Jo Franco, host of “The World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals” about the yachts, igloos and treehouses she has stayed in
When traveling alone, what types of stays are you looking to book?
I’ve lived in tons of Airbnbs all over the world before. I am one of those travelers who prefers to go back to the same place 100 times and really live there. I’ve done it in Rome and Athens, London and Paris, São Paulo and Rio, everywhere. When I’m looking for a stay, I’m looking for a place that I can truly call home for at least a month. And then, to take it up a notch, I really like the experiences where I can learn something, so I also stayed with host families. [Once,] I was taking Italian lessons and moved into a rental with a family and they taught me so much. This is my kind of trip. Travel doesn’t have to be what’s right for the vacation, it can be a way of life. It can be a way to learn, explore, and discover so much about yourself and the world.
Why do you feel like the show is resonating right now, being in the top 10 shows on Netflix for over a week now?
I think the timing of the show was surprisingly good. People can’t wait to travel again. But on top of that, I think the show was done differently. We not only test the properties, but we achieve three properties per episode. You experience three journeys with us in one 30-minute episode. So by the end of the season, there are a lot of opportunities for viewers to see themselves having that experience. It’s really cool to look at my DMs now and see screenshots of booking confirmations, like the people who booked an alpaca treehouse [in Atlanta]. And we live in the age of social media, so we can lead the conversation off the show, and that’s really special to me.
You’ve mentioned a few times how the show is different from other travel or home shows, and I think one of the main differences is that two of the three hosts are female, a rarity for TV on travel. What does it mean to bring more gender diversity to the travel entertainment space?
For me it was two checkboxes because I’m a woman of color. When was the last time you saw a woman of color as a host in space travel on a Netflix show? There are women of color who run travel shows, but being on a show that’s in the top 10 of the charts? Wow. I never really saw gender or my ethnicity as limits, but I understand that when you transport yourself to the world you carry it all with you. I still see it as an opportunity to present [the people I meet] to someone who looks like me. Maybe you’ve never seen a single woman traveling alone. So it starts with, Hi, I’m Jo, nice to meet you. It’s also exciting to see people’s perspective change, or for them to be aware that we are traveling there and [have been]. But in the travel space, for some reason, it has always been biased in favor of white males. I am happy that we are opening up opportunities for more perspectives, because when we show that we travel, we inspire others like us to travel as well.
Now that Americans can travel more freely and the show is out, what are your next trips?
The pandemic is not over, but vaccinations are helping to open things up. I just want people to travel responsibly both for themselves and for the communities they enter. My next trip is to Greece. This is a place I have been to many times because I study Greek. So I’m going to take classes again, it’s all along this wavelength of the journey to learn. And then another trip I’m doing this year will be to Egypt, where I’ve also been before, because I’m learning Arabic. When filming for the show ended in January, I was disappointed because I was home with nothing planned. We couldn’t travel, and the only thing that always brought me joy was learning languages. So I started learning Arabic in March and have been taking classes ever since, so I’m excited to be going back to Egypt, with some basic phrases. When you speak a language, you unlock experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.