I was very curious to discover how I viewed Michigan differently after living in Alaska for 10 months. Upon landing in Michigan a week ago for a spring break trip and riding (not even driving!) down the road, I found myself scanning for moose. That didn't last long as it became obvious there were no moose around to potentially hit!
My greatest impression of Michigan as I drove around the state for the past week visiting family and friends was "tameness." Part of what we enjoy about Alaska is the wildness and roughness. It has not been totally tamed and populated (yet), and while Alaska is not even close to as wild as it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, it is still less modernized than Michigan. I found it very safe and comforting driving down roads in Michigan knowing that there were people everywhere and it wasn't far to the next gas station, store or town. Life just seemed softer and easier somehow.
Everyone talks about how beautiful Alaska is, with craggy mountains, snowy glaciers, sparkling oceans and rushing rivers. However, Michigan has its own beauty. I went for a hike in the Pigeon River State Forest during my stay, and found that I appreciated the nuances and details of nature more on that hike. In Alaska there is a hugeness, an expansiveness and there are incredible vistas. It seems we're always looking off in the distance somewhere. I enjoyed being able to sit for an hour by a stream in Michigan and watch the sunlight play on the water. I also appreciated not having to worry about moose or bear. I would worry more about being attacked by a person in the woods in Michigan than a wild animal.
I told my daughter the second day in Michigan "We could never move back, could we?" She agreed. For right now, Alaska fits us very well as we raise our kids. It is a giant playground of sorts, with more places to explore than we could reach in our lifetime. The air is clean, there is less traffic, and life seems less stressful. We eat better here (moose!), the schools are good, and the icing on the cake is that we have relatives up here. I can see someday when our kids are raised and gone perhaps wanting the tameness, population and shopping opportunities found down yonder. But Alaska is home for us now, and we are so glad to be here.