IDECIDED to become a journalist because I liked writing and I liked people. It was that simple.

I wanted to see more of the world and to know how to communicate it to others.

But boy, I had no idea how much I had let myself in for.

My two and a half years at the Gazette have given me more insights on life than I ever imagined possible. For starters, I met Prince Charles, David Cameron, Jack Straw and Katie Price. And yes, David’s forehead really is that big in real life.

I dealt with massive health stories and families who had been left devastated by grief.

I covered murders and assaults and people falling off fells.

I carried a fully-grown man across a field during for a fitness boot camp.

I was locked into a shop, by a man who ripped my notebook off me and threw it across the room.

I swam naked with the British Naturists at a Coniston tarn. The subs nearly gave me a heart attack when they showed me a fake front page with the title ‘Helen gets her bits out’.

I interviewed a north Lancashire woman and her 15 kids, with two of them sat on my feet.

I perched on an upturned sofa, drinking weak tea out of a bowl, listening to a man tell me about his female friend who had died on the floor hours earlier.

The number of characters I have met in this job is astounding; the experiences have been unbelievably life-affirming.

My mangled writing was teased into some degree of legibility by my editors. A year ago, they let me have this personal column. Response from readers has made it, without a doubt, one of the best parts of my job.

The power of words. Don’t doubt it.

I am currently in India. When I come back I will be taking a new role as an arts reporter in South Lakeland, so this is my last Gazette column.

You can keep up with my journey at The Off Duty Journalist online.

My blog’s title is a joke because, as all my friends know, there is absolutely no such thing as an off duty journalist.