Content creator TikTok is redefining dark travel and body inclusivity
AUSTIN, TX – Local black travel blogger and influencer Jeff Jenkins is at the forefront of encouraging others like him to get out and travel.
It comes at a time when Travel and Leisure reports that black travelers spent $109 billion on vacations in 2019.
Jenkins says he’s on a mission to make the travel industry more inclusive of all colors, sizes and shapes.
“I help chubby people travel the world!” Jenkins said. “Chubby Diaries is an online platform that helps people who look like me get out there and be more adventurous and live their lives now.”
Jenkins specializes in reaching her audience through social media videos via Instagram Reels and TikTok videos.
“A lot of times people ask, ‘Well, are you promoting obesity?’ No, I’m promoting life live now,” Jenkins says. “I’m not saying, ‘hey, wait until you lose that much weight to go out and travel’ but I want people to go on a trip now.”
Jenkins now travels for a living, with more than 40 countries on her checklist.
“We’re redefining what travel in the travel space looks like,” says Jenkins. “I didn’t think I could scuba dive. I didn’t think they would have a bag that would fit me or tanks like the vest that would go over me or the wetsuit.”
His social media resonates not only with people like him, but the travel industry as a whole.
“I was on the cover of Flights and Stilettos and even when I started I didn’t think I would have this impact that I have. Even being named in Travel + Leisure as one of the most remarkable people of the trip. I thought it was just absurd because all I feel like I’m doing is trying to help an underrepresented group of people,” Jenkins said.
It’s a lot of work for Jenkins between planning, shooting content, producing, and writing, but Jenkins does it all with joy.
“People say, ‘Why are you always so happy? Why are you so positive?’ Jenkins says “On the one hand, I can tell you that I’m happy and positive because I’m just super grateful!”
Jenkins says he’s grateful because life hasn’t always been easy.
“My mom was in an abusive relationship and I always take in one of my earliest or fondest memories of traveling for the first time was actually when she was fleeing a domestic violence situation,” she said. recalls Jenkins. “We went from Florida to Connecticut but rode on a Greyhound bus and felt like we were on an adventure”
Jenkins only boarded his first plane as an adult on a college trip to Japan.
This journey began a decade full of travel and on a mission trip to build water wells in Africa, Jenkins knew traveling would be his new way of life.
“I remember looking in Rwanda and saying, ‘You know what? I want to travel the world helping people and getting paid to do it,’” Jenkins said.
Now he’s helping people like him know they belong in those spaces too.
“Representation is important because when people see themselves represented, it gives them the motivation and the courage to be able to do it themselves,” Jenkins said. “It’s as if they had to see each other several times before doing it.”
The numbers back up the theory, an MMGY Global report on black travel shows that 54% of black American travelers agree they are more likely to visit a destination if they see black portrayal in travel advertisements.
“Why aren’t there a lot of black and brown people traveling? Why aren’t there a lot of chubby people? wealth in America has really prevented people from being able to even do leisure travel because a lot of people can afford it so we’re trying to change that narrative to [show] like hey, we’re over there now we’re hanging out over there now we’re spending our money,” Jenkins says.
For anyone looking to travel on a budget, Jenkins encourages people to check out these sites:
Jenkins says if you’re still nervous about a big trip, the best thing to do is research and find videos on social media of places you want to go and commit to taking the trip. For more tips, go to the Jenkins website.
DOWNLOAD: FOX 7 AUSTIN NEWS APP
SUBSCRIBE: Daily newsletter | Youtube
TO FOLLOW: Facebook | instagram | Twitter