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Travel with your five senses – a velvetescape interview with Keith Jenkins

August 23, 2010
by budgettravelsac

For many people, traveling is a summer vacation, relaxing at the beach, or time with family.  Many others choose adventure travel, roughing it and going to the extremes to enjoy the outdoors.  For the rest of us, travel is somewhere in between with a beach vacation or adventure travel throw in.

While the travel and tourism industry is huge, most seek to sell us vacation packages to destinations and places that are fun to see.  From his travels as a young kid, Keith Jenkins believes travel is something we should experience – with all five of our senses.  In this fascinating interview, it’s obvious that Keith was born to travel.

Where did you grow up?  What are your best memories as a kid?

I grew up in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia.  It was, with hindsight, a pretty unique experience growing up in a city that was developing so rapidly.  In the 70’s, KL was still a rather sleepy town. By the time I left in the early 90’s, KL was a boom town.

My best memories as a kid were the Sunday brunches with my family and the travels with my parents.   My Dad worked with the airline and I got to accompany him in the cockpit sometimes.  He would often take me to the airport when he wasn’t working and we would head straight for the observation deck to check out the planes landing and taking off.  Those were the most precious moments with my Dad.

What things were you interested in when you were young?  What did you want to be when you grew up?

I had many interests but planes and geography topped the list.  Strangely enough, I didn’t want to become a pilot.  I wanted to become a lawyer or an architect.  Imagine that?  :)

Did you travel as a kid?  What places inspired you when you were young?

I traveled quite a bit as a kid.  As my Dad worked at the airline, we always had tickets to go somewhere, sometimes just for the weekend.  I loved the weekends in Singapore – compared to KL in the late-70’s/early-80’s, everything in Singapore looked sophisticated.  I also have vivid memories of my trips to Sydney, Australia with my Dad.  Sitting on the bench in front of the Opera House and watching the ships and boats pass – this is one of the first things I do whenever I return to Sydney.  The view is absolutely inspiring!

What was the moment or place where you knew that you must spend the rest of your life traveling?

At home.  :)   My parents bought me a geographic encyclopedia when I was a kid and I poured over each of the 27 volumes every chance I had.  I knew I wanted to visit as many of these places as I could so I memorized the descriptions and facts as well as the photos so I would be prepared for my future travels!  On my family’s first trip outside Southeast Asia (to Hong Kong), I literally guided my family around town.  I was 9 at the time.

What is your favorite destination?  Why?

Growing up, my favorite destination was Sydney.  The harbor never failed to mesmerize.  The buildings, beaches, coves, parks… everything about Sydney fascinated me, I guess because it was so different from KL.  Sydney was larger than life to me.  As I started to travel more in my teens, I fell in love with Hong Kong and Tokyo, then London, Paris, New York, Vancouver and later Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.  These are my favorite cities.

South Africa ranks very high on my list of favorite destinations.

What was the inspiration behind velvetescape?  Where did the name come from?

I came up with the Velvet Escape name when I was still working in investment banking.  I started to write about my travels to take my mind off the office politics that ensued after the bank I worked at was acquired.  I wanted the name to reflect how I like to travel – experiencing a place by using our five senses, engaging with the locals and trying new things/food… and doing all this comfortably.

In an interview with Evelyn aka Journeywoman, I defined a ‘Velvet Escape’ as getting away from our daily routines & exploring, being adventurous, reflecting & doing it in style.  Evelyn asked me why I chose ‘velvet’.  My reply: “Because of its texture – soft, plush… some would say sexy. You run your hand over it and you know there’s depth/richness to it”.

In a nutshell, a Velvet Escape is more than a luxury escape or a getaway.  It’s about the travel experience and the impact of the experience.  It’s about using travel as a learning tool to become well-rounded, more balanced individuals.

What is the one place that you really want to visit but have never been?

Antarctica.  I had a great opportunity about two years ago.  I was in Buenos Aires and there was a spot left on a cruise to Antarctica.  After seriously considering it, I decided to go to Brazil instead.  Call it fate but it was a very lucky call.  The ship hit an iceberg and everyone had to be evacuated.

