By Eric Elliott

Pioneer Staff

When I first arrived in the Columbia Valley, the only intention on my mind was that my stay would be a pit stop in my life. I was a cockynot to be confused with confident22 year old kid fresh out of journalism school that thought of my move from Ontario to small town Invermere B.C. as more of a couple lines on a future resume than a life changing experience.

I couldnt have been more wrong.

It started with my first story in May 2016, covering the relief efforts by people throughout the Columbia Valley going towards the fire in Fort McMurray Alberta. As an outsider quickly turned insider, I vaguely understood the connection the Valley had to the people living in Fort McMurray, but was still shocked at the amount of support for a tragedy over 1,000 km away.

That became a reccurring theme amongst nearly every story I did while writing for both the Invermere Valley Echo and the Columbia Valley Pioneer. Whether it was a fundraisertrivia night for local Heather Bibby raising nearly $10,000 to help her fight canceror watching hundreds file into the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena to watch a struggling Columbia Valley Rockies team from puck drop to the buzzer, it didnt matter; the community engagement within the Columbia Valley is second to absolute none.

Over the weeks that turned into months, it became contagious too. I went from being a person who thought of my time here as more of a job to someone who cared about local issues as if Id lived here all my life. It became a commonality throughout stories in the newsroom where I said to my colleagues, I cant believe how much everyone cares about issue X or story Y

As a journalist it made the job much more challenging but also more exciting. When I made a mistake the community held me accountable because they cared about the issues I was reporting on. Having lived in other small communities before, I know all too well the reverse relationship where locals dont care about local issues or the newspaper that produces stories about them.

As great as that is, if you ask anyone what they like most about living in the Columbia Valley, the quick and probably obvious answer should be the people. Starting with my own newsroom, I couldnt have asked for a better group of colleagues to work witheven after having my ear talked off on the drive into the Valley by my publisher last April. Few in the Columbia Valley understand the amount of work that Steve and Nicole put into the production of two newspapers on a weekly basis and without the backbone of the advertising, publishing and front office help, Im not sure either paper would get off the ground.

Its this passion in the Valley thats changed me as a journalist and as a person. Despite thinking it was just a way for me to move up in my career, it became something more. Through stories and events like Ball Fest, Rockies games, pond hockey, bonspiel, Canada Day parade, I found a second home here in the Columbia Valley.

Its this that makes it incredibly bittersweet to say goodbye. As clich as that probably is, its true. Im moving onto another job across the country (again) in Saint John, but Im leaving events, stories and most important, people that Ive established relationships with over the last 10 months that will hopefully last a lifetime. Thats a tough one to swallow.

Its why I know someday Ill return to the Valley even if its just for vacation. So, in sticking with clichs, its not goodbye, its Ill see you later.