By the time you've read this, I will have effectively traded Nature for nature — my wife and I will be about 50 miles into our 1,000-mile hike on the Appalachian trail from West Virginia to Maine ( So before I lace my boots and hoist my backpack, here's some final thoughts I've gained from this editorial adventure.

Career paths aren't linear. To follow these paths, planning and formal training help, but it's perhaps more important to build skills that will help you match your interests with opportunities. The boundaries between industry, academia and government are blurring. To negotiate them, consider what skills you have and how they can be transferred from sector to sector. Don't want to choose one sector over another? You don't have to. You can work in each simultaneously. Aren't comfortable going from sector to sector or from on to off the bench? It's OK. You can get as much or as little formal training as you like before you make your next move. Some people prefer to get additional degrees whereas others opt for more informal education.

It's important to think globally. New hotbeds of scientific research — from Singapore to St Louis — are springing up worldwide, and researchers are collaborating in increasingly large groups. Scientists are also more mobile than they used to be, moving from one continent to another to follow the right opportunity, the right project or to pursue the best chance for funding and research freedom.

In any case, I advocate working outside your comfort zone. It's frightening but exhilarating to move into unfamiliar areas. Perhaps that's why I've decided to make the move, quite literally, on to a different path. Where will this walk lead? I suspect that it will take me to a place where I will divide my time into thirds: teaching, journalism and creative projects. Just as I don't expect to find our hike easy and comfortable, I don't anticipate that my career change will be without challenge. Anyway, before I slip into my sleeping bag and make an invocation for a bear-free evening, I'd like to thank all Naturejobs readers for your support and feedback. I wish everyone a successful career adventure. Happy trails!