Justina Blakeney is at home in the world.
Justina will surprise you. She’s a laid-back chiller, but driven as hell. So, even though she’s got this warm, natural, boho vibe about her, she also knows what she wants, and goes after it hard. She’s the kind of friend that gives advice like, “carpe fucking diem, homie.” And you’re like, “holy shit, she’s right.”
But beyond being wildly successful as an artist, New York Times best-selling author, designer and owner of the Jungalow shop, what makes Justina especially interesting is that she started traveling and living internationally at an early age (spending a year of high school abroad in Switzerland, and then Italy for eight years in her 20’s). She’s at home in the world, and it shows in everything she creates.
After many years traveling and living between Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York and beyond, Justina did something not everyone does. She figured out how to live and work in the same neighborhood, within walking distance. Her home is in Elysian Valley along the LA River, which she’s dubbed the Jungalow by the River, and her studio is on the same street.
I met up with her at her studio, and we took a walk along the bike path that runs along the LA River, stopping to chat about traveling and memorable trips.
Your perfect trip in three words: First class, lounge chair, flea markets.
First trip you remember from childhood: Summers in Mexico. When I was in the first grade, we went to Cancun for my aunt and uncle’s wedding. I was a flower girl. I remember how it all looked and felt. My aunt was wearing a colorful Mexican dress and flowers in her hair. It was so beautiful and felt culturally different from anything I had experienced before.
Best solo trip: Switzerland when I was 16 years old. I spent the entire scholastic year of my junior of high school there. I stayed with a host family, traveled with the school choir, and learned German. I remember the education was so sophisticated there. We were reading Toni Morrison in high school, and I loved it.
Best trip with friends: Santa Fe, New Mexico with my girlfriends last year. We went to the Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, the Museum of International Folk Art, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, and just chilled out.
Best trip with family: Taking my daughter Ida to Paris when she was four years old, and seeing it through her eyes. The Eiffel Tower, the Natural History Museum, the Zoo. We did touristy things I wouldn’t normally do, but it was so fun.
Worst trip ever: Gosh, so many bad trips. But what usually makes a trip bad is if I’m stuck or delayed at airports. I also had my passport stolen on my way to Paris for New Year’s Eve when it was turning to the year 2000. I fell asleep on a train, and it got stolen. That was pretty bad.
Ever travel to volunteer or do community work? Yes, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I had an old friend who was getting his Masters in Urban Planning at Harvard, and his whole class went to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. So a few of my friends and I joined them. We did a lot of general clean up.
Favorite thing to take and bring back on your travels: My favorite thing to take is an extra suitcase, and favorite thing to bring back are textiles.
Travel-related products you can’t live without: My 4-wheel suitcase that swivels. The one I have is the perfect carry-on. It’s so lightweight. Also, when I’m traveling I love to bring a travel water color set and a pad of water color paper. And, of course, a real camera. I love bringing my Canon 50D so I can take high-res photos.
Summer travel plans: Instead of traveling this summer, my husband and I have decided we’re going to turn our home into a vacation. We’re researching how to put in a small in-ground pool and jacuzzi, Moroccan style.
All-time bucketlist dream trip/destination: Brazil, Austrailia, India.