Around the world with Damon and Jo: “That time I got STI tested in Paris”

Jo Franco dishes on the trials of finding love in the city of light: "I had spent enough time with R to know he wasn’t a scrub, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry."

Rick Bhatia
October 17, 2018

Damon and Jo are travel experts, authors, digital content creators, and trail brazing multi-lingual entrepreneurs with over 1 million fans around the world. Named by Forbes as one of the Top 5 Travel Influencers, they post regularly in English, Portuguese, French and occasionally Spanish, German or Italian. Their international media company, Shut Up and Go  is the only platform of its kind where its contributors tell the story of a new way of living: globally, comedically, and unapologetically.


I’m in my twenties so it’s time for transit, both through different countries, and different bed sheets. 

The time I got STD tested in Paris 

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be all for a monogamous relationship, if I had a mono-track life, which isn’t the case. For now, I selectively make out with strangers and risk getting mono instead. All in the name of a good story.

I’m a lover: I’m all for finding that one romance that’s enough to make time stop, and everyone else around disappear, But here’s the contradiction: I’m never in one place. 

So like most nomadic souls, I’ve adopted a more open relationship lifestyle where I live in the moment, detached from any thought of commitment after I leave country borders. With each stamp on my passport, the potential for a new romance will have formed before the ink even dries. 

It’s not easy, but somebody’s gotta do it. 

The motto: to fall in love with a city, you need to fall in love in a city, which is exactly why I never liked Paris. 

That was, until the summer of 2018. 

It wasn’t my first time trying to fall in love in the city known for it. 

In 2012, I had lived in the 15ième, a dead neighborhood where the “heart” of the quarter was still being built – a shopping mall. I was a frail little  study abroad student surviving on demi-baguettes and Salade Parisienne from Monoprix. I didn’t even like salad at the time, but it was under two euro, so I grew to love it. 

I made the mistake of keeping my crappy college relationship while studying abroad, experiencing my first torturous long distance love, and later heart break. 

It was the ultimate oxymoron: there I was, giving myself freedom (bought completely on credit card debt I wasn’t sure I would be able to pay back at the time), allowing myself four months of total self immersion and discovery, both into French culture and language, and yet somehow for two months I found myself running home after my bland five hour lectures to Skype a scrub (TLC’s rules, not mine), I was dating who didn’t understand one thing about what I was experiencing. We were already on rocky terms when we left, fidelity, jealousy, and lack of support were some of the ugliest things hidden in our closet. Thanks to the creation of Instagram and hashtags, I caught that BISH cheating when I weaseled my way onto Instagram and found a picture of him and another girl with #love and #datenight. 

Just because I was across the world doesn’t mean I would be lost in translation, so I did the first smart thing that semester and dumped his ass. I created a profile just to stalk him, and have had it ever since. In reality, I should be thanking him. 

The last two months of my study abroad experience consisted of more carbs, and tears to wash it down. 

Ironically, I only felt like myself again during the last weekend of my study abroad experience. As for romance? I had gone on one mediocre date with a guy I didn’t even like, and my aura was so poopy green that no one else dared approach me during that time. 

I left Paris realizing I had had a life changing experience. The kind that made me find love for myself, not anyone else. I guess in a way the ultimate love story. But since this isn’t ABC Family, and rather, a juicy dating column, I’ll tell you about the time. I did fall in love in Paris and it was so infectious, I even had to get STD tested. 

I had come back to Paris about six or seven times since studying abroad, both for business (filming videos with French channels) and for cheaper flights since CDG is poppin’ for connections. I’d usually drop Damon off and go roam Rome, which is a city I did fall in love with thanks to another Rome-ance. But for some reason, the summer of 2018 was the time I’d give falling in love with Paris another try. 

