Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Going Outside....For the First Time in Two Years....

We did the tourist thing on the East Coast.  Here, the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D. C.
It seems like every time I go Outside, that is, out of Alaska, it is an event requiring reflection.  This time was no different.  A month-long whirlwind from the Midwest out the East Coast and back, visiting family and friends as well as being a hard-core tourist in New York and Washington, D.C., offered many opportunities to reflect on life in Alaska as compared to life elsewhere.

Things that bothered me other times we've been Outside (traffic, lots of people, consumerism) didn't bother me as much this time around.  I'm still not a fan of any of those things, but I wasn't quite as annoyed by them this time.  I'll admit that the weather took some getting used to.  It was in the 80's and 90's a good amount of the time we were traveling and the first few days of that startled me.  Of course, it was hilarious reading on Facebook about friends in Homer complaining about the 70 degree "heat wave"!  And upon return to Alaska it has been warm--stunning to wear shorts and a short-sleeve shirt and be comfortable!

When I asked my kids what they like about the Lower 48, my son said, "wearing shorts."  I don't know if that means he would give up all the amenities of Homer just to live in the Lower 48 and wear shorts.  Maybe the warmth of this summer in AK will change his mind on that one!  My daughter appreciated no bears (we don't count black bears).  We allowed her more freedom to go running by herself in the Lower 48 without that threat.  That was a treat for Aurora.  For me....more than once my jaw dropped at the prices of things--stunningly cheap!  I compare the price of restaurant food in Homer to, say, the price of airport food:  just about as expensive as it's going to get for that level of quality.  Clothing prices were about the same as in Alaska, but the difference was there were choices.  No matter what the price, there are clothing styles we just can't find in Alaska.  Of course, we did end up at the Mall of America in Minneapolis with over 500 stores, so that a strong statement about the level of options we got!

A few other random observations and thoughts:
  • I thoroughly hate woodticks and got some on me or the kids just about everywhere we went hiking including Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and throughout the Midwest.  I just don't miss not having ticks in Alaska.  Not one bit.
  • Everybody we stayed with recycles.  This was a radical change from other times we've visited.  It didn't matter if they were in big cities or small towns.  In many places it is required.
  • People interact with only a very small part of their environment--the area in which they live.  Unless people make a concerted effort to get out and see things and take advantage of the amenities of their area, chances are it doesn't matter all that much where they live (assuming jobs and family aren't the determining factor for where they settle down).
  • People watch a lot of TV.  Having never owned a TV in my life, I was startled to visit people and discover the television on in nearly every home, in the common family area, playing the entire evening.  I watched more baseball in this month than in my entire rest of my life combined (Which I decided was not a bad choice as it is fairly good, clean entertainment as TV goes.).  It has strengthened my resolve not to let this device into my home.
  • I sure love all the bike paths and parks in cities.  Anchorage has them too.  I'm on the fence as to whether I could put up with living in a city for the advantages of the parks and trails.  Very tempted.  Still have to be bear aware on Anchorage trails though.

I caught myself saying, "The kids need to get out of Alaska!" as we went on college campus tours during this vacation and were thinking about the future.  I love Alaska, but it does feel very isolated.  I deeply appreciated being able to get out of it for a month to regain perspective about our place in the world.  Two years of not leaving once felt like a long time.   Vacations are good!