Our trip to Chicago + New York | Part II

Last week we wrote about our trip to Chicago last November and the impact it had on our business. From Chicago, we went on to New York for a week. There, we started to realize what a comfortable life we were living in Dallas.

A view of Manhattan from across the bridge in New Jersey.

A view of Manhattan from across the bridge in New Jersey.

To save money while we were in Chicago, we decided not to rent a car. We took public transportation and walked everywhere so we had to be much more intentional about making plans. We could also afford to go on to New York City from Chicago because we stayed with a friend who had a small studio apartment in New Jersey. He generously let us sleep in his bed while he slept in a sleeping bag on the floor. It was quite cramped having three people in one 500 square foot apartment! Again, we also walked everywhere in the city, but we were grateful to be there.

On our first night visiting, he took us out to see Times Square all lit up at night.

On our first night visiting, he took us out to see Times Square all lit up at night.

He also treated us to a delicious meal at  Yaktori Totto .

He also treated us to a delicious meal at Yaktori Totto.

During this trip, I realized that I had wanted everything in my life to be easy. Sharing one car like Sojung and I do is not necessarily easy, but we have one - we don’t have to walk to the grocery store if we don’t want to. (Although, we do sometimes.) We were also living in a nicer apartment with a washer and dryer so we didn’t have to go to a laundromat. 

Walking and taking public transit everywhere is hard but it has become our preferred way of traveling in big cities because it helps us get to know a new city really well so much more quickly than if we were driving around with GPS. 

Walking and taking public transit everywhere is hard but it has become our preferred way of traveling in big cities because it helps us get to know a new city really well so much more quickly than if we were driving around with GPS. 

One of our first stops in the city was  Russ & Daughters Cafe  for bagels and lox. It did not disappoint! This was definitely Sojung's favorite place.

One of our first stops in the city was Russ & Daughters Cafe for bagels and lox. It did not disappoint! This was definitely Sojung's favorite place.

With our business, I wanted things to be easy but the reality was not. I was taking my work and God's provision for granted so I was unhappy with the work I did have. It was never "cool" enough or it never paid enough. On top of that, it was a struggle for Sojung and I to be married and work together all day everyday. We were having a lot of conflict and weren’t communicating well. 

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I am learning to love imperfect images like this one. We had so much fun just trying to get this photo to work and the memory of it still makes me chuckle.

I am learning to love imperfect images like this one. We had so much fun just trying to get this photo to work and the memory of it still makes me chuckle.

Chicago and New York was the beginning of a "re-start" for us. Being away from home helped us talk about and process our challenges and frustrations with each other. We started getting along better simply because we were finally listening to each other. We were both inspired and encouraged to go back to working together, grateful for the unique opportunity we have as a married couple owning and running a business as one. 

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We also realized that we shouldn’t put off traveling because of time or money. This trip was so refreshing for us and it was just what we needed. Before we left for Chicago, we didn’t feel that we had enough money to justify going but we felt like we had to go no matter what. We left Dallas not having any work lined up, but we began to receive inquiries about photoshoots while we were at the Storyline Conference. By the time we were back home, we had several jobs lined up that kept us busy for the next several weeks.

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Walking around Soho.

Walking around Soho.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

Our time in Chicago and New York taught us to value travel and spending money on experiences instead of things (like our trip to Colorado last month). We had been taking our flexibility as freelancers for granted. We also realized that we lived a life that was almost too comfortable in Dallas. So in order to budget more money for travel and simplify our life and finances, we moved to another apartment that didn’t have central heating, A/C, nor a washer-dryer in the unit. 

Sojung and I still have days that are difficult to work together and we certainly don't have everything figured out. But it's amazing to see how different our lives are right now because we made intentional changes to our lifestyle last year when we got home from New York. We are so grateful for this trip because it was the catalyst that renewed our faith in each other, in God, and in ourselves.

A selfie on  The High Line .

A selfie on The High Line.

All photos were taken with a Fuji x100s camera.