Things were different now, instead of awkward and failed conversations in crappy French, I could actually speak French. Instead of walking home for hours in cheap heels because it was past 1AM and the metro was closed, I ordered Ubers. And instead of waiting for Mr. Right, I could find Mr. Right Swipe on Tinder. So I passported my way to Paris when I was in Miami, and started looking for reasons to like the city of light. 

I swiped on “R,” a vintage looking, well-dressed guy (like most Parisians) that reminded me of Andre 3000 – my ultimate crush back in my elementary days. We started chatting through the app in French, and he had enough patience to wait two weeks for me to arrive in Paris, without losing interest: signs of a good dude. 

I arrived and settled in, we kept texting until both of us had free time. He made it a point to celebrate my birthday and planned to meet me out at a party on a Tuesday at Wanderlust, the ultimate summer outdoor club in Paris. My gut usually tells me when I’m going to like the person before I even meet them. It’s like an internal warning that signals “double check for lipstick stains and boogers.” 

The minute I saw him posted up against his car looking like a bad boy out of a movie, I was flustered and hooked.

We started hitting it off, talking about our trips as if we already knew each other, he asked my why my French is so good, I told him I needed more practice, the night goes on absolutely perfectly. While sitting down over a bottle of rosé, I told him about my channel, and how it’s crazy that we get recognized sometimes. He didn’t understand, because he’s social media free – I told you, I found a diamond. As I finish telling him, it was like I had hired an actress and extras to come up to me and say, “OMG, Jo, I love your show! I’m from Poland, and I’m here in Paris for the week because you inspired me to shut up and go!” She gave me a huge hug, and walked away giddy. I looked at his eyes in amazement for what he had just witnessed, and wanted to ask the girl where I could send her a pay check for such a brilliantly rehearsed performance. 

Conversation and rosé keeps flowing, until we find ourselves on the dance floor dancing to Brazilian music. Somehow we both lean in at the same time for one of the kisses that seem like your lips were made for each other. We peel away in surprise – how did all of this happen from a dating app?!

That night, we talk outside of the club for hours, find a late night place to eat a crêpe, and part ways with smiles from ear to ear. It was a genuine connection, and for the first time in a while, I had three weeks to enjoy it. Usually I’m working on five day intervals. 

The week goes by, and we get closer and closer in all ways. 

He comes over to my make-do apartment and cooks me dinner. He took me to see the Eiffel Tower at night. He brought me croissants, and fresh pressed juice in the morning. The sweetness was genuine though, he was the kind of guy that would come wherever I was just to give me a hug and kiss, see how I was, and leave.

Eventually, he and I do the thing that lovas do. Except there was a slip up situation that made me want to get STD tested.

Let’s be real, it happens: It’s that scary moment where you’re trusting a near stranger with your health. I had spent enough time with R to know he wasn’t a scrub, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry. 

Post slip up, I told him I wanted to get tested, just to be sure. I’m not one of those people who will avoid knowing if I have something because I’m scared. No, I want to know so I can solve the problem immediately, and make sure no one else gets anything. But hey, that’s just me. Apparently it was him too. The next time we meet, he brings me documentation in paper form telling me he was squeaky clean – I’m telling you, this guy is a gem. 

I still wanted more proof though.

Here’s something no one ever talks about when traveling: How to get STD tested abroad. Do you need insurance? How much does it cost? Where do you go? Do you need to be French? Luckily, R went with me at 7AM to a nearby “laboratoire,” and told me that you could either look for a “centre de dépistage (prevention IST),” which are centers specifically dedicated to STD testing, sometimes for free, or you could go to almost any Lab and ask for STD tests. Within 30 minutes we were both in and out of the clinic, having gotten the works for 60 euro. 

12 hours later, I got an email that made my heart beat a million miles per hour titled, “Résultats d’examen.”

I click open. 
It was positive news, I was negative in everything. Moments later, R comes over, we celebrate, and continue La Vie en Rosé. 
I left feeling the same way about Paris and the Parisian: like I needed to keep coming to really fall in love.

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