Jinna Yang’s father passed away at the age of 52. He had never traveled, putting off that luxury to devote himself to selfless work and care for his family. And as it is apt to, time slipped away before he could fulfill his aspirations to explore foreign lands.
After her father passed away, Yang, who had not traveled either, boldly set out for Europe. In tow she carried a life-size cardboard cutout of her father so he could see the world through her eyes. She posed for souvenir photos beside her father’s cutout in front of the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa and Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
This cathartic experience changed Yang’s outlook on life. She reflected deeply on lost time—the hours she logged at an unsatisfying job, the days she forced a one-sided relationship to work. The years she did not truly live fully. And since her first international trip, Yang has traveled countless miles to turn back the clock and reclaim missed opportunities for herself and her father.
Yang chronicles her literal and metaphorical journeys on her blog Grease & Glamour. We caught up with this inspiring globetrotter who shared three life lessons she learned while on the road and in the air.
1. Traveling alone is a surprising gift. Like going to the movies or out to dinner, travel is an experience we typically do with a spouse, friend, someone. In these instances, it feels strange to set out on your own and Yang (at least initially) agrees: “Traveling solo can yes, be scary,” she says. “What if I get lost? Will I be bored? Who will I talk to? Isn’t [chatting to strangers] just weird?”
But she urges you to buy that single window-seat ticket. “Remember, anything that’s scary is really an opportunity to be empowered. The thought of being alone in a foreign place can seem overwhelming, but if you do the necessary planning, make the jump and get out there, being alone will be the last thing you’re worried about,” says Yang. “You’ll come back feeling proud you did something that once scared you, and that’s one of the most empowering feelings in the world.”
2. Distance is not a travel requirement. Travel does not come easily for everyone. Along with the expansive opportunity comes financial constraints, family responsibilities, work obligations, and timing conflicts that make booking a trip difficult or inconvenient. Yang herself faced all these challenges. She left a demanding job for the freedom to roam and sold almost all her worldly possessions to fund her first journey.
Of course Yang recognizes she went to extreme lengths that may not be within reach for many. If travel isn’t an option, she advocates curing wanderlust without actual globetrotting—try exploring your hometown to refresh your outlook. “My current routine wasn’t making me happy or allowing me to feel fulfilled. So instead of moping around, I made the decision to start putting effort into exploring my backyard,” she explains. “Drive down a new road. Sit and watch the sunset. Stay in a hotel one night just because.”
Yang urges you to break away from the norm when you start to lose inspiration. Getting a latte from that new cafe across town might be almost as reinvigorating as a costly vacation.
3. It’s okay to stand still. We’re conditioned to think ahead. What should I cook for dinner tonight? What are we doing this weekend? Yang sympathizes with this fixation on the future: “I never sat still and focused on the here and now.”
Through her travels, she developed a new appreciation for the intangible things that are too often overlooked when we are racing to reach whatever comes next. “That magnificent sunset, crisp Icelandic air, buffalo mozzarella cheese with fresh-sliced tomatoes, or the Parisian cobblestone streets…” Yang credits her newfound appreciation for these joys to slowing down and savoring the moment. “Learn to be present, and happiness will find you.” So the next time you’re tempted to power-walk past the bakery en route to the office, stop. Breathe in. You can experience delight here. Now.
To learn more about Yang’s travels and her project #FORMYFATHER, visit Grease & Glamour.