Our trip to Chicago + New York | Part I

At this time last year, Sojung and I flew to Chicago to attend the Storyline Conference

Chicago lives up to its windy and busy reputation. 

Chicago lives up to its windy and busy reputation. 

Last fall was a very stressful time for Sojung and I. Unexpectedly, she had to have major surgery that required a five-night hospital stay and six weeks of recovery at home. During that time, I didn’t take any work because I wanted to be taking care of my wife. Being stuck at home quickly left both of us frustrated, burned out on work, and discouraged about the future of our business. With all the time on my hands, my mind amplified all of the challenges and difficulties that I had faced and continued to face. I was exhausted from the stress of learning by trial and error, and I wanted to quit.

But then I learned about the Storyline Conference.

We both needed a break and a change in routine, so we registered for the conference and booked plane tickets. It was a risk because we didn’t have any jobs lined up for when we returned and we were feeling very uncertain financially after a year of working together. We didn't know whether to keep persevering or make drastic changes to our business, or give up altogether. We both knew that the trip would either be a new beginning for our business or the beginning of the end of our business.

It was so good to get away from our apartment, where we had spent most of the past six weeks while Sojung recovered, and explore a new city together. We landed in Chicago two days before the conference so that we could have time to experience it. Neither of us had been before, and we loved the city! 

The famous "Bean" in Millennium Park,  Cloud Gate , was one of our first stops.

The famous "Bean" in Millennium Park, Cloud Gate, was one of our first stops.

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All the leaves on the trees were such vibrant colors this time last year. 

All the leaves on the trees were such vibrant colors this time last year. 

A view from the Navy Pier.

A view from the Navy Pier.

We loved the industrial look of the city.

We loved the industrial look of the city.

Sojung was most excited to try  Intelligentsia  for the first time.

Sojung was most excited to try Intelligentsia for the first time.

We both were thrilled to try Chicago deep dish pizza IN CHICAGO. At  Lou Malnati's .

We both were thrilled to try Chicago deep dish pizza IN CHICAGO. At Lou Malnati's.

The tall buildings command such presence in the city.

The tall buildings command such presence in the city.

We seek out either Korea-town or Chinatown in all major US cities we travel to.

We seek out either Korea-town or Chinatown in all major US cities we travel to.

We did not rent a car on this trip and it was amazing how fast we learned about the city by choosing to walk everywhere use public transit only. 

We did not rent a car on this trip and it was amazing how fast we learned about the city by choosing to walk everywhere use public transit only. 

Beautifully graffitied walls were a-plenty in this urban city.

Beautifully graffitied walls were a-plenty in this urban city.

My favorite spot was the  Emulsion Gallery & Lomography Embassy Store  on Milwaukee Avenue.

My favorite spot was the Emulsion Gallery & Lomography Embassy Store on Milwaukee Avenue.

As we headed off to Chicago, I had a lot of fear about taking photographs on this trip. I wanted to take pictures there, but I was afraid of being judged for my photos. I didn’t consider myself a travel photographer. I specialized in studio portraits and was afraid of what people would think of me. I had lost sight of the value in shooting for myself, and I had very little sense of direction of what the future held for us. Attending Storyline helped me to see that many of the challenges I had felt were holding me back had actually shaped my life and brought me to where I am today. I no longer felt so bitter about all of the “bad” things that had happened to me, and I began to see them as important learning experiences.

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After our trip to Chicago, we were able to take a quick trip to New York City where we had a friend we could stay with. Come back next week to hear about that trip and the changes we made for ourselves and our business after we returned home!

All photos were taken with a Fuji x100s camera.

How to travel + rest well - Our trip to Colorado | Part II

On our last day in Breckenridge, we climbed the highest mountain of our trip - Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide in Summit County at 11,542 feet.

It was the most difficult hike/climb of the trip, but so worth it for the views!

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We definitely experienced "Type II Fun," which is an activity that you don't enjoy doing in the moment (like literally climbing a mountain!) but you look back and say, "That was fun!" 

