When we first met on social media seven years ago, we had no idea that we’d:
- share a love for travel
- share a passion for languages
- share a passion for chocolate milk.
Those things were soon exposed while hanging out in our lower Manhattan dorm rooms, or let me rephrase that, my Manhattan dorm since Damon’s Italian roommate never left theirs. After the first two years of our friendship, and after taking many Chinatown buses around the Northeast USA and flying on many barebones flights around Europe, we created our YouTube channel and blog that eventually became our full-time job. In other words, we’ve traveled together, worked together, and hung out together 24/7 for seven years.
And after spending nearly 99% of our time together – be it in a train, plane, bus, or cramped apartment – we didn’t think there was much left to discover about one another.
Or so we thought.
We partnered with 23andMe, a brand we had contacted back in February, to learn more about who we really are. It’s one thing to say we’re “American” and it’s another to actually know where our DNA comes from. That’s 23andMe’s job. After spitting into a test tube, shipping it off the lab, and impatiently waiting 4-6 weeks, we learned that Damon was 99.6% European. Surprising since his diet is primarily Asian food and his taste in music being primarily South African house music. What else was surprising was that 1% of his 99.6% European DNA was Iberian.
Throw in the fact that my great grandfather was born in Porto, Portugal and you have yourself a very interesting plot twist. Not only was it surprising to find out that Damon, of all people, was Iberian, but also the idea we might have been connected hundreds of years ago is both fascinating and…cool.
With all of this new info, we had to take it back to a country we had both fallen in love with and promoted as one of our favorites. We shut up and went back to Portugal to see the culture we shared.
Trying to get as artsy as the walls of Porto and capture the azulejo culture
If you ask most locals, they wouldn’t be able to tell you a time where their eyes weren’t spoiled with beautiful tiles plastered across buildings. That’s because the custom of creating and decorating the facades of homes with intricate geometric and artistic patterns has been around since around year 700. And here we are, in 2017, wandering the streets that our ancestors potentially wandered down, snapping pics from electronic devices that somehow send photos across the ocean in tiny invisible pixels. Even if you’re not trying to get deep and philosophical, the beauty of the buildings in the Iberian Peninsula is spoiling, and we loved it.
Scaring pedestrians with our ridiculous poses for pictures (to finally get a new picture)
We’ve taken thousands of pictures in hundreds of places that somehow all come out the same. In Portugal, we were feelin’ a little more ourselves, which is exactly when this picture was taken. The beautiful thing is that when you feel like you’re home, you’re more comfortable to be the authentic you, which turns heads. We weren’t embarrassed, we were in Porto, and this picture definitely made the experience look and feel different.
Making (or ruining) a beautiful azulejo masterpiece
After obsessing over the tiles, we decided we’d go to an artesenal shop to learn more on how these shiny pieces of history were made. Turns out there’s a massive workshop and store 10 minutes away from the heart of Porto where you can see the artists at work. We made friends with an artist, Fernando, who crafted a masterpiece, which he somehow let us sign our names on. Let’s just say the little flower he drew right next to the decrepit “Damon and Jo” made all the difference.
Pastel de Nata and espresso break in 100º F weather
Every traveler reaches the point of mid-day fatigue. Some blame it on the jet-lag, or the 12,000 steps walked before 4PM, but in Porto, we knew who the culprit was: the crazy heat. Then it makes you wonder if our ancestors had to suffer through June’s roaring heat, or if the 1º the earth has warmed really made a massive difference. Regardless, we found a classic café with enough AC to cool us down before sitting on the patio with a box of freshly made “pastel de nata,” aka a custard filled tart, and coffees to punctuate the fact we have Iberian roots.
Visiting a Quinta and wishing we were born into a winemaking family (which could very well be possible)
About two hours away from Porto, you can take a train into the absurdly pristine rolling hills of the Douro Valley. Funny enough, we were heading towards one of the world’s first wine hubs, which meant one thing, and one thing only: tasting vintage Port wines that’s made this city famous for hundreds of years. So maybe our tastebuds weren’t ready, but apparently, neither were our eyes to take in all the beauty we saw.
We’ve traveled so many places, but we’ve never done it like this before; sinking our teeth into what it means to be Portuguese, since we both have Iberian roots. A huge shout out to 23andMe for taking us across the globe to learn more about who we are as people, and we highly encourage you to get yourself a kit, and let your spit call the shots on your next adventure!
To watch the full episode of our trip to Porto, click here.
PS: Ya’ll know that we love free stuff, so it’s exciting to announce that 23andMe is running their #TheGolden23 sweepstakes where you can win a free trip based on your DNA! You can learn where your DNA comes from around the world by getting a kit and entering their sweepstakes. For more information, click here.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal U.S. residents, 18 or older. Ends August 3rd. Must complete the 23andMe Service. Visit https://www.23andme.com/