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Moving on to the next adventure in life

Some of you may have noticed The Chronicle is looking for a full-time general assignment reporter to cover my beat — the Glencoe-Silver Lake School Board, the Silver Lake City Council, and other feature stories and photography assignments.
Yes, the rumors are true: I’m marrying a rich guy and moving to New Zealand.
No, just kidding. I’m actually going on an adventure to explore the world of manufacturing. I’ll be starting temporary work at 3M on the production line Monday.
Leaving my job as a journalist has probably been one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
I love my job. I love writing. I love taking photos. I love my sassy coworkers. I love meeting new people and shootin’ the breeze. I even love going to city council meetings and school board meetings to get the scoop on local government.
But at 28, I also really want to explore the world and continue to travel and actually have adventures in New Zealand, and unfortunately, the salary of a local reporter cannot support those endeavors.
I have outstanding student loans yet from college, a vehicle that isn’t entirely reliable (I’ll admit it), and an aching heart that yearns to hike the Appalachian Mountains, swim in the Mediterranean Sea, go whale-watching off the coast of the northern Pacific Ocean, explore the ancient Egyptian pyramids, walk the Great Wall of China, sleep in an igloo in the arctic Alaskan terrain, climb into the Grand Canyon, trek the beaten path into the Incan ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru, relax in the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Iceland and chase zebras, elephants and other African wildlife on safari in Kenya.
When I decided to major in English writing at Winona State, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to be. I just knew I loved writing.
I especially loved poetry writing but knew I couldn’t succeed financially on crafting poems about my handsome professor or childhood memories of summer evenings spent catching fireflies with my brothers.
In my senior year at the university, I enrolled in a travel writing course to better document the time I had just spent in Paris for a journalism class. It was a terrific class to chronicle my recent travels and it showed me that writing can bring you anywhere.
We read travel books like Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” and Isabella Bird’s “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains,” that inspired a burning desire to pursue travel writing.
But the class also taught me that I don’t necessarily need to go out of the country to India or out of state to the Rocky Mountains, or even out of town across the Mississippi River to travel.
My professor assigned weekly writing homework to sit somewhere ordinary — a coffee shop, a public bathroom, a bench along the lake, — and write to someone who perhaps had never traveled to any of those places.
Those assignments taught me to take in the details of my everyday surroundings, and I’m thankful I could use those skills in my writing for Silver Lake and McLeod County.
Those skills especially improved my journal entries when I did do exciting things, like spend two weeks on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, S.D., participating in sweat lodges and learning the Lakota language from medicine men.
Or when I worked and lived for six months in the Minnesota north woods along the north shore clearing hiking and skiing trails and canoeing and portaging a 26-mile trek into the Boundary Waters.
The writing skills I learned were most useful when I kept an online journal of my spontaneous six-week backpacking excursion through Central America in 2010, traveling from Panama to Mexico at the expense of my parents’ nerves and on my recent tax refund.
And being a journalist for the Silver Lake Leader and The McLeod County Chronicle has only added greatly to those experiences and has given me the opportunity to hone in on my writing skills and to keep pursuing my ambition to be a travel writer.
My dream is to someday write and publish a book about my adventures around the world and in McLeod County.
I’m thankful that at this job, I was given the incredible opportunity to share others’ stories, update the community on recent news, and meet fascinating, eccentric people along the way — all things I’ll take with me in my venture to becoming a travel writer.
Most importantly, I have all of you readers to thank, all of you who have given me an audience to share these silly stories and who have encouraged me to keep writing. I’m hoping that I can still submit an occasional column to keep in touch. After all, who will I go to when the Jeep breaks down?
So as hard as it is to say good-bye, I can feel it’s time to move on. In the words of John Muir, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”