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Meet Your 2020 Saskatchewanderer

Meet Your 2020 Saskatchewanderer

· 13 min. read

Leah Mertz became the tenth Saskatchewanderer in 2020, opening up a new decade in the Saskatchewander program. Much like past wanderers, she has a love for content creation, travel and a soft spot for Saskatchewan. Her journey in the program has been unique so far this year, so I sat down with her (virtually) and asked her a bit about the first half of herself and her time as the Saskatchewanderer.

First off, where are you from?

I originally grew up near Chestermere, Alberta, but probably around the time I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to leave. I went to university in Edmonton but it wasn't a good fit so I eventually moved to Vancouver and went to school there. I was there for 6 years and then moved to Montreal for 4 years. Now I'm living in Saskatoon and it's barely been a year, but it's already changed my life in many ways. I feel like I'm from all of these places in a sense; they're all a huge part of who I am.

Before you were the Saskatchewanderer, what did you do?

A bit of everything, and to be honest, I'm still figuring out what my career actually is? but ultimately I've freelanced in digital content creation for the past several years. It's an ever evolving field, but some of the roles I've had are editing videos, producing podcasts, managing social media, writing blogs, and more. On the side I do voiceovers for a variety of clients who are mostly based in the US (medical training, advertisements, radio, etc) as well as writing and making music.

Leah Mertz is the 2020 Saskatchewanderer

What made you want to be the Saskatchewanderer?

The job seemed to very much mirror my personal life?I've been on a non-stop adventure since I left home at 18. With that, I've lived and worked in so many different situations that I don't play favourites. Sometimes when you log into social media, you start to see people falling into trends and favouring certain aesthetics and creators, but I think it's important to keep an open mind. I truly think you can find a story in anything and anyone.

If you could pick one place to travel in Saskatchewan with the program, where would you go?

Eventually when the time is right, I really would love to spend some time around Cumberland House. I've recently become a fan of Sol Carriere on Instagram (kingsolvideo). He also has a YouTube channel. I believe he's in the area and his posts are so honest and interesting. As a creator, I appreciate that more than anything. To me, he captures the essence of the good side of social media?he's being himself, he's sharing a slice of his life, and he's getting others to appreciate something they might not be familiar with. He also has a great sense of humour. I'd love to chat with him one day. Living so closely with nature is something I grew up with, but left behind once I moved off the farm. His posts make me long for that lifestyle again, and it's a big part of why I moved to Saskatchewan. And, I think it's the reason so many people appreciate living here so much.

What is your favourite memory so far of the program?

Favourite and for sure the most terrifying, but getting bit by a police dog in Estevan definitely stands out. When I heard that Zane had gone skydiving last year, I was like "phew, glad I don't have to do that"?little did I know I'd be getting my own adrenaline rush too! Although I was suited up in what felt like 50lbs of padding, it still was a huge, powerful, clench on my arm and I actually had some marks that lasted for a few days. I'd never want to be on that dog's bad side.

Saskatchewanderer in Estevan

Besides being the first woman in about five years (yay!), what changes do you plan to bring to the program?

I was happy to be chosen, and honestly didn't give my gender a second thought. But now that I'm thinking about it, here's a mini tangent I'll go on that might be useful to aspiring creators: One of the toughest but greatest lessons I've learned being in the freelancing game so long, is that the best work always wins in the long run. If you have several people bidding for the same contract and the client is looking at your portfolio up against dozens of others before they've even met you, your gender has a very tiny, perhaps non-existent role to play. Nearly 100% of the time, competence, reliability, and skill reward you when it comes to creating. If anything, content creation is the great equalizer. In my experience, it doesn't matter who you are, if you can create something amazing and blow a client away with your professionalism it will be the ultimate momentum for your career. Gender biases, industry favours and personal connections fade really fast when you put something on the table that immediately raises the bar.

That being said, for Saskatchewanderer I wanted to try doing content that was more in the vein of being a vlog/day in the life rather than perfect camera angles. I'd rather talk to people in the moment and if I'm lucky, capture something great on camera. The moment you start introducing technical factors and setting up shots, it can pull people away from who they really are. There's a time and place for it, but for Saskatchewandering, I wanted to experiment with being a little more off the cuff.

Picture of Forever Young sign in Young, Saskatchewan

What were some of the (non-pandemic) challenges that you faced? For example, Zane wasn't used to driving so much, Neil wasn't used to eating so much, etc.

I might have to agree with Neil. Typically I have a very simple way of eating and usually only eat once a day. But if I'm in a delicious restaurant with a spectacular menu, I just go for it and hope my stomach doesn't turn on me. On another note, I'm used to dealing with lots of A/V equipment? but in one spot. Being on the road and taking things from place to place is a whole new organizational skill set to learn. All of the sudden memory cards and hard drives are harder to keep track of, remembering to charge a dozen things makes you crazy... all the while hoping you still have an extra pair of fresh socks to wear. I have a passion for travel, but lately I've been trying really hard to find my inner passion for organization.

How have you been Saskatchewandering during the pandemic?

For a while, I was doing weekly videos. I cooked some local food, had some great takeout from a nearby restaurant, highlighted some previous wanderer travels, interviewed a farmer, did a great virtual yoga class at home, and a few other things. Despite not being able to travel, I didn't want to disappear all together. I realized it probably wasn't the content people were used to, but hopefully something was better than nothing.

Saskatchewander inside because of the corona virus

Do you know when you'll be back on the road?

At the moment, I will be starting to do some day trips. I haven't totally figured out how I will be visiting businesses and talking with people (as I'd prefer in-person over video chatting), but hopefully I'll be able to do that safely in the coming weeks and be able to still enjoy the summer months outside.

What are your plans after you retired from being the Wanderer in December?

I have absolutely no idea. I'm not proud of it, but I'm a bit of a workaholic and haven't taken more than a few days off in years, so perhaps I'll start there and get a real vacation in. This will probably include a good break from social media to reconnect with other aspects of my life.

Do you have any advice for future wanderers on how to approach the program?

I'm by no means an expert at this, but if I had to offer advice from what I've learned so far, I think you need to have a passion for creating above all. Beyond that, enjoying travelling is only the beginning... you need to be technically versed with cameras, video editing, writing, and more. Also, realizing you're not going to be able to please everyone is important. Visiting one spot or interviewing one business means there are many you didn't get to visit. A big part of me feels like I'm letting others down everytime. I'm still learning how to reconcile that and wish there was a way to give everyone the attention they deserve.

Ok another mini tangent?in a sense, that's part of why I liked doing the vlog style where I can include a bunch of different things. But, at the same time, would 5 businesses appreciate me stopping by in a vlog over me choosing 1 to feature in their own video? The 1 would certainly be happy, but the other 4 wouldn't be mentioned at all. It's a tricky balance and ultimately just sucks there's not enough hours in the day to do it all. If you're a people pleaser, perhaps give applying a second thought! haha

Thank you to Leah for taking the time to answer my questions and for helping me carry on my tradition of interviewing each Saskatchewanderer. Although she's stuck at home, she's still really busy, so I really appreciate it. Please follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on Saskatchewanderer.ca for updates with the program.

Also, all photo credit belongs to Leah Mertz, the Saskatchewander program and the Tourism Saskatchewan.

Will you be applying to be the 2021 Saskatchewanderer? Let me know in the comments below.

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Meet Your 2020 SaskatchewandererMeet Your 2020 Saskatchewanderer

Categories: Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan, Saskatchewanderer

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