Imagine being 19 and being paid to travel around the world.
Unless you’re Justin Bieber, most travelling twenty-somethings are bussing tables, working two jobs in order to be able to take a break and live freely from the conventional lifestyle.
Annika Helgason isn’t even a twenty-something yet, but she’s already had a taste of the far-from-conventional lifestyle. And not in the way you might first think. She started modelling for Panache Models in Winnipeg, Manitoba when she was 16 as a side job. In just three short years, she has accomplished what other models might consider as a daydream.
Annika has spent the majority of 2015 travelling to foreign countries as a sponsored model, spending three months in Seoul, South Korea and two and a half months in Milan, Italy. While she was in Europe, she says she was able to plan mini getaways to places like Florence. She even got to spend her 19th birthday with her boyfriend in London.
A typical day of work involved shuttling to different castings where Annika says she’d be lucky if she snagged one out of 20. While she was overseas, she says she was hired for about 20 or so jobs, and she has been featured in publications as prestigious as Vogue Italia. One of the major castings she nailed was for Nee Makeup Milano. She is the face for their summer 2015 and winter 2016 make-up campaigns.
“I loved being able to work and travel. I get the best of both worlds,” says Annika.
Annika says that the travel opportunities that modelling has given her with has taught her what it takes to be independent.
“I have this need for travel now. Before I left, I was so nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever been shy, but now I’m so more outgoing. I have so many lifelong friends that live all over the world and not just from the town I grew up.”
Annika hasn’t always been a avid traveller. She says that for the first two weeks she was in South Korea she only ate PB&J sandwiches because she was too afraid to try anything else.
“The first few weeks, I had major culture shock,” she says, “I hated it, but I decided to stay. I ended up loving it and then I went to Italy for 10 weeks.”
By the time she left South Korea she and the five other model roommates would take turns cooking foods from his or her home country.
Her favourite place in South Korea was a dog café where you can buy coffee and dress up dogs all in one place.
As a travelling model, Annika has been able to work for luxury brands like Maserati and knows what it’s like to party on a yacht in Monte Carlo. But, she says when she works, modelling isn’t always what people likely imagine to be. In her own story, she’s like other “wanderlusters” who want to see different parts of the world.
“Modelling is awesome, but not in the way people think. It’s like having six jobs and trying to find jobs to pay rent. People don’t do it because it’s glamorous, people do it because they want to see the world.”
She gained more confidence and felt like she could figure things out for herself when it was time to take on the Italian modelling industry.
One day she had to go to a casting alone and got lost.
” I ended up finding a nice area with train tracks. Today I’m happy I got lost.
Last year, before Annika was asked to go to South Korea and Italy, she was asked to go Paris, France to model for three months. She declined the offer.
“I said no because I was too afraid. I was nervous to be gone that long. The unknown is scary.”
Now, Annika is happy she took the plunge. Her unique work/travel experience at such a young age is something not everyone gets to experience. She think everyone should give themselves an opportunity to leave and be in different places in order to appreciate home.
” You cant appreciate being Canadian as much until you see how other people live. Now I think I wanna go to Manila or Thailand.”
Keep an eye out for that fair skin and strawberry-blonde hair. You never know where you might see Annika’s face popping up next…