In 2012, Jinna Yang's father Jay Kwon Yang was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Despite three rounds of chemo and medical bills that put the family $1 million in debt, he passed away that August, at the age of 51, sending Yang into a tailspin. She quit her fashion job in New York City, gave up her apartment, sold most of her clothes and set off on a trip to Europe — accompanied by a life-size cardboard cutout of her dad.
"We always expected him to live because he was the rock of our family," Yang, 25, tells Yahoo Shine. "He never stopped fighting and was positive until the last day." He also raised Yang and her brother after divorcing their mom many years ago, and the three grew into a tightly knit Korean-American family in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Following her dad's death, Yang found herself inspired by the George Clooney movie "Up in the Air," in which folks travel with a cutout photo of newlyweds who cannot afford a honeymoon. She began to toy with the idea of honoring her dad by bringing a representation of him on the road, as a way to make up for the fact that he had never been able to travel during his lifetime. So she found a store that would make custom cutouts based off photographs, paying about $200 for one of her father. A friend's engineer dad helped her fold it up so she could travel with it more easily, and Yang set off with the likeness to Iceland, England, France, and Italy. She posed for pictures with her "dad" in front of famous attractions, including the Leaning Tower of Pisa, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Louvre, and published them Sunday on her blog Grease & Glamour in honor of Father's Day.
"I want the world to know who my dad was," Yang explains. And, thanks to her creative homage, people approached her as she traveled, asking about the cutout and wanting to know more about her and her project. It led to strangers sharing their own stories of grief and loss. "That's the great thing about traveling," she says. "It really was healing for me."
Now Yang is plotting her next trip, this time to Spain and Croatia. And, of course, dad will be right there with her.
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