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.