I'm a writer, Youtuber, photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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The United States was my home. It was my home growing up those initial eighteen years in San Diego, California. It was my home through elementary school, middle school and through those seemingly long years in high school. It was my home through the trials and challenges living in New York City as a young adult: when I was scammed by my roommate and left on the streets homeless in Brooklyn, when I had zero dollars in my bank account while working at a haunted house, when I was left heartbroken on my stoop. New York and San Diego, both, will always be home to me. One is not more “home” than the other, but they are places I will equally miss and nostalgically look back on. 

While I am beyond happy to have  said goodbye to living in that beloved city of mine, I always dedicate this blog post as an official closing ceremony – to peacefully part ways with the city that so strongly holds my heart, in an attempt to feel lighter, freer and fuller. 

Here are the things I will miss but am saying a temporary goodbye to…as well as my top 5 tips to help ease an international transition!

The Food

 

Oh the food…let me count the ways San Diego’s tacos, burritos and avocados have brought me joy my years growing up. Or how New York’s saucy pizza and buttery french toast (always from a 24 hour diner, of course!) satisfied my cravings and steadily cleared my bank account. I’ll miss the hole-in-the-wall bars and hidden late-night speakeasys in the village, the nightclubs and rooftop views in the Meatpacking. I’ll miss the colorful array of Indian, Thai and Afghan food on the west side and the Vietnamese and Vegan favorites on the East. I’ll miss the flour tortilla burritos in San Diego, for it might be many years before I’ll be back to grab another (flights from France to San Diego are not cheap).

I’ll miss getting lost and that joy of discovering those hidden foodie gems.

The discovery: that is what I’ll miss the most.

The Memories 

 

While living and observing the present moment is something I am naturally good, and am getting increasingly better at with time, I still am a nostalgic. I love memories, old photographs, visions of the past and music that takes me back to my childhood. So it’s without saying that the United States holds the majority of my memories of my 24 years on earth so far. And leaving the United States feels like I’m saying goodbye to them. 

I’m saying goodbye to my years growing up as a spunky kid along the sandy shores of Southern California, of my beloved years on the stage, of my time discovering myself and my dreams in New York. I’m bidding adieu to my scrappy years (although I’m sure I’ll always be scrappy) pinching pennies alongside my million side hustles in Manhattan. I’ll cherish all the friends and characters I befriended along the way, for those pictures and memories will always hold a safe place in my heart. 

While I had two full years living in New York to make countless memories with new and forgotten friends, dates, and theatre nerds, it was the memories of meeting my husband Alex and that blissful and uncertain period in our early dating years. Those memories of getting to know one another, our first kiss, our first time experiencing cabarets, nightclubs and the Metropolitan Opera together. Our first picnics and biking expeditions, introducing Alex to Trader Joes and Broadway, Alex introducing me to classical music and salsa dancing. It was so new and exciting, with no idea of what the future held for us both. When I think of New York, I think of growing into my own, of falling in love with who I was, of discovering art, religion and poetry, of realizing what I was worth and what I deserved. I think of our two souls meeting, of beginning a no-end-in-sight adventure together.

I think of me.

And then I think of us. 

The Libraries and Metaphysical Shops

I’ve explored countless bookshops and libraries in Paris and across Europe, and they don’t come close to the book selection in the United States. The shops in France are more aesthetically beautiful, with their antique decor and priceless historic artifacts, but the book selection – particularly books on business, entrepreneurship, self-help and spirituality (which are all my go-to aisles) – doesn’t come close to the variety in the States. This, I will miss greatly, as bookstores and local libraries are my comfort space where I enjoy spending most of my time. Also, finding an English section in a bookstore here in Strasbourg has proved to be very challenging, and I am forced to rely 100% on my Kindle for the coming years. Metaphysical shops are also not a common sighting as they are in American cities like San Diego and New York, but I am hopeful. 

Friends and Conversation 

Of course, I will go back – I have friends and loved ones that I must connect with! But no longer will I see those beloved kindred spirits every week now that I’m living on another continent. And that is a hard thing to swallow. I will miss deep conversations and witty exchanges with my friends whose first language is English. While I am eager to befriend and make new kindred spirits abroad, I will also miss the connections I have back home, and the easy dialogue exchanges that come with it. 

I am a restless wanderer. Never aimless but always restless. 

I have not been fortunate enough to have been bestowed a personality where I can peacefully live in one spot for many years at a time, despite my wish to. I am easily bored of cities and destinations which requires a new setup every certain number of years. And while I am restless, I am still nostalgic. With this closing post on my farewell to the United States, I quote one of my favorite Disney characters Edna Mode: “I never look back darling. It distracts from the now!”

The N O W

How powerful and magical is that. 

TOP 5 TIPS

And now for my top 5 tips to help ease an international move! 

  1. Bring some sentimental items (favorite books, photographs, journals, a blanket…)

  2. Document the journey whether that be in a handwritten journal or through your lens!

  3. Find comfort foods in your new local grocery store that remind you of home

  4. Surround yourself with things you love! (For me, that’s buying a few household items that bring me joy, petting a dog on the street, rereading my favorite book)

  5. Get involved and show up! (Volunteer work, Facebook expat groups, summer music events, etc)

Photo Diary From My Recent Memories Back Home

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Saying Goodbye (For Now) To My Home in the United States

September 1, 2018

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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