Monday, October 15, 2012

Revisiting life in Alaska

Every once in a while, I ask myself the question of whether or not it's still worth it to live in Alaska. I mean, the cost of living is super high. I hear about rents other places and think, damn. I'm renting a small and rather shabby apartment for the same price that I could rent a whole house in other areas. The cost of food here is astronomical, and the quality can be very poor. There's no curbside recycling so I'm less inclined to recycle everything possible. We don't have fantastic resources like dollar stores, Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc. Mosquitoes are awful here. My gardening options are limited, and almost all fruit trees are absolutely out of the question. Heat and electricity are expensive. Utilities don't have much competition so they gouge customers. (I'm looking your way, GCI and ACS.)
A relative once said that the hardest part about living in Alaska isn't the conditions, it's that almost everyone you know will move Outside at some point. We have a solid base of family here, but many of our friends have moved and most of the rest are talking about moving in the future. It was rather sobering to talk with a friend on Saturday and have her mention that her husband will be going with her on a business trip out of state to scout out that area and see if they want to move there in the next year or two. These are some of our closest friends. Our social circle here is rapidly dwindling. In fact in roughly four more years we likely won't have any of our close college friends living in Fairbanks. We'll still have family and friends in state, but the closest are down in Eagle River and Palmer. It's hard to think about putting down permanent roots when the people you love are talking about moving.
Of course, there is the alternative question about where I'd want to go, and furthermore where we would want to go. That's something Shane and I haven't been able to come up with yet. It rained here a couple of weeks ago and reminded me of November in Seattle. I ended up thinking, "Oh yeah! This is why I never want to move back there." I hate that miserable, soaking, gloomy sort of rain. It just puts me in a bad mood which cold and even darkness never seem to. So the Pacific Northwest would seem to be out. But where is in? We still don't know.
So I was thinking all of this stuff to myself the other day and then mentally started putting together a list of all of the positives of living here in Fairbanks. Like, no fleas or ticks. Which means that with two pets, not only do we not have to worry about them but we don't have to spend money on medicine for them every month, either.
Virtually no state taxes. That's hard to beat.
Very small spiders.
I'm acclimated to the cold, so it's heat that bothers me and we don't have more than a few days or weeks out of each year which are uncomfortably hot.
The dry air causes problems, but at least we don't have to deal with moisture problems such as mold.
Opera Fairbanks and FLOT. From what I've seen, other places have community theater and such but not as well supported as Fairbanks's.
Friends and family. Hunting, fishing, foraging. I know some of those things can be had elsewhere, but come on. Having so much wild Alaskan salmon that you're sick of it is a problem that most people would love to have.
On the day when I was thinking about all of these things I went to the Pub to hang out with friends for a short time and as I was walking home I looked up and there were the northern lights, dancing vibrantly all across the sky. It was chilly and breezy, but I stood there for a good ten minutes watching them and smiling. Probably around 99% of the world's population will never get to see such a glorious sight. And yet, I could step out on an ordinary evening from about August-May and see it. It made me realize (yet again) how lucky I am to live in such a place. Is it worth putting up with the high cost of living for the scenery? That depends on a lot of factors, but right now I'm still leaning toward yes. At the very least, I want our future kids to grow up with some of these memories. I want them to experience the deep cold and the northern lights, not just to hear stories and to read about them in books.
We got our first light dusting of snow Saturday night/Sunday morning. It was light enough that I still biked to the grocery store (on my not-too-safe hybrid tires) and made it home in one piece. Today we're getting what I sort of consider our first "real" snow. Just enough so far that the road looks white rather than black but not enough yet to cover the grass. It's making me happy and forcing on me the knowledge of just how sad I'd be to live somewhere without snow. If we ever do figure out somewhere else to live, it will have snow.

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