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Meet Jeff Jenkins: National Geographic Star & Chubby Diaries Founder

Austin-based Jeff Jenkins proves size does not matter when it comes to traveling with flair

When Jeff Jenkins moved to Austin 11 years ago, his career as a high school choir teacher fulfilled his desire to help others and gave him the freedom and flexibility to travel during school breaks and over the summer, but left him feeling a longing for something more. When a family member passed away a few years ago, it changed his perspective on life and forced him to think deeper about his purpose. He began seeking out other ways to invoke change and volunteered for a mission trip to Rwanda. After completing their water well project, Jeff had the opportunity to sit on a hilltop and reflect on his experience in this impoverished country, and what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Traveling the World & Encouraging People on his Adventures

“I asked myself, ‘If money wasn’t an object, what would I do?’ The answer was easy: Travel the world, help people and get paid for it.” Jeff Jenkins had already been to multiple countries and continents at an early age when he joined a program that hosted summer camps on military bases across the globe. Making this his new career would be a seamless transition.

After returning home, he and a friend were brainstorming possible paths and decided that blogging about his adventures was the way to go. But he still needed a niche, something unique and different from anything currently out there. As they discussed all of the challenges he had encountered during his excursions, the idea came to him — if he could enjoy traveling as a plus-size man, then anyone could. And he wanted to inspire them to do the same. Out of a passion for living life in the present moment and the desire to encourage like-minded attitudes, Chubby Diaries was born.

Never Say Never

Since its inception in 2018, Jeff Jenkins has built a strong following on social media with over 150k followers and has attracted the attention of National Geographic. He excitedly accepted the offer to film his debut series Never Say Never, making his dream of helping others with paid travel a reality. The project was two long years of global adventures “From Iceland To The Amazon” (season 1, episode 8). He can now mark off his bucket list swimming with sharks in Mexico and riding in a hot air balloon in Albuquerque. Up next, he plans to visit Antarctica where he will cross the Drake Passage and then visit Australia, checking off the visitation of all seven continents.

Redefining what travel looks like continues to be Jeff Jenkins’ motivation as he works behind the scenes while waiting on the green light for season two of Never Say Never. Another undertaking he’s focusing his attention on is a project to improve zip-lining to make it more practical and accessible for higher weight limits. His other mission, to help make the world a better place, has led him to additional humanitarian projects such as serving on the board of East African Energy Solutions, an organization that is helping provide sustainable energy solutions in Uganda.

Cooking, Friendships, and Home Life in Austin

As our video conference interview began, Jeff was taking advantage of his home kitchen and making his new favorite pasta dish — a combination of Italian sausage, vodka sauce and sriracha. He found this recipe on TikTok and has made it several times a week, sharing it with anyone who will listen.

“It’s so good! It’s the best thing I’ve made in a while,” he says. Cooking comes naturally to Jeff, as both of his parents are chefs. Growing up in Orlando, he had easy access to Disney World where his dad worked in the park as a chef. He laughs, “I would always take dates there because I could get in free. They were wowed, but it was an easy win for me.” He returns to his hometown several times a year where he “loves to play tourist.” Disney has a special place in his heart, and he never passes up the opportunity to visit the park when he’s in town.

Returning from his “job,” and the premier of Never Say Never in July, he says, “I’ve been home for about a month. Being home is vacation for me now. I like to cook, hang out with friends and check out all of the new restaurants/bars and events in Austin. Friendship is really important to me, and I love catching up at the newest trendy spot in town. There’s always something different to look forward to when I come home.”

Although Jeff is happy to be home for a while, he’s already planning his next adventure. Whether he’s hanging out at home in Austin or sumo wrestling in Japan, Jeff continues to push his limits and proves over and over again that size does, in fact, not matter when it comes to traveling with flair.

Follow along with Jeff Jenkin’s adventures on his Chubby Diaries Instagram account.