Alaska living versus visiting

Visiting Alaska for a few weeks/months in the summer and living there year around can be/usually is, very different.  Once you add the work component, raising young children, taking care of a home, etc. it isnít much different than anywhere else, especially for young wives/mothers.  When the young father is out fishing, hunting, hiking, snow machining, etc., where is his wife and young children?  Most of you know the answer to that rhetorical question.

Raising children is difficult at best and made harder, IMHO, trying to do it without the support and help of family.  For those not born or raised in Alaska, it is not easy when you add in the weather component. Especially if you live in one of the cold parts of the state.  It can take longer to get the kids bundled up than it takes to get to the supermarket to buy groceries.  Plus, if multiple kids are involved, at least one will have to go to the bathroom as soon as they are dressed, to look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. LOL.  Probably why Alaska has one of the highest divorce rates in the US.

For the most part, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, is not really any significant difference working most jobs in Alaska than anywhere else. Living in the Banana Belt (Anchorage Bowl area) is a climate milder than much of the mid-west of the US or Canada in the winter time.  If you look at the 25 coldest US lower 48 cities, and compare it to Anchorage, Anchorage canít make the list. The record cold temperature for Anchorage is -34F.

Many of the fun things, visitors to the Great Land love to do, just arenít always available to residents trying to make a living.  The old bugaboos of time and money hit here.  Some visitors from the Lower 48 have indicated they camped out this past summer for over 100 nights/days. Many Alaska residents will never hit that total in the 2 or 3 years or so that they live in Alaska.  Again, time is often the culprit.  The same as elsewhere, the 2 week vacation is somewhat standard for young workers.  Some will use this time to fly outside to see family leaving only a few weekends to go camping, etc.

As is said, you either love Alaska as a place to live or hate it.  Not much middle ground and many people I have/do know are surprised at their reaction to living there. Some I have known have vowed, the first day they arrive, that it is home forever.  A few of this group donít return to Alaska from going outside for Christmas vacation, calling/writing, asking to have their personal belonging sent to them at an address Outside. Living in Alaska, IMHO, gives a person a chance to look internally and see what kind of a person they really are, and some donít like what they see.  Others are impressed with themselves perhaps for the first time in their lives.

Winter time in Alaska was always my second favorite season, just after fall time.  While summer is fun, winter time was just , as the song says, a Winter Wonderland.  So much more to do that I enjoyed.  I suspect a person that grew up in upstate New York or that region, might not have been as impressed with winter as this Okie ranch kid was every year in Alaska.  Even the preparation of getting ready for winter was enjoyable.  Stocking the pantry, laying in enough fire wood for the winter, getting the house prepared, making sure any heat tapes on the pipes were working, all the tools put away, the cars prepped and ready to go in the cold, winterizing the boats, changing the airplane from wheels to skis,  tuning up the sno goes that had set all summer, un-started.  The seasons controlled our lives in many ways, one of the things my wife and I miss most about living in Florida. 

Alaska Living #2

Alaska, to many people, is like Disney World, in that it is a great place to visit but not necessarily somewhere you want to live. At least a dozen Alaska retirees that I knew/know loved Hawaii so much, to visit, that when they retired in Alaska they moved to Hawaii.  Don't remember any of them staying there over 5 years before they moved back to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. 

Alaska is one place to visit in the summer and another to live in the winter, trying to do a job and earn a living, raise kids, maintain a household, deal with outside family matters, etc.  Unless you were born/raised in Alaska and have your family there, especially if one of the average aged Alaska residents, (young) then you probably are dealing with aging parents/grand parents, living in the lower 48. I always found that people, living in Alaska, even close by, like in Anchorage, LOL, were happier if they were there by choice, their choice.  Those that were sent there by their employers, such as the military, are less likely to be able to afford the "fun" parts of living in Alaska. These temporary residents know from the day they arrive, the day they will depart the state.  Not easy to consider such a place as "home." Many people are far away from their friends, family and where they consider home. Alaska is hard on families, the divorce rate is right at the top of the scale. It is especially hard on the young wives, in their late teens or early 20s trying to raise children without the benefit of having family near by.

As is said, you either love it or hate it living in Alaska. While I loved living in rural Alaska for over 25 years, flying my planes, boating, snow machining, etc., this love of place was overcome by the love of family and my perceived need to get our daughters into a different cultural situation, such as my wife and I had ourselves as children. Once you move, it is difficult to move back after a few years.

   Most of the people I know that spend their summers in Alaska and winter else where, spent many previous winters in the state. While some of these folks live in an RV in the south, Sun City type places, they fly back and forth to Alaska or drive a car. Don't think many of them do any camping in Alaska anymore, as once they get back north, they are home bodies, seeing friends, working on their homes, gardening, entertaining visitors from the Lower 48, doing some wage working, anything to establish their residency for the Permanent Fund checks. A couple of retired teachers we know, winter in Arizona and will fly back to Alaska every 90 days, do some substitute teaching for a couple of weeks, get a picture taken of them in from of the post office sign holding a copy of that day's News Miner newspaper for proof they qualified for the PFD checks.

Many residents will fly to Anchorage, spend their 2 or 3 years there with their jobs, then fly to their next assignment. Some stay longer, some retire there, but most move on to their next assignment, be it with their current employer or some new job.

While people may move from Texas to Oklahoma, to improve their cultural lives, and will do it on a "permanent" basis. They might move back to Texas someday but might not.  However most people that move to Alaska, seldom do it thinking it will be a permanent move, which it might turn out to be, but not likely. Alaska has a 65% turnover in population ever 5 years according to the last US Census report. (2000)  A politicians dream come true. It also makes it hard to get the general population to think, in terms of what is best for the state for the long haul. Prior to the building of the Alaska oil pipeline and the large influx of military personnel, both starting in the early 1970s, it was a different, more permanent population in Alaska.