For this week’s edition of Inside A Traveler’s Walls, meet the Jenkins family! A few years back WorldTowning had the opportunity to interview with Jason of An Epic Education and then again recently. Talking with Jason was a dose of cool, fresh and funny reality. Since then, we’ve become friends, while never actually being in the same country at the same time. Jason and his family still keep it real and grounded, no matter where in the world they are:
Lots of people like to say “Just GO man, it’ll work out…” I think that’s really misleading. DON’T just go. Have a plan. Check in on that plan every so often and adjust.
What I am most drawn to in this post is their commitment to their children and the possibility of moving slower as per the kids requests. I love the democracy approach to travel as opposed to a dictatorship, they are a model family. I know we would never continue to WorldTown if one of the kids was not onboard, it would prove to be too difficult.
Ok, enough of my chatting, grab your coffee and get comfortable. It’s time to be inspired by this traveling family.
Introduce us to the people you live with?
Keiko and I have been married for 17 years. We first met in the US as school teachers. I left for a year abroad in 1997 and didn’t want to come back, so I begged her to follow me to Taiwan where I was living. She did. Three years later I followed her to Japan, where we lived 2001-2013. She is the brains and brawn of this outfit. I just type words. Our boy Jamie (now 15) loves the gym and making movies with his GoPro. Our girl Felicia (now 12) loves art, music, dance and theater. We all love street food, riding motorcycles, and jumping off high places. We started slow traveling in 2013, living in Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain and Mexico along the way. Now in their teens/tweens, our kids are ready to stay in one place for a while, so Keiko and I are looking for that place. We’ve tried Merida (3 months) and San Miguel de Allende (4 months) Mexico so far.
Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
A small apartment on a hill overlooking the town of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
As long as we have a kitchen, hot water and wifi, we aren’t very picky on where we live. We’ve lived in high-rise apartments, small urban flats, massive 3-bedroom houses with a pool and dingy apartments in great locations. We chose our present spot because of the view, the price and the location. San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful colonial town in the central Mexico highlands, and there is a community of local and non-local families here that we haven’t found elsewhere in our travels thus far. There are art lessons, marital arts, dance classes, meetups, flash mobs, and much more.
What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
Not much. We adapt to our new surroundings. Of course, we document it on the blog, the podcast or elsewhere, but we travel with as little as possible. We do like to have maps on the walls, but haven’t bought one yet in Mexico because we haven’t yet decided how long we’ll stay in this particular place.
Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
Our living room is on the corner of the building and we have nice big windows on both sides so there is plenty of light, fresh air and birdsong. The view of the city out the back deck ain’t bad, either. The kitchen, however, leaves room for improvement. We like that it’s open to the living room (our kitchen in Spain and many other places was closed off from the rest of the house). However, with four of us in and out and a teen who is constantly eating, a little more kitchen space would be nice..
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
The neighbors. Half of our building is conventional rentals. Half is AirBnb units. That means we have new neighbors every week. Most of them are unobtrusive, but every so often we have to ask someone to keep it quiet after 11pm.
What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
We always have a clothesline and laundry clips, as well as extension cords and a bluetooth speaker. My wife always carries a foot towel for the shower, as well. We usually have a pair of slippers each, as we take our shoes off inside.
What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
I occasionally miss having a neighbor or my old friends, but aside from that not much. The kids, however, are ready for routines again. They want to know that the kids they meet today will be around later.
What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
My girl says it’s her emoji pillow (!), because a friend in Spain gave it to her before we left. And it’s true, she carries it with her to every new house, hotel and hostel in the past year and a half. On airplanes, buses, or anywhere she might try to nap. I would add her Kindle to that list, as she is a voracious reader. The boy says it’s his phone, and that makes sense. It’s how he stays in touch with his friends in Malaysia, Spain, the US and elsewhere.
Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
No pets, although the kids beg for a dog. Maybe once we stay put for a while.
What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
We don’t add much as we go along. If we do, we check local markets when that’s an option. If not, whatever the local department store is. School supply and office supply stores usually have maps (local and world) to stick on the wall
If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
Internet, sunlight, more space or a bathtub
It’s unanimous: faster internet, for sure.
If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
A spoon: basic and functional, with a distorted reflection of myself in it.
How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
We talk regularly with relatives via Skype. We also try to play games together (cards, scrabble, pictionary, etc) at least once a month. We eat nearly all of our meals together and now the kids do a lot more cooking, cleaning and shopping for the family as well. We often watch a movie on the weekend and usually have a podcast or TV show that we’ll listen/watch together (Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Modern Family, Planet Earth).
How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
Aside from a small plastic Christmas tree in Japan for one year (and maybe Spain another year?) I don’t think we’ve ever decorated for the holidays. We celebrate them (birthday cakes, halloween costumes, Christmas presents, etc) but we don’t decorate.
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Wherever my wife and kids are. That’s it.
What makes you love the place you live?
The food, the people we meet, and the learning/cultural opportunities we find. We also gravitate to places that are easy to navigate without a car. We’ve had car in several places (Malaysia, Mexico) and we love renting a car or motorcycle for a road trip (Malaysia, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bali) but we prefer a place where we can either walk or easily take public transportation. That’s one of the reasons we LOVE living in places like Tokyo, Valencia & San Miguel de Allende.
Can home be a person, or an idea?
Sure, if that person is three, and those three are my wife, son or daughter.
Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Don’t get hung up on stuff. And don’t bring it all with you. You can find it along the way, have it delivered, or learn to live happily without it. And plan it out. Not everything, but plan. Lots of people like to say “Just GO man, it’ll work out…” I think that’s really misleading. DON’T just go. Have a plan. Check in on that plan every so often and adjust.
What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We may return to Japan to live for a while later this year (Kids born there, based in Tokyo 2001-2013) but unsure, as it would be a big adjustment. If not, we may just explore Mexico further.
How do you educate your children?
Our son is 15 so we are preparing him for college. We don’t think college is essential for everyone, but he hasn’t shown a burning passion for one trade or craft that he could pursue without attending university. Both kids went to local schools in Spain for two years and it was a great experience for all. We adapt to their needs. Right now our son wants to go back to a conventional classroom, so we’re looking for that. Our girl has a social life here in San Miguel de Allende and loves being able to go at her own (faster) pace in homeschooling, so we’ll keep that up if (or until) her needs change.
How do you make a living?
For several years, I kept working remotely for my old job as a copywriter for a Japanese ad agency. That work dried up a while back, so now we’re living off of savings and the income I make from the An Epic Education blog, which isn’t much at the moment. We may have to go back to “real jobs” some day, but for now we’re hustling — working 7 days a week — to build a blog and podcast that people use and trust.
When it comes to being realistic about what home and family means, Jason and Keiko are about as real as it comes and always emphasize that each other always comes first. I personally cannot wait to meet them in person one of these days. We meet so many cool people through WorldTowning.
Inside A Traveler’s Walls is where we feature families living in less traditional and unique homes (tents, boats, camper vans, yurts, flats, etc). If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled, please contact us for details.