Friday, April 9, 2010

Reflections on Traveling Outside

Earlier this week my husband and I hopped in a plane to fly to Houston for a vacation/conference. On the flight out I was reading "Fifty Miles from Tomorrow" by William Hensley about the Alaska Natives who were some of the original users of the term "outside" for traveling anywhere outside of Alaska. It was perfect!

I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd flown out. The first year in Alaska I flew outside 4 times for a week each time. Since then I have not flown outside. It was strange to see so many people, so much concrete, so many cars. It was a totally different experience than driving outside on our 10,000 mile, 5 week road trip last summer. That was a process; this was ka-boom, we're there.

The first two days of traveling, all I could think about was how jealous I was of my kids back in Alaska, out at the cabin (no running water or electricity) with my aunt and uncle, snow machining, sledding down huge hills (and snow machining back up) and crust skiing. Both Doug and I wanted to be back there with them rather than in the glamor and glitz of all Houston has to offer. Now, 5 days into this vacation, we're getting used to the traffic, noise and warm weather. When we helped do some landscaping for a Houston school on Thursday, I wore a t-shirt and shorts and was warm. It was 70 degrees--it rarely hits 70 degrees in Homer. I virtually never wear shorts outside in Homer. Here, every time we walk out the door of our hotel we feel slightly...naked...without our winter jackets.

It takes this culture shock of leaving Alaska to remind me of just how used to small town country life I have gotten. What is most entertaining are people's reactions to our introductions that include where we are from: "Wow" with a long pause is a common one, along with, "You're a long way from home." And when we took a behind-the-scenes tour of Johnson Space Center along with people from Australia, Germany and around the U.S., it was Alaska people were asking about! Much as it is cool to see famous people, go to professional basketball games, and more, I will be so happy to be back in Homer and skiing.

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