Woke that people wouldn’t know when they read it?
DAMON: All my six chapters were written in a Starbucks in El Segundo California.
JO: We made a video before we launched the book and we did this all our own: we hired a designer, and she was the one who was managing the files so we were editing and when we edit it you look at what you wrote and you don’t see the things that you needed to see and so for some reason. Damon and I are, the date it launched, hours before press outlets release the e-book announcement, we looked and there’s like a massive major typo on the first page. We’re like sitting at a Starbucks, didn’t even order any coffee, we’re just sitting there anxiously waiting for them to edit the draft so we can re-upload it. Thank goodness it was all done in time, but there was panic.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Interview credit: Juliet Schroder.