Learning from living in Alaska for 20 Years

  1. The relationship you build with a place can be as or even more powerful than any relationship you have with another human being

Despite the common saying that no matter where you go, there you are paints a picture that you can’t hide from yourself, I believe that the fact that you’re going or you’re exploring, even if the sole purpose is to hide, helps to make you a better person. The experiences you have with place change you, and sometimes, in a split second. For me, I’ve learned you can have a very powerful relationship with place just like you can have a relationship with people. Like all meaningful relationships, it takes work to love where you are, and more importantly, who you are in that environment; for me, I am no longer convinced that you are the same person regardless of where you are, just like you are not the same person with human relationships.


2. Friendships made in the first few years last just like friendships from childhood

You may be older, but I met several people on the first day or the first week I was in Alaska up in Fairbanks and they are still some of my favorites. I didn’t think I would ever have friendships like that of my childhood, but when you live somewhere for an extended period of time, eventually, you can have just as strong and meaningful friendships. It takes patience and effort to create these.

3. Postpone less, do more 

Somebody once talked about how we postpone our lives until tomorrow until tomorrow is always just that, leading us to never actually reach a state of living. Alaska has taught me not only to seize the day, but also the moments. Life doesn’t have to be rushed to be full, nor does every experience has to be a 4 day event. Sometimes, life happens in 60 minutes when you are least expecting it, but you have to reduce the postponing habit, and embrace doing them instead. So what if the thing you did wasn’t as epic as you had hoped because it’s about getting out there, and as Thoreau reminds us, “sucking out all of the marrow of life.”

I remind myself often of this question: “In five years, what will you regret not doing?”


4. It’s ok, acceptable, and even cool to talk about the weather 

It’s just what we do. Alaskans look at, talk about, and analyze the weather more than any other group I’ve lived around. With the technology boom over the last 20 years I’ve lived here, the discussions have only gotten worse, but somehow, we get away with it.

5. Living in a dry cabin or as a minimalist can have a profound impact on your life from that day forward.

I have never worked harder to just live and get through the basic daily needs and chores that it takes to eat, drink, sleep, and be warm than when I lived in a dry cabin. To do those things that are necessary on a basic level using the most inefficient means available with little to no modern technology teaches you a lot about who you are. Those lessons turn into life long pieces of advice that I have used since I moved away from the cabin lifestyle. Small things such as thinking about how much waste you produce to how you handle stress when you can’t just go home to a relaxing hot tub, and soak all of your worries away.

6. Nature is the best therapy. Period.  John Muir

7.  Rural Alaska is something everyone needs to experience

You could say that is the same as international travel, and in many ways, it’s similar, but the natives were here first, and thus, when you learn that you are a visitor to your own country, it is life changing. I suspect that we, and by we, I mean white people, should also have to experience this with other minority cultures that we’ve impacted.

8. State pride is a thing 


The Alaska flag is everywhere. As the locavorism movement spreads through the country as well as through products, I’ve noticed state pride increasing all over, but when I first moved to Alaska, I remember finding that to be something unique about Alaska. It taught me to be more mindful about how to be a consumer that supports my environment rather than consistently tearing it down.

9. Commitment=“Fuck yes or no”

While I came across this article written by Mark Manson only a couple of years, it summarizes perfectly what relationships come down to. For me, this isn’t just about romantic relationships, but all of them, including the ones we have with nature, colleagues, and places. Any kind of commitment is going to either fall under the Fuck Yes or the no because if it isn’t a Fuck Yes, then for whatever reason, it isn’t a commitment in your life at that moment. It could be something you’re using to pass the time, but that isn’t the Fuck Yes kind of commitment that makes a difference. This aligns to my next point.

10. You have to constantly work at the spectrum that all humans struggle with:


The purpose of life is to reach mastery in whatever we want to master, and hopefully, for many of us, one area we strive to work at is our relationships. That being said, you have to work at getting to the center of the spectrum without feeling guilty. There is a balance that we should be trying to achieve so that we maintain who we are, but at the same time, also commit to our relationships in a healthy way. This includes our career, and many other areas. I have found that most people suck at mastering the spectrum, but from that, it just makes me want to continue to improve my own mastery, and to decipher when I need to use the Fuck Yes or No scale to understand when to embrace, and when to walk away. Commitment and the spectrum go hand in hand.


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