My life took a total 180 when I ventured off on my first solo trip to Europe. If you don’t know who I am or where I was before I became a creative, entrepreneurial-gypsy, I moved to New York at 18 to be an actress. And not just an actress: a musical theatre-lovin’, tap dancin’, and song-and-dance actress. But a 10 week backpacking trip to Europe changed my entire life path.

Before I hopped on that one-way plane to Denmark, I wasn’t aware that there were destinations and lifestyles in the world that closely resembled a life I dreamed of having.

Before I discovered solo travel, my life revolved around New York and the entertainment industry. I wasn’t aware that cities existed where artists didn’t worry about auditions, callbacks, classes and struggling just to make ends meet. I had never been in a place where people didn’t know what “Broadway” was or who weren’t desperately chasing after success. And wow…was it refreshing. It was enlightening to be in foreign cities where people’s lifestyles and identities were different, where success and rank weren’t important, where people didn’t know my name, where I had this fresh clean slate to begin. This judgement was put on silent. This need for importance and success quieted. Living in New York City for the past four years has made me tired, to say the least. Tired from the constant struggle, the need to perform, the need for connection, the need for extra cash, the constant need, need, need. After four years of hustling, rushing, and bouncing around trying to make ends meet and put on a pretty face at auditions (the jewel-toned dresses, the makeup, where every single girl looks exactly the same…), I realized that the life of actor wasn’t my calling anymore.

I woke up upon landing in the United States and decided to make a conscious and intentional decision: to move past my ego and to follow my intuition from that point on.

From the moment I got back into the United States after my miraculous 10 weeks in Europe, I knew things were about to change. I realized I was forever done with the acting profession (the business of “the business” did not suit well with my heart) but I didn’t want to give up without a last fight. I worked an internship for a few months working at a renowned talent agency on 5th avenue, only to confirm that the entertainment industry – both on stage and behind the scenes – was definitely not for me. It was at that internship that my dad passed away. Two weeks later, I realized how important and fragile life was, how easily it could be swept away. Why should I continue going through my short life pursuing something that doesn’t align with my values?
I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to do with my  life. I had no other skills. No other training, aside from acting, music and dancing. But I knew I had to pursue something with photography.
So, without any hesitation, I left my life as an entertainer behind, applied for a credit card, and bought a camera.

For the next year, I completely absorbed myself in the art and business of photography. I self-taught myself photography, business strategies, taxes for solo business owners, marketing, graphic design, and Photoshop. You could say I’m an extreme person – I tend to listen closely to my heart, and when my intuition nudges me in a certain direction, you can believe that a decision will be quickly made.

Through the ups-and-downs of my present journey, life has taken unexpected detours, and when I was least expecting it. But I constantly remained open and flexible, seeing every life event as an opportunity to learn and grow.  I’ve learned to adjust my sails when a sudden wave appears.

I’ve also learned a valuable lesson on patience and trust that year. Despite the awkward moments, penniless days, and frustrating weeks when I felt like I was going absolutely nowhere, I realized that I was. We are on a life journey that is constantly unfolding and presenting new opportunities and lessons. And the best part of it all is that it is ours and ours alone. We are the designers of our own, unique lives and we are completely allowed to make mistakes, tweak, adjust, get up and start over again. Again and again.  The one thing about us, humans, that I am absolutely sure of is our constant need to evolve, shift and change. Nothing is permanent.  As psychologist Will Meek, Ph.D., once said: “Strategic quitting is making a prideful choice to admit that something isn’t working out and to go in a different direction. It’s making a decision to put your energy toward something more fulfilling.”  Instead of equating quitting and change as failure, I decided to think of it as regrouping, switching gears and getting unstuck from my present life circumstance. In essence: I decided to follow my intuition. And that is the best route anyone can take on this journey.

Those ten weeks wandering Europe led me to discovering myself, my values and my new-found gifts, and it happened because I booked that one-way ticket to Copenhagen with nothing but a backpack. In those months, I found alignment. Alignment with my intuition, alignment with my values and a realization that is was perfectly okay to let go of the life I led by.

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How My Life Changed When I Discovered Travel

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I'm an expert at creating emotive, modern classic children's and family portraiture, the ultimate Disney and Harry Potter nerd, and I'm obsessed with expressing my joy for life on this blog!

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2016 - 2019 Helena Woods | Helena Woods Portraiture is located outside New York City in Fairfield County Connecticut and travels worldwide for her clients. Helena Woods is New England and Connecticut’s premier family, children, baby and newborn photographer specializing in modern classic custom family photography with a timeless look that's always in style. As a professional photographer, Helena captures maternity, newborn, baby and family portraits in NYC, Westchester, Trumbull, Easton, Weston, and Westport, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Norfolk and all Fairfield County surrounding areas.