In the summer of 2000, I got a call from a PEOPLE editor. The rumor was that a member of a famous 90s boyband was about to become a father. Could I drive to their house, knock on their door, and just ask him if his wife was pregnant? The editor clearly thought this was a reasonable request — and frankly, I needed the money.

Improbably, the singer opened the door and invited me into his house. His wife was, indeed, in her first trimester. We are still friends. That baby is now 22. 

It was the beginning of a remarkable career at PEOPLE.

The following year, I unearthed the 9/11 terrorists’ flight school records in Florida. In 2005, I helicoptered into a Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. Brad and Angelina confirmed their pregnancy (twins!) to me as I followed them around the Dominican Republic in 2007. Then came Casey Anthony, Tiger Woods, dozens of celebrity weddings (including a royal wedding in London!) and sadly, at least 28 mass shootings. 

I took off all my clothes and slept in the Belize rainforest for a ‘Naked and Afraid’ partnership with the Discovery Channel in 2016. (I still have the bug bite scars.)  Then I returned to Discovery the following year to do the show “Darkness,” where they put me in the depths of a pitch-black cave and challenged me to escape. 

Stats: I traveled to 34 countries on 4 continents. I reported on more than 600 magazine stories, including 97 cover stories. And I wrote more than 2,000 online articles.

PEOPLE has opened so many doors for me. I’ve written two books and hosted 2 TV shows. And if PEOPLE hadn’t sent me to Haiti in 2010, I wouldn’t have adopted 4 of my children. And then PEOPLE gave me 9 pages (and a cover image) to tell my personal adoption story. I owe the magazine so much!

Now I’m moving on with more than 2 decades of memories, and a heart full of gratitude!