TikTok content creator redefining Black travel and body inclusivity

Local Black travel blogger and influencer Jeff Jenkins is at the forefront of encouraging others who look like him to get out and travel.

This comes at a time when Travel and Leisure reports Black travelers spent $109 billion on vacations in 2019.

Jenkins says he’s on a mission to make the travel industry more inclusive of every color, size and shape.

"I help chubby people travel the world!" Jenkins says. "Chubby Diaries is an online platform that helps people that look like me, to get out there and be more adventurous and to live life now."

Jenkins specializes in reaching his audiences 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 live life now," Jenkins says. "I’m not saying, ‘hey, wait till you lose this amount of weight to get out there and travel’ but I want people to go travel now."

Jenkins now travels for a living, with more than 40 countries on his checklist.

"We are redefining what it looks like to travel in the travel space," Jenkins says. "I didn’t think I could go scuba diving. I didn’t think that they would have a pack that would fit me or the tanks like the vest that would go over me or the wetsuit."

His social media resonates not only with people who look like him, but the travel industry as a whole.

"I was on the front cover of Flights and Stilettos and even when I started, I didn’t think I would have this impact that I have. Even be named in Travel + Leisure as one of the most notable people in travel. I thought that was just absurd because all I feel like I’m doing is just trying to help an underrepresented group of people," Jenkins says.

It's a lot of work for Jenkins between planning, shooting content, producing and writing, but Jenkins does it all with joy.

"People are like, ‘Why are you always so happy? Why are you so positive?" Jenkins says "For one, I can tell you I’m happy and positive because I’m just like, super grateful!"

Jenkins says he’s grateful because life hasn't always been easy.

"My mom was in an abusive relationship and I always do equate one of my first or fondest memories of actually traveling for the first time was actually when she was fleeing a domestic violence situation," Jenkins remembers. "We went from Florida all the way to Connecticut, but we went on a Greyhound bus and it felt like we were on an adventure"

Jenkins didn’t board his first plane until he was an adult during a college trip to Japan.

That trip started a decade full of travel and during a mission trip to build water wells in Africa, Jenkins knew traveling would be his new way of life.

"I remember looking out in Rwanda and being like, ‘You know what? I want to travel the world help people and get paid to do it,’" Jenkins says.  

Now he helps people who look like him, know they belong in these spaces too.

"Representation matters, because when people see themselves represented it gives them the motivation and the courage to be able to go do it themselves," Jenkins says. "It’s like they have to see themselves a lot of times before they actually do it."

The numbers support the theory, a report from MMGY Global about Black travel shows 54% of U.S. Black travelers agree they’re more likely to visit a destination if they see Black representation in travel advertising.

"Why are there not a lot of black and brown people traveling? Why are there not a lot of chubby people? I’ve been answering these questions and you find out that the wealth gap in America has really kept people from being able to even take leisure trips because a lot of people can live afford it, so we’re trying to change that narrative to [show] like hey, we’re out there now we’re getting out there now we’re spending our money," Jenkins says.  

For anyone interested in traveling 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 the places you want to go and commit to taking the trip. For more tips, head to Jenkins’ website

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