Unfulfilled dreams. It drives us to work our butts off each day. It’s why we have bucket lists, goals and target dates. We want to avoid leaving this world having not done what we want to do, see what we want to see, and experience the things we want to experience. A common dream for many is traveling the world and seeing the places we see in the movies, the places we pin on our “Dream Vacations” board on Pinterest.
Jay Kwon Yang was no different. But before he was able to fulfill his dream of traveling the world, he passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 52. His daughter, Jinna Yang was devastated. From the outside looking in, Jinna had it all – a well paying corporate job in New York, a long term relationship, a luxury apartment and closets full of shoes. But inside, Jinna was unable to move past the grief of losing her father. After a bout with depression, Jinna sold almost everything, quit her job and bought a one way ticket to Iceland. With only her backpack filled with her DSLR, her laptop and a few changes of clothes, Jinna left everything to fulfill her dad’s dream of seeing the world.
In an effort to bring peace and closure to her and her family and to share her father’s story and legacy, she took a portable life-sized cutout of her dad and trekked across Europe, collecting photographs of herself with the cutout in front of famous landmarks. From the Eiffel Tower in Paris to waterfalls in Iceland, Jinna took the time to just sit and enjoy the places she’d go and work through the grieving process. Unsurprisingly, she garnered much attention because of her traveling companion. People would stop her on the street and take photos of her and her father.
“I consider myself an artist, and when I set out on this mission, I wanted to honor my father’s memory and take beautiful photos to showcase the project,” Yang told CNN. After coming back to New York and posting her photos on her blog, the project has been met with encouragement and criticism. Some question the autheticity of the project, though Jinna assures that they are indeed authentic, with Photoshop used only to clean up minimal distractions such as the white border around the cutout.
“The purpose of this project was not to make the perfect picture, but to bring peace to my family and inspire people to find hope and the courage to continue. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to know which direction to go,” says Yang. “I was broken, and because I allowed myself to accept that, I found the strength to make a change. I had talked about going backpacking through Europe, but when I (actually) booked the ticket and started planning the trip, it gave me something to look forward to again. I became confident in my ability to do something, and discovered hope in my future again.”