Living in Holland, do the Dutch really hate the Germans? (Just kidding!)  How have you seen Europe change in the last 20 years?

Haha, the Dutch do not hate the Germans.  They do love playing up the small-brother/big-brother role. :)   Europe has certainly changed a lot in the past 20 years.  I feel very fortunate to have experienced the development of the European Union first-hand – the opening of borders, the introduction of EU ID’s, the Euro, etc.  It truly is an amazing achievement.

I feel that the past 20 years was also characterized by a shift to a more Anglo-Saxon brand of capitalism.  That said, the recent financial crisis gave everyone a lot to think about.

In your opinion, has an open Europe blurred the lines of culture in which some of the distinct identities of certain countries have started to disappear?

No, I don’t believe it has.  I think an open Europe has reinforced the value of the many different cultures in Europe.  I think European cultures face a bigger threat from globalization (the advent of high street stores is an example) than from open borders.

What is a hidden gem of the Netherlands that people don’t know about?

Most foreigners would not have heard of the Wadden island of Vlieland in the north of the country.  It’s simply breathtaking.  No cars, just boats and bicycles, a green hilly interior, massive dunes and white sandy beaches.  The dunes are so enormous that Vlieland is often referred to as the ‘Sahara of the North’.

What is the biggest thing that travel has taught you?

We may have different languages, beliefs or physical features but at the end of the day, we all share the same hopes, fears and joys.

What advice would you give to aspiring travel writers/bloggers?

Just be yourself.  Make sure your personality and interests shine through in your posts.  Oh… and persevere!

I’m Keith, a thirty-something living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  For a decade I had a very successful career as a relationship management specialist in corporate banking; as an analyst in investment banking; and an investment specialist in the asset management world.  Like many, despite my success, my career had begun to feel empty.  Through circumstances I was able to leave and take time for myself, never anticipating that the recent collapse of the financial sector would end my chosen career.

Not one to allow circumstances to get me down for long, I have created an entirely new career for myself, following my passions for travel and writing in a way that I’d never realized was possible before.  ‘Velvet’ is the context I’ve chosen for my new ventures:  soft, plush, rich …some would say sexy.  When you run your hand over velvet you know there is a certain depth and richness to it; you know you are alive.

My aim with the Velvet Escape blog is to convey my enthusiasm about the places I’ve visited through my experiences.  I hope to inspire people to travel, to stimulate their curiosity about the world we live in and foster an open mind that is receptive to different perspectives and new ideas, as well as create a greater awareness of the environment.

Next to travel and writing, my other passions include airplanes, photography and architecture.

In addition to being a full-time travel blogger, I also co-founded the Global Bloggers Network, a community that helps individual and corporate travel bloggers grow and monetize their blogs.

Join Keith on Velvet Escapes

Check out his new travel photoblog on The Happy Explorer

Follow him on Twitter: velvetescape

Thanks to Keith for an amazing interview!  How can his experiences inspire you to travel?  Do you travel with all five senses?

Check out more of my interviews and guest posts from travelers:

Adventure travel – Ted Nelson (Part I Adventure travel, Part II Interview)

Family travel – Jenna Francisco (Part I Family travel, Part II Interview)

From humble beginnings to travel entrepreneur – Andy Hayes

Social media, travel industry, and tourism – April Mescher (Part I, Part II, Part III)

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2010 7:31 pm

    Hi Jeremy,

    Thank you so much for inviting me to do this interview. I’m truly honored. :-)


  2. August 24, 2010 3:17 am

    Oh what a great interview! Feel like watching a short film. I could see harbor in Sydney, hinge kong, Singapore and somehow Africa. Keith inspired me from the beggining of the life of travel blogging and I love your soft writing Jeremy!
    Wonderful interview. Thumbs up!

    • August 24, 2010 9:40 pm

      Thanks Juno but all the credit for this interview was Keith. He told the stories and just made people want to read about his life with his words and adventures. I was just the outlet for Keith to share. He’s one of the more fascinating interviews that I have done.

  3. August 25, 2010 6:58 am

    Wonderful interview! I’ve often wondered about the “velvet” part of “velvet escape.” Now I know.


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