“Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.” –Harold B. Melchart
10 days. 13 cities. 1,412 miles.
I have been fortunate to travel to some amazing places around the world, but Alaska was one of the most breathtaking places I have visited on Earth. As you may already know, Alaska is fairly remote and incredibly vast in size, geographically-speaking. Despite the mileage and hours we traveled (the equivalent of driving from Minneapolis to Indianapolis one-way), we hardly made a dent in the state. On top of those two elements, even though tourism is booming in the summer months, tourists act differently in Alaska than anywhere I have visited before. I am convinced Alaska’s scenery and remote location has a calming effect on visitors.
Even before our plane descended into Anchorage I saw some of the beauty Alaska has to offer. I was prepared before arriving as a colleague of mine told me about the descent, but as soon as they came into view I still couldn’t take my eyes off of the fjords, glaciers, vast forest, and overall beauty. I couldn’t stop asking myself, “I get to play HERE for TEN days!?”
A few days into our Alaskan journey, while touring Denali National Park, our tour guide asked a question that stuck with me the remainder of the trip:
“We all have different journeys that have led us here and reasons why we are here today. Why are you here? What brought you here?”
Our group looked around at each other and saw just how different we all were. A few spoke up indicating where they were from: Australia (we ran into a lot of Aussies), New Jersey, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama, New York, etc. But we all had the same goal; to see the wildness that Alaska provides, its beauty, its wonder, and its wilderness. For the remainder of the trip, we saw picturesque untouched environments. While no photography can capture the true beauty and wonder we saw, some of what we did capture provides some context.
Before leaving the land of 10,000 lakes I made a promise to myself and my husband that I would stay off Twitter altogether during our trip and limit my cell phone usage as much as possible. Heck, this was #YOLOVacation (yes, that term was used throughout our travels). But, when in Alaska…
I wasn’t sure how I would fare as those who know me know I am probably too connected with “the internets”. Even where there was service (wireless service is sparse around most of the state), it was impossible to take your eyes off of what was around you. It may sound strange, but even during downpours, the scenery is phenomenal and I have never seen anything like it in my life.
The mountains, the trees, the crisp fresh air, and of course the wildlife; it really doesn’t get any better! We had reception every evening and that’s when we would reconnect for an hour with friends and family (which was difficult with the long daylight hours and 3 hour time difference). However, ultimately being ‘disconnected’ let my husband and I SEE Alaska as it is. We didn’t miss anything because we were on our phones. In fact, there were countless times where we lowered our camera to see what was in front of us; some of the most breathtaking places on Earth.
Wherever we were we heard a new story and told our stories in exchange. I came home with stories I will never forget: rounding the cruise boat to the port side to come face-to-face with Dall’s Porpoise swimming with our boat, standing on top of Ruth Glacier in Denali National Park, seeing the top of Mount McKinley/Denali, seeing the most magnificent glacial blue color, moose crossings, a humpback whale breach, following a family of orca whales, eating dinner with a sea otter watching us from only a few feet away, and countless others.
Even a week after returning, I have had more conversations with colleagues and friends, hearing their stories and travels of Alaska or to hear of their aspirations to travel to Alaska one day. Truly, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to travel to The Last Frontier and disconnect from the world to see nature in its purest form. I also noticed how relaxed and rejuvenated I felt upon returning. It was even more so apparent when I returned to the office and many of my colleagues noticed right away, too.
So, long story longer, I will definitely be doing more of these ‘off the grid’ adventures in the future as it helped me focus on the “right here, right now” and experience what was there in front of me. We’re all human and need to get away from the technology we rely on daily. And reconnecting with nature in its purest form can help us recharge ourselves to provide a much needed break from today’s hyper connected environment.
Lastly, I leave this post with some inspiration my friends have decorated in their home in Homer, Alaska: