Caravan Sonnet: Why You Should Dream About Visiting Alaska

8/1/17

Why You Should Dream About Visiting Alaska

Like many people with wanderlust, my heart is often drawn to the roads that are less traveled, to the spaces that speak of being wild and free, and to an almost untamed frontier that allows for its community to create a rich and diverse history. For more than a decade, since a grad school friends parents moved to Alaska, I have dreamt of visiting the land that seems rich in a myriad of adventurous opportunities, steep in historical culture, and would provide unforgettable scenery. And several years later, when my grad school roommate and dear friend spent a couple of years living in Alaska I found myself drawn to this place in America that spans the centuries as wild and free as any place that the United States has to offer. 

The reasons to dream about planning a visit are as numerous as the sky appears wide in Alaska. From the highways that could provide a dream road trip vacation to the unique adventures no matter what time of year you visit, to the countless fjords, waterfalls, and glaciers, Alaska is a place that you should dream to visit. It seems that everyone has written some article or post about the top reasons to go and honestly... I believe for very good reasons.
Since the US government purchased the land of Alaska for 7.2 million dollars (which roughly works out to be less than 2 cents an acre) in 1867, the immense natural beauty that spans the rivers and mountains alike has called people to "the last frontier". 
It is a land that has attracted those from a wide variety of backgrounds and history. From those who have familial connections to those wanting to escape the typical "rat race" life seen in other sections of the world. It comprises a long list of wanderers and dreamers who have flocked to the immense land that "cheechako's" (an "affectionate" name for those who have lived in Alaska for a little time ) and Alaskan natives alike are proud to call home. 
Last summer I started to plan and dream big about a trip to Alaska. At first it was just a dream... built on things I had read, hearing stories from those who had gone, and potential collaborations on the blog. In that time I decided to commit to a cruise to Alaska and take my parents with me. It has been so fun to dream of the cruising ports we will see and visit but I was left to wonder if there was more to this amazing space of land than the ports. 

This past fall I was re-introduced to this wild land when I met J. The first time that we interacted there was this air that surrounded him that was hard to put into words. It was removed from the "lower 48" (as the Alaskans term it) and there was this wildness that was there that seemed to only be able to have come from some where outside where I lived. There was a steadiness and a confidence that could easily be seen and it was one that I was slowly to learn that is deeply ingrained within the Alaskan culture. Several weeks ago I was honored to sit and listen for a couple of hours to hear about Alaska. It left me wanting more.
There is a pace of life that is slower than other parts of the US which matches the way of life. Even the path of statehood took longer than any other state with almost 90 years passing from the purchase of land to the admittance into statehood. But the word "slowness" should not be confused with anything but depth.
It is a people who have forged territory that could only be described as wild and have conquered the art of helping their neighbor as far back as its development of community. One of the most famous examples of this happened in 1925 when a serious diphtheria epidemic struck the small town of Nome, Alaska. Due to severe weather conditions planes were unable to fly in the life-saving and necessary medicine that the city needed. In true Alaska heart fashion the people of Alaska banned together and dog sled teams raced the 674 miles in a record 5 days despite the record breaking freezing temperatures. Beyond the heroism of the dogs Togo and Balto who became famous showed the story of a heart of courage in this land. 

This determined attitude that never gives up is seen in the hearts of Alaskans, through this modern age where many only look to themselves. Since the early 1900s the stories haven't stopped, just increased. From stories of Alaskan Airlines participating in Operation Magic Carpet to the renowned clean up that lasted more than three years when an oil tanker ran into the reef at Prince William Sound to present day Kikkan Randall, the Olympian who gives back to the community and encourages others to experience the benefits of sports through numerous charities these few stories make up just a few of the amazing stories that come from this wild and free place. 
Beyond the Northern Lights that I long to see, I dream of visiting the beauty that surrounds the history, the culture, and most of all the people that make up this wild and unique place. Perhaps most of all the research has taught me that Alaska is a place that is big for dreamers... even those like myself, dreaming of their first visit. 

A huge thank you to the Alaska Tourism Board for sponsoring this series of posts about Alaska and providing the photographs and encouraging my dream of exploring Alaska. 

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