Taking a little time to breathe at the Hoosier Pass trailhead.

Taking a little time to breathe at the Hoosier Pass trailhead.

We went on to Boulder for the next two days.

Whenever Hoyoung and I go on trips, we crave Asian food. We curbed our craving for it on our first night in Breckenridge with Korean instant ramen. 

Dishing out noodles and catching up on some Korean shows in our AirBnb cabin in Breckenridge.

Dishing out noodles and catching up on some Korean shows in our AirBnb cabin in Breckenridge.

For our first night in Boulder, we curbed our craving with Tibetan food at Tibet Kitchen. This unassuming little place had a constant flow of hungry customers in and out of the restaurant. We barely found a place to sit - we were resolved to eat standing at the counter if it came down to it. 

Gyathuk (Long Noodle Soup with Beef); Momos

Gyathuk (Long Noodle Soup with Beef); Momos

Chicken Curry with Potatoes

Chicken Curry with Potatoes

The bold flavors and hearty portions were amazing!  With our stomachs full and warm, we definitely had a good night's rest!

The next day, we had a chance to meet up with our new friend, John Dale. He is a very talented adventure photographer and filmmaker! You can check him out here: http://www.johndale.co.

He took us to Mount Sanitas Trail for a hike. Hoosier Pass was the most physically challenging hike and Mount Sanitas was the most mentally challenging! Looking down while walking across a large pile of boulders on a downward slope is not a good idea!

I had to take a deep breath and muster up courage to walk across these rocks! I never knew I was so afraid of heights until this trail.

I had to take a deep breath and muster up courage to walk across these rocks! I never knew I was so afraid of heights until this trail.

John, who loves to climb, showed us some of his moves!

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John climbed a tree for us and literally went out on a limb!

John climbed a tree for us and literally went out on a limb!

Thanks for hanging out with us, John!

 

 

Colorado taught Hoyoung and I a lot about what it means to travel and rest well. We didn't do anything particularly exciting or extraordinary while we were in Colorado but we did do a lot of stopping, looking, and enjoying. 

Although one of Hoyoung's ways of stopping, looking, and enjoying is to take photographs, I often find myself snapping away on my iPhone just for the sake of taking photos. I tell myself, "I'll look at these photos when I get back and draw from them then" - of course, this never happens. Also, I'm not really even seeing what's around me because I'm too busy trying to get the perfect Instagram post. This time, I decided that I needed to stop and actually use the sketchbook and pencil I brought with me instead of leaving it in my suitcase. It made such a difference - I wasn't standing around wishing I had something to draw the beauty in front of me but I actually could! Most importantly, it forced me to slow down. This was the first trip that I came back feeling refreshed instead of tired and knowing I had traveled well.

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Being able to slow down and take a step back to observe the beautiful scenery that surrounded us in Colorado also helped me to step back and observe the chaotic life Hoyoung and I had created for ourselves at home. Colorado taught me that our pace of life has been too fast, our schedules too tightly packed, and our plates too full. Whether we're traveling or going through our normal day-to-day, I saw that we had been over-stretching and over-extending ourselves with work, serving, and people around us. 

Since we've been back, Hoyoung and I have been actively taking steps to pare back the busyness and to be intentional with the people we love. We have made some practical changes. We are now eating more meals at home, just the two of us in the quiet of our dining room, instead of going out to restaurants. We marked our calendars for Saturday mornings we can go hiking locally because we both find it refreshing; our favorite trails are in Cedar Hill. We also reduced expenses in the areas where we were spending in excess. It is amazing how much financial stress this relieved, and it freed up our budget to invest monetarily in the areas that matter to us instead of spending money to spend it! These simple things have allowed us to truly rest after a long day of work or a long week, a long month, of work.

Colorado will always have a special place in my heart because it taught us how to truly travel and rest well. 

How do you travel and/or rest well? Leave a comment below and join in on the conversation!

All photos were taken with a Fuji X-T1 camera.


Missed our previous post? See OUR TRIP TO COLORADO | PART I