I moved to Alaska about four weeks ago without much of a plan. Here is a non-comprehensive list of things I have noticed or observed about my time in The Last Frontier.
[Note: I have spent almost all of my time walking or busing myself around the Anchorage area, so these observations are mostly reflective of that environment; I can not speak for the state of affairs throughout the rest of Alaska.]
- Things are expensive. Produce, oddly enough, doesn’t seem to be priced too horribly, though it does seem to start to rot quicker than in the lower 48. Everything else seems ridiculous compared to what I was paying in the Midwest. From acquaintances I’ve talked to, it gets worse the farther into the bush you go: $11 for a gallon of milk, for example.
- Alaska is a giant state (over two times the size of Texas, according to the tourist t-shirts boasting this fact), but as soon as I landed, I felt a bit secluded from the rest of the world. Getting anywhere requires at least a decent length car trip of around 45 minutes, if not a flight to get you to where you want to go. Even downtown Anchorage, where I’m currently crashing with a friend seems to fill up during the work day, but after 5:00 pm, people head back out of the city and there aren’t as many people walking down the streets.
- Most of the Anchorage population isn’t too worried about casually encountering bears in daily life. If you travel outside of Anchorage or are on the trails, then you need to be bear aware. Otherwise, the majority of people have told me to be on the lookout for moose wandering around, munching on greenery, and to be aware of how close you get. One of the signs on the bike trail by my friend’s apartment says, “Avoid a confrontation, since a half-ton moose with four slashing hooves could stomp the living daylights out of you.” Direct and to the point.
- For the first time in my life, I am in an environment where the ratio of men to women works in my favor. Due to the amount of manual labor and industrial jobs plus the presence of military bases, there are more men in Alaska than women. Though, apparently there is a saying about that ratio, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.” To be fair, all the men I’ve interacted with have been polite and nice to talk to, and I haven’t received a single weird, obscene, or “DTF” message on OKCupid since I got here. Maybe the scarcity of women makes men step up their game.
- Most of the people here are incredibly friendly and more than happy to direct tourists or offer an opinion about which restaurants have the best dinner options. There are free tourist maps in stands all over the city, and if you whip one out on a street corner, I can almost guarantee someone walking by will ask if you need help finding something. Also, people smile at you when you walk by. It makes the city feel very welcoming, and in turn, I’ve been smiling at people on the streets, which is not something I previously did much of.
- All the smiling and helpfulness may stem from the endorphin kick Anchorage residents get from all the outdoor activities they do. Everyone wants to take advantage of the summer sun while it’s around for 19 hours a day, and people bike, kayak, hike, walk, run, do yoga in the park, or just get outside in some capacity after work and on the weekends. It seems to be more a way of life than being viewed as exercise or something they feel like they should do.
- Oh, those 19 hours of sunlight. They are glorious, and intense. I’ve accidentally gotten sunburned at times I thought I would be safe from the sun’s rays and have learned to just go ahead and slather on the sunscreen. I haven’t experienced any real problems trying to sleep, though I know some people struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I have a really hard time figuring out what time it is, mostly in the evening, and that I tend to lose track of time and don’t realize it’s 11:00 pm and not 8:00 pm.
- There are more employment options. Some are seasonal or temporary, but in general, there’s a higher demand for people, particularly those with bachelor’s degrees. In the four weeks I’ve been here, I’ve gotten more calls from employers about jobs I applied to than I did in a year back home. Even finding something to hold you over while you look for a more permanent job seems to be easier in the 50th state.
- Even as I’ve been enjoying my time here, I still found myself wondering how people could be totally in love with Alaska long term with the eight-month-long winters and 19 hours of darkness. Then I went hiking with my friend to the top of a mountain (oh, by the way, “hiking” in AK means going vertically up a steep incline) and later we went for a drive south on the scenic byway. As I stood in awe of the snow-capped mountains, I started to get it; it’s a bit of an addiction of constantly being in awe and admiration of the majestic natural world that’s around you all the time. It makes you feel small and infinite all at the same time.
Has anyone else ventured to the great state of Alaska? What did you think? If you haven’t been there, is it some place you’d like to go?