Our Family

Like many Americans, Yafei Zhu and Gary Hawkins are immigrants; although it seems an old-fashioned word to use when we live in such a multi-cultural society. Yafei was born in China and came to Kansas in 1992 to continue her university schooling. Gary comes from South West England and journeyed to the East Coast for work and a fresh start in 1995. They met in Arlington, Virginia after a mutual friend suggested they have lunch. Fortunately, he had realized the year before Yafei and Gary had visited each other's hometowns while traveling. That was a little over twenty years ago!

Yafei and Gary are the proud parents of Xaria Joy Hawkins. Xaria is smart and fun loving. Blue-eyed and blond haired, she surprises many with her fluency in Chinese, as well as English. She has deep dimples and an infectious smile. She loves the simple things in life – family, pets, cuddly toys, plush blankets and the outdoors. She has a big soft spot for dogs, dirt and rollie pollies. Put two or more of these together, and she’s in heaven.

Xaria Joy with her proud parents

Gary is an active Dad, who loves the outdoors and is hoping to encourage a passion for nature and the environment in Xaria. Gary is a keen cyclist and owns and operates Ride Fit and the Ride Fit Fitness Emporium that offer the Ride Fit series of virtual indoor cycle training videos, and quality gym equipment. Gary is the planner of the family. He has a list for everything and is organizing our extended travel.  Gary published his first book, Changing China, Changing Life, in the summer of 2018, and his second book, A Life Redesigned, in 2019.

Yafei is one of the most outgoing and friendly people you’re ever likely to meet. It’s amazing how quickly people feel at home with her; no matter what their age or background. She has a child’s innocence, and this is what makes her so endearing to others. One of Yafei’s strongest characteristics is her inner strength. She sees the positive side of life. Adversity generally does not drag her down, she’s a glass-half-full type of person. Aside from being a dedicated Mum, Yafei loves Zumba, yoga, and hiking. She also acts as the Customer Relations Officer for  Ride Fit and Ride Fit Fitness Emporium.

After many years of trying every possible method to build a family, we were finally blessed to adopt a newborn baby girl in January 2015.  We named our daughter Xaria, the American meaning of which is, “gift of love.”  We like to believe Xaria is “our gift of love” from God, and so began another new and exciting chapter in our lives."  Learn more about Xaria here.

Gary and Yafei have now both given-up successful corporate careers to focus on spending quality time with Xaria during her formative years. Gary's book A Life Redesigned describes how they got to this point in their lives, their chosen travel style, and their preparations.  It shows how this is possible much sooner than you might think. Both Gary and Yafei work remotely, as well as blog and write about their long-term travel adventures.