Today is Oct 4th, and I’m sitting at a table in a loft apartment in Healy, Alaska, population 1,021 (est. from 2010 Census).
One year and 5 months ago I lived in a suburban town in Southern Ontario, Canada with a projected ‘life path’ that was taking me to some cool places for PhD field work, interspersed with long periods at a desk quietly working under a dim light, post-it notes in front of me with reminders saying ‘oil change’ and ‘sale on spinach -Sobey’s’. Life was okay. I was content and in my comfort zone. However, since then my life has been nothing of that. It’s better than I could ever have imagined.
I have discovered Alaska and a life that truly makes me happy. I have visited Alaska by road driving the Alcan, seeing wildlife and mountain views that actually exist outside of postcards at the airport duty-free places, seen most of the road system though still more to see, and spent some of the best times of my life in Cordova.
How did I get here and how is it that one person’s life can change so much in such a short period of time? I guess the short answer is saying yes. Dive ahead, even if it’s a little precarious; say yes to new things.
The past 48 hours I travelled from Cordova, Alaska to Valdez by ferry, drove (or should I say, a wonderful man drove) 6 hours north to Fairbanks. I was fortunate that people in Alaska are so generous and I was given a car to drive from Fairbanks to Healy on Hwy 3 to Denali National Park to stay with a friend whom technically we met only once, though she stayed at my house a couple nights and we follow each other on Facebook keeping in touch for years before making contact about my visiting Fairbanks and she graciously allowed me to come for a visit…..Give these parameters to a statistician and I would say these circumstances are less than one in a million.
As I sit at my friend’s table and look out on this beautiful fall day….it’s snowing here….and think about this past year and almost a half, I’m struck with the emotional gravity of how happy I am. I’m addicted to saying yes, despite the fact that my stomach churns at the thought of driving on a highway I’ve never been on with someone else’s car full of stuff headed to a place I’ve never been with no cellphone, or getting onto plane after plane to visit someone I desperately want to see with the thought that at some point I’ll have to turn around and get on a plane to leave him. All the pain of leaving that comfort zone is far outweighed by the surges of wonderful experiences and life-long lasting memories.
My mother always says that in life she wants to give my brother and I two things, ‘roots and wings’. I call home often, and I need to because I get home sick and I miss my family terribly, but man am I going to use my wings. The more I travel, whether it’s in Alaska or elsewhere, the more I’m struck by how much I would have missed if I didn’t just take those chances and book those flights. Salmon spawning, bull moose, halibut fishing, watching mountain goats climb, picking wild blueberries and edible mushrooms, hiking through rainforest, watching whales in the ocean and being splashed by a Dall’s porpoise diving and jumping around the boat, only to turn with a huge smile on my face to a thoughtful man ready to capture that moment on camera is something money could never buy.
I consider myself blessed at having discovered saying yes early enough in life that I have decades more travel and adventures ahead of me. My flexible lifestyle right now allows for this kind of travel and I’m going to take full advantage of it!