Jeff Jenkins (ChubbyDiaries) is an award-winning content creator that helps chubby people travel the world. His infectious spirit and can-do attitude has landed him his own travel show, “Never Say Never”, on Nat Geo and Disney+ airing on July 9th 2023 (mark your calendars).
Jeff’s central message is that everyone can travel as they are right now, no matter their size, race or background.
We had the privilege to speak with Jeff about his upcoming show! But before you read on and learn more about this big & tall traveler, take a peek at the trailer of “Never Say Never.”
Tell me why you wanted to make this show?
Jeff: I know what my mission is and this was another strategic way to implement my message.
Why the title “Never Say Never”?
Jeff: I take no credit, that was Nat Geo. I gave them 3 titles that they tested and this title won. It was actually a humble moment, because this title tested better than all the other ones. There wasn’t even a close second, so it made me be like.. okay….yeah.
How did you get into traveling? When was your first trip?
Jeff: The first trip that I can truly remember where I was like, “Hey man, I like this travel thing!” Like going from place to place, it’s actually a little tough story.
My mom was fleeing from Florida to Connecticut because of a domestic violence issue between her and her husband at the time. We took a Greyhound from Orlando, Florida all the way to Connecticut, which was a day or two process.
To be on that bus, to see all those trees, and all these new things, going through city to city, stopping at rest areas and all that stuff, I was like, “Oh I like this! I like this a lot!”
To be honest, I was excited about it. I was like 4 or 5 years old, so it’s not like I knew a lot. I didn’t know the magnitude of what was happening in my mom’s life at the time, but that was very significant.
So, it was your first sense of adventure?
Jeff: Yeah, my mom wrapped it up like that, like it was an adventure.
Sounds like your mom is a very brave woman.
Jeff: She really is. I owe her so much.
45 countries! What was your most plus size friendly country?
Jeff: South Africa. Doing the different experiences, there were tons of plus size men and women. There were a lot more accommodations made for everyone. I would go to a restaurant and they’d have no arm chairs and I thought that was fantastic. The different excursions I did, I was able to do them without any complications or anything.
Least Plus size friendly?
Jeff: About that.. It has to be somewhere in Europe.
Was it more like an attitude, or like you couldn’t fit in the seats and stuff?
Jeff: Yeah, I’m going more so in that sense. Europe has all these old buildings. Like tiny doors. The people in Europe have been great in the sense of that way. But like arm chairs, plastic chairs, not plus-size friendly.
Most of these South Asian countries are on the same boat, too. And I would even say Vietnam might be, with adding people to it, may be my least plus size friendly place. Mostly the stares. It made me very uncomfortable. I don’t know if it’s because I was black or fat. But I think it was because I was fat because there were some other black people with us that weren’t getting stares.
Have you felt safe traveling as a Black man? Do you do research before traveling to ensure your safety?
Jeff: I actually feel more safe traveling outside of the country than inside the country. I definitely for the most part feel safe. I do my research. A lot of times, I know people that have gone before me and that helps out a lot.
Outside of the Caribbean, I never feel discriminated against. I’ve gotten more discrimination from the Carribeans. It comes from hotel or service staff. I think it’s one of those things, they think white patrons are better, so it’s a bias.
I’ve learned how to cope with it. There are times I’ve stood up for myself, too. And the moment I brought awareness to it, they changed and gave me the experience and the same service that everyone else was getting.
Do you have a bucket list trip that you would die to do?
Jeff: ANTARCTICA! I really want to do it on the ship. I want to do the passage that feels like we’re about to tip over but we aren’t. People have told me about the absence of sound. You’ll be there and you can hear your heartbeat. Yes, that is something I want to experience! And for me to be able to say I’ve been to all the continents.
It looks like you go on quite adventurous feats during the show… What were you most afraid to try?
Jeff: Climbing a 70 foot rock cliff. Yes, like literally base climbing. Hands and feet, that’s it! You’ll have to wait and find out if I make it up the mountain, but it was definitely a feat.
The more you went up, you only had a little piece of rock, like you wouldn’t even think you could get a grip on it. It’s actually making me a bit nervous now thinking about it.
Are you afraid of heights?
Jeff: I’m afraid of falling. I love heights if I’m secure. It’s the fear of falling.
Totally get that! What was the most fun?!
Jeff: I got to Sumo wrestle with a former world champion. I trained like a Sumo, the whole thing. The whole purpose was to liberate the thought of shame that might come from being a larger person.
I love the term you use, “Isolation fears.” How can your average chubby traveler ensure they will be able to partake in an activity while traveling?
Jeff: I always say, do your research. Look up the excursion and find out the dimensions, call ahead, the website might even let you know if they have something you can use, or modifications.
I think this show and my message have been that I was one of the first or largest people to do some of these excursions, and these tour operators found out they can easily make a modification. So, we’re hopefully being able to show other tour operators that they can do it, too.
Was there any adventure that you couldn’t do due to lack of accommodations?
Jeff: TV is amazing. And it played to what I already knew what humans were capable of doing. A lot of people say plus size people can’t do this excursion because of safety. But humans are creative.
I mean, there are airplanes, skyscrapers, it’s all about being innovative. Disney does a great job with that, it’s more plus size friendly than any other theme park, you have to be creative and have plus size people in mind when building out an excursion.
Was there any activity you refused or would refuse to do?
Jeff: Bungee jumping is off the list.
What’s the most unique food you’ve eaten while traveling?
Jeff: In Japan, they put all of the chicken on the stick, every piece. They’ll grill it and barbecue that bad boy. It was really bad… not good. The heart, liver and skin weren’t good, but every other part of the chicken was great. The chicken feet actually weren’t bad, but the organs didn’t work for me.
I also ate a scorpion in Thailand. It tasted like a popcorn kernel. The ones that get stuck in your teeth, it’s that texture and crunch. It wasn’t meaty at all, so it was just hollow. I ate it once and called it a day.
Do you normally solo-travel? If so, why?
Jeff: Majority of the time it’s solo or with a camera person. Sometimes my wife gets to come with me. Although my job is amazingly fun, it’s still my business. It’s definitely work.
What’s your favorite travel accessory?
Jeff: It’s not really a travel accessory, but this phone is my life. I used to travel before iPhones were out. I had to look up Rick Steves books and Lonely Planet just to get my itinerary or to know where to go.
So, to be able to do so much, from transportation, to directions to damn near everything, I’ll never leave home without it.
Also, a life straw is always a good idea. And I love my portable speaker.
Will there be a season 2?
Jeff: We don’t know yet. We’re almost getting to a place where we’ll find out soon.
Where do you hope to go from here?
Jeff: Make more dope content and I’d love to be in a place to make my own shows. Give other people opportunities that I’ve had.
I love your slogan, “Live Life Now!” Do you have any encouraging words to leave with the readers?
Jeff: A lot of times it is just about committing. There are probably so many things you’ve thought about doing, it’s been on your bucket list, now it’s time to commit to it and go for it!
Make sure to check out Jeff Jenkin’s show, “Never Say Never” on July 9, 2023 on Nat Geo!
How cool is this show going to be?! We will be tuned in… will you??
When we think about plus size representation on TV, “Never Say Never” is a cool new addition to what we will have access to. We’ve highlighted various plus size groups on FB centered around travel, and most recently Hiking communities, too!
I hope that this show inspires a new wave of plus size people taking that adventure they’ve always wanted to, especially after watching “Never Say Never!”
Sooooo, watch party anyone?