Johannesburg - Over the past five years and 11 months it has been my privilege to edit this travel supplement - first as travel editor of the Saturday Star and latterly as group travel editor for all editions of Independent Traveller - I have often been reminded that, compared to some of my readers, I am but a babe in the travel woods.
I have met people who travelled to Patagonia in their eighties, people who know where to find a good bed and a meal in Carnarvon in the middle of the Karoo, people who have flown up glaciers in helicopters in Alaska.
On email, I have had lively conversations with people about travel insurance, bad airline service and why I am spoiled because I am a travel writer.
That last of these was a sentiment expressed by a number of letter writers when I moaned about the traffic in the Kruger National Park and how it spoiled the bush experience for me.
Quite correctly, many pointed out that I have spent many a night in luxury game lodges not only in South Africa but all around southern and central Africa.
Walk a mile in the shoes of real people, the people who pay for their holidays, I was rudely told.
What hurt most was that the criticism was valid. Sometimes we travel writers think the only places to stay are where there’s a five-star plaque by the entrance.
I have also engaged with readers on deep matters - like the inhumanity of mankind when I discussed the fire-bombing of the German city of Dresden and when I struggled to convey my sense of immense sorrow standing at the Ground Zero memorial in New York City, reading the names and reliving the horror of the 9/11 slaughter.
As with my Media and Marketing pages, I have had to be on the alert for the sort of silly mistakes which eagle-eyed readers gleefully pick up on the printed pages.
I haven’t had much of a chance to get cocky or arrogant because Sod’s Law has always thrown up an error at the perfect ego-deflating moment.
To those who have loyally followed me over the past few years, I must inform you that this is the second last edition of Traveller with me at the helm.
At the end of this month, I will be leaving Independent Newspapers after 35 years. I have decided to try putting into operation, outside this corporate environment, some of the ideas I have had over the years.
It was not a decision which came easily. I do not feel I will fit in with the future direction of the company and I would rather not be a hindrance to those plans.
I do believe, however, that there is a future for thoughtful, well-written travel stories which go on for longer than the 500 words which, we are told, is the maximum people will read on the internet.
I hope to prove that very wrong in my own upcoming digital adventures. And I will continue writing. Without being able to put words together, I would be lost.
Thank you for putting up with me for the past almost six years and thank you for your insights and even, on occasion, your kind words.
I have not been able to communicate with all of you over the years, but if you’d like to drop me a line in the week I have left, I’d love to hear from you.