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Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park

Featured Article

Nothing Beats Coming Home

Missoula Valley Lifestyle writer Susie Wall shares her love for adventure and rewards of coming home

As a freelance writer who focuses on travel articles, I’m often away from Missoula during the summer (when I most want to be here). But I’m certainly not complaining. Writing full-time has been a dream of mine for over 15 years. I was writing a handful of article each year as a side gig to my day job, then after the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the sudden death of my father, I realized that life was too short not to pursue my dream. With the unwavering support of my wonderful husband Dave, I began freelance writing full-time.

The subjects of my articles vary widely, from Missoulian profiles to articles focusing on the natural world, but my real bread and butter since I’ve started freelancing is travel. I have always loved to travel, yet I’m not one to jet off to some remote country. My travels mainly consist of places I can drive to around Montana and throughout the Northwest. Frankly, I’d be happy to never leave Montana. I may be biased, but I think it’s just about perfect.

Wherever I travel, I enjoy discovering how the residents of a certain area make it special. I like to find community—even if it’s not my community—but I always find myself looking forward to coming back home to Missoula.

Prior to moving here 15 years ago, Dave and I quit our jobs in Estes Park, Colorado, put most of our belongings in storage, stuffed our tiny Toyota Echo with camping gear, and drove around the country for six months in search of a new home. Missoula won by a landslide. Even as tourists, we felt welcomed. We witnessed neighbors helping neighbors, like when we saw a bartender at Iron Horse Bar & Grill offer a free bowl of soup to an individual who was in need. When we were in the midst of moving, even a friendly gas station clerk made us feel accepted. She asked how our day was going and when we mentioned our move she welcomed us to town and assured us that we would love it here.

After a few months of fits and starts, I found a job working for the Clerk of Court’s office. Upon hearing that Dave and I didn’t have any family in the area, my co-worker Bobbi invited us to share Christmas dinner with her family. Fifteen years later, we have yet to miss sharing either Thanksgiving or Christmas with Bobbi and she remains one of our closest friends.

I know more and more people are saying that Missoula is changing and I get it. The population has shot up, especially since the pandemic, and housing prices have skyrocketed, but I still feel those good vibes just as strongly as when we first arrived. Strangers still turn to me in the line at the grocery store and say “How about those Griz on Saturday?”

Missoula is a town that may be slowly etching more toward being a city, but I feel strongly that it will never stop being a community. Anyone that has lasted one winter knows making a life here isn’t easy, which is one of the things I cherish most about it. The long dark winters require a level of self-sufficiency for those of us who call Missoula home, but we help each other get through and there’s a shared sense of accomplishment as we emerge each spring together.

Despite not being a native, I’ve never felt like an outsider in Missoula. I feel that I’ve earned my place through my actions, as every resident should. I haven’t tried to alter my community but I hope that I have done what I can to make it stronger. I try to support the people, businesses, and organizations that are here. I shop local at every opportunity, even if it means a little more expense. I’ve volunteered with organizations over the years, including Five Valleys Audubon and Community Food and Agriculture Coalition.

As a result, no matter where or how far I venture, I always look forward to coming home. I hope 2023 holds even more travel to even farther reaches, but I know the warm feeling of returning to Missoula will never change.

My travels mainly consist of places I can drive to around Montana and throughout the Northwest. Frankly, I’d be happy to never leave Montana.

  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • Acadia National Park, Maine
  • Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park
  • Enchanted Highway, North Dakota
  • Shore Acres State Park, Oregon
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Makoshika State Park, Montana
  • Dave in Redwoods National Park
  • Oregon Caves National Monument
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho