A Fifteen Year Love Affair
There’s something magical about travel, isn’t there? The thrill of navigating your way through a busy airport, or exploring a city you’ve read about in the glossy pages of a magazine. It feels as if the world is suspended with glittering threads of hope; like anything is possible.
I will always remember the first time I visited Alaska. I drove from Oregon, my home state, and crossed the border into Canada in Sumas, Washington, a small border crossing northeast of Bellingham. The year was 2003. I was in my early 20’s, and completely unaware of how that journey would change my life. I caravanned with three friends in two cars and all four of us were animated with excitement to be out of our hometown and off on a wild adventure through Canada and on into Alaska.
We spent two weeks camping our way north along the famed Alcan Highway. We swam in lakes and took sulfur-water showers at campgrounds that cost one looney (a one-dollar coin in Canada). We stopped to marvel at every bear and moose we saw and picnicked at every lake we passed (there’s a lot of lakes on that highway!). It was a carefree time of youthful bliss; our entire summer laid out before us. Around the campfire at night, we would proclaim that this was going to be the best summer of our lives and that we would all be friends forever.
It was indeed one of the best summers of my life, though none of our hopeful predictions played out the way we thought they would. Life rarely does, though. That summer did change my life because I fell in love with Alaska. The 49th state has a way of working itself into your soul and never letting go. I went back to Alaska in 2005, and again in 2014, and again in 2017. It just keeps calling me back to it, and I am no exception. Talk to any long-time Alaska resident and they will tell you the same story – they came to Alaska on vacation, and they kept coming back, and eventually they stayed. Alaska does that to a person. She offers us what we’ve always been looking for – peace, wonder, wildness and majesty. I’ve been to nearly all 50 states and, while unique and beautiful in their own way, none holds the stunning grandeur that Alaska does. Referred to as the “Africa of North America”, Alaska boasts the title of pure wild; it takes a special kind of person to adapt and live among her painfully stunning vistas and ragged snow-capped peaks, because it feels (and looks) like a fairy tale and we’re conditioned, as we grow older, to not believe in fairy tales. But Alaska is the place that makes us believe in magic again.
I visited the town of Seward the first time I came to Alaska, in 2003. I slept in the back of my car on the banks of Resurrection Bay at Miller’s Landing and touched the ice at Exit Glacier. I cruised with Major Marine Tours out around Fox Island and on to Northwestern Glacier, a tidewater glacier in the heart of the Kenai Fjords National Park. I went back to Seward in 2005 and was saddened to see how far Exit Glacier had receded. Like with any magical place, each time someone visits, they walk away with a little bit of its wildness clutched in their hands, until it eventually becomes tame. But Alaska is still very wild indeed, and it has something to offer each one of us. Perhaps without even being aware of it, we come to Alaska with questions, and somehow, she gives us answers. Fifteen years after my first visit, Alaska continues to answer every question about life I’ve ever had. There is wisdom in her soil, in her air and her trees. All we have to do is breathe it in.
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Liberty Miller is a freelance blogger and full-time nomad.
To read more of her writings, visit her blog at www.libertyeliasmiller.com