Asia exchange sat down with the young travel guru and photographer Jinna Yang to have a chat. The young entrepreneur runs the successful website and instagram @projectinspo, where the main goal is to inspire people to travel the world and live their dreams. As soon as the café latte arrived, Jinna directly started to reflect on how traveling has influenced her and why you should take the opportunity to study abroad.
Alright, Jinna! To start with, could you tell us a little bit about your background.
I am a photographer. I used to be based in Brooklyn but I have been nomadic for two years now. You can call me a free spirit. So, I have always been very motivated and it comes from my family I guess. I have always wanted to work harder, work smarter and make more money. The very idea of success used to motivate me but my whole life and perspective changed when I lost my father in 2012. I realized that I wasn’t happy with the stuff I had accrued and I wanted so badly for my life to change because I was lost. Before I was very unsure of myself. My confidence was extremely low but I woke up one day and realized my life would not change if I do not make the changes myself. So, I started by taking risks, working on my craft, exploring, doing things that scared me and travelling to new places that I had only seen on the Internet. Part of the reason why I wasn’t happy is because I realized that corporate life wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel fulfilled by my work and I knew that I wasn’t passionate about it. But I did gain a lot of experience that eventually prepared me to be able to do what I love.
I see! Where does your need of traveling come from?
I think it is because life is so short and there is so much to see and so limited time to actually see all these wonderful places. A lot of this was put into perspective for me because of my father not having the time and the chance to travel. I want to meet new people and experience new things! Like try new food, dance to new songs… I cannot imagine myself living in the same place every single day for the rest of my life. Sometimes, what I do is I look at the map. It makes you realize how small you really are and how sometimes we make our problem big in our mind when in reality they don’t really matter that much. When I look at this map, I look where I was born and where my parents were born and the places I have been. It always reminds me of how many more places there are to see.
So, what are your favorite things about traveling?
Human connections! Mostly just simple things, like sitting on a coffee shop, having a conversation with people who are seemingly so different to me but are actually the same. You can meet a person that is from a different life or neighborhood, a different family or a different culture but that person still feels the same things as you do. I think it is this human connection that spreads across cultures that remind us that we are not so different after all. AND FOOD because I am forever hungry so the first thing I do when I get to a new place is to just go and eat.
How did you start projectinspo?
I wanted to create a place for people to feel comfortable. It’s a part personal diary and a part community. Its giving me a purpose to help inspire people to travel more, do things that scare them and live the life they have always dreamt of.
On your website you share useful information about traveling. What is your best advice to score the cheapest flights?
Fly when its not high season. Try to book a flight during the shoulder seasons, usually during spring or fall. Avoid the summers, it is super crowded and everything is so expensive. Try to have flexible travel dates so that you can choose to fly in or fly out on a day when the flight is cheaper.
No matter where you are from or what you have been through, you can find happiness and create the life of your dreams. If I can do it, so can you.
So, how do you inspire people to live the life of their dreams?
I just hope that I can be proof that life can get better after hard ships because I am a regular girl. I did not come from a super rich family, I was never the smarter person in the room but I worked my ass off, and I never gave up. Now I am prioritizing happiness and living the life that makes me feel fulfilled. I want people to know that they are capable of much more than they think, or often give themselves credit for. No matter where you are from or what you have been through, you can find happiness and create the life of your dreams. If I can do it, so can you.
What is the best country to visit in South East Asia?
Indonesia obviously! I have come back to Bali four times already, it is my happy place, I feel freedom. I love the feeling to be on a scooter cruising down the road surrounded by rice paddy fields, everything is green, wind is blowing in your face, and it is just this incredible feeling of freedom that washes over you. Bali is definitely my happy place. I love Malaysia as well. The food is incredible and the culture is so diverse. You do not know if the person, restaurant or shop is Indian, Chines, Malay or from somewhere else. It is like a surprise hiding in every corner, a great place to just go and get lost.
You have been on the road for a while now. How do you make an income while traveling?
I get paid to take photographs all around the world. I do not make a lot of money. I actually make a lot less than when I used to work corporate back in New York City. But I have learned to live with less, and have grown to sacrifice some of the things I thought I needed back in the city. I traded those in for a life filled with more experiences, usually barefoot. I used to have tons of shoes that I never wore, and now I live everyday in flip-flops or with no shoes at all. I am happier doing what I love, making less money and spending less money plus I would not trade this lifestyle for all of the bags and shoes in the world.
Traveling to a new place and studying alongside people from all over the world, you will grow, change, be inspired, discover things about yourself and the place you are living.
What advice can you share to our readers who are considering on studying abroad?
Just do it! There is nothing but good that will come from stepping out of your comfort zone. Traveling to a new place and studying alongside people from all over the world, you will grow, change, be inspired, discover things about yourself and the place you are living. Start by researching where you want to go, and get excited. Do not worry about the logistics too much just focus on all of the crazy experiences you will be getting into soon, and DO IT.