These YouTubers left everything to travel the world -- and they've never looked back
It takes a fearless person to leave everything behind without a dollar to your name. There's no safety net, no financial stability, and it goes against most societal norms. But YouTubers Damon and Jo have proven that if you love something, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, so long as you are enjoying life.
Not too long ago, Damon and Jo were in college and on the path to corporate America. But their love of travel and learning new languages kept creeping up, regardless of their financial situation. Soon, the pair began traveling the United States on as many cheap trips as possible, and slowly but surely those cheap trips went from domestic to international. 30 countries and three years later, the pair isn't looking back on their decision.
Their explorations are a testament to the fact that anyone, regardless of age, can purse whatever it is in their life they've always wanted to do, as long as they stop making excuses and just go for it. And if their growing fan-base is any indicator (they have over 200K avid subscribers on their YouTube channel alone), many people are starting to think the same way.
Ahead, we spoke to Damon and Jo -- creators in the Fullscreen network and viral Internet sensations -- about where their love of travel began, how they envisioned "Shut Up and Go" and more!
And if you want even more Damon & Jo news, head over to AOL.com at 12 pm EST today for more exclusive features! For more SXSW news, head over the Kanvas to discover more exclusive videos, gifs, pictures, and more.
Do you remember where your first love of traveling began?
Damon: Oh, that's a difficult one because we're always trying to pinpoint where exactly it started. Speaking for myself, my family is monolingual and they've never been out of the country until a few years ago. And so I don't really know where the desire came to me when I was sixteen and wanted to go to Barcelona. I thought, "Let me just do something interesting with my life and let me go to Barcelona." Of course, it was met with a lot of disapproval. So when I was sixteen I studied abroad there, and when I studied abroad I met so many other young kids from Europe who were out traveling and trying to learn different languages. I thought that was so cool and that inspired me to move to New York, which is where I met Jo.
Jo: And for me, I was not born in the states. I was born in Rio in Brazil and when I was five years old, my mom decided she was going to take her kids and move us to Connecticut. From being a business owner in Brazil, she left everything and became a housekeeper. And so I grew up in a very immigrant lifestyle where my weekends were spent cleaning houses with my mom and we never had the means to go on vacations or travel. So when it came time for college, I told my mom that I wanted to go to college in New York. And she said, "Oh we can't afford it, we're immigrants." But I was like, "Girl, watch me!" So I actually applied to college behind my mom's back and go in, and I told her that if she gave me this chance I would make something happen here.
So I moved to New York and that's where Damon and I met. So we both had this passion before we met for travel and language and we met because we were supposed to live in the same dorm, which had an International World Cultures floor. And Damon wasn't put in the dorm. So before we even physically met, we were messaging each other saying, "Oh, you didn't get into this dorm? Draft this email and send it to this person." It was very much this cool partnership from the beginning. And when we met in person, it was like complete opposite worlds colliding: he's from middle America and I'm this Brazilian immigrant, but we both had the same passions. So one awkward hug later, we found ourselves best friends and would travel all over the states where we could afford it.
Damon: Our Freshman year in New York we did tons of different trips on Chinatown buses from New York to Boston, Baltimore, Philly. So we took as many trips as we could. And then sophomore year, we decided to separately do our semester in Paris.
Jo : So Damon went first and I went later, and when we were both there and had nothing else to do, we thought, "Why don't we just film our adventures, whether it's just finding a cheap flight to Barcelona or sleeping in a hostel." And then our friends and family kept asking about how we were doing it because we don't have money and that's when we started putting videos on YouTube to tell people that this is how we were doing it and that it doesn't take trust funds to get us here. It just takes a different mentality. And if you think that travel will actually enrich your life then stop making excuses and you'll go. So that's when "Shut Up and Go" was born!
Where did you envision "Shut Up and Go" going at first?
Damon: I always wanted to do something in TV or in travel but I never really related to anything that I would see on the Travel Channel or any other travel show out there. I felt like there was such a need for a show that focused on backpackers or kids studying at language schools. I just didn't knew how to get there. And then I met Jo, who knew more of the business side of things.
Jo: Like I was dreaming of being an international business mogul and I just needed an idea that I was passionate about, and so Damon stuck a camera in my face and started filming. And then I thought we should pitch it to television execs. So the first two years of our journey was really trying to get a TV show and we saw that the network executives loved us but they didn't think travel would sell.
So it was that very typical Hollywood story where you hustle and they're like, "You can't do it," and we're like, "Yes we can!" So then, that's when we turned to putting our regular videos on YouTube because it was more than just showing our family and friends what we were doing, we thought there was a need to show other young people how to travel and why they should be learning languages without it being cheesy or boring.
Damon: It was also the fact that with a TV show the audience would be just the United States. But with YouTube, we can reach any country in the world. And one of our things isn't just travel, but it's doing things in different languages. We'll film in English, French, Portuguese -- and that's not something we can do with a TV show in the states.
Jo: And the irony was in the beginning, that we didn't even want to be on YouTube because we thought it was a medium for people to talk about beauty tips or blab about nothing. So we avoided it like the plague! And when got these notes from network executives -- we're talking about like the biggest names in TV -- they said no. So we thought we should work with what we have, which is building an audience, because that's free. And that's when we would do as many videos as we could, while were still in college. It was a crazy balance of juggling college, and juggling what society views as what you should do. And finally we knew we had to pull the plug.
We thought, "Screw New York, we have to get out of here because we're just working to pay rent to work more to do our YouTube channel. If we sell everything and get rid of our apartment and quit our jobs and go to LA where everyone really is out there, we can collaborate with creators." So when we left New York we had like 30,000 subscribers and that was in May. And by the time we moved into our apartment in July, we had 70,000, so within three months it doubled. And since we both were working at it full time, we thought that there was really no excuse. That's how we grew our channel from a measly 30,000 to 200,000 in a few months.
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YouShouldKnow is a feature that showcases up-and-coming social stars. To see more of past interviews, click here. And come back at 12 pm EST for more exclusive Damon & Jo features, including their most memorable trip.
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