Embracing the challenge of living in Alaska
I love living in Alaska. I love the mountains and the snow. I would so much rather be cold than hot. Eagle River is the perfect place to raise my family with its small town feel and wonderful people. Most of the downsides have upside trade-offs. There may not be an Old Chicago’s restaurant here, but there is a Pizza Man. Days may be really short in December, but they are long in June. Nonetheless, there is one huge downside to living here: the isolation from family and friends in the Lower 48.
The Army assigned us across three other states before we received orders to Alaska. This is the first time we’ve never been further than a hop, skip, and a jump from family. We have always had options when the question of “What are we going to do for _______ (fill in any holiday)?” came up. Do we spend time with this local relative, drive a couple hours to this friend, or turn it into a full vacation and drive one or two days to see everyone in this state?
We could still travel to see everyone. However, that one or two day drive is suddenly a more than a week there and the same back. While the military gives plenty of vacation days, travel like that would eat it up in no time. Then there is flying. While the military pays decently enough, travel like that would eat up a salary in no time. I’ll be honest. I’ve told my family that I’m not traveling to see anyone over vacation. Hawaii is cheaper.
Being military, the solution to the holiday issue is to work to build our own family here. This can be tricky. If we look to the military community to build family, someone is likely to move before too long. The military is a big family though, and there is always someone to replace those who move. Plus, it is a small Army; we will be stationed with many of these people again. The community of Eagle River helps too, with many locals embracing my family as their own. Between our neighbors and members of our church, we only have to let our need be known and we are taken care of.
The real issue: as our life marches on, so do the lives of all those we love in the Lower 48. That’s tough. Before moving to Alaska, we could be there for the all major events in the lives of our loved ones. A wedding of a cousin I’ve never met, no problem, it’s just a day’s drive away. Close friends have a new significant other: a meeting will be arranged before long. A family member falls ill: you don’t even think — you just go visit. Up here, there are choices to be made. My college roommate met the love of her life the day I arrived in Anchorage. I could hear the wedding bells in her voice when we talked. I wanted to meet this man, but I had to make a decision: go visit and check this guy out, or save the money for my ticket to go to the wedding. In lieu of a “getting to know you” dinner, I went for the next best thing: Facebook stalking.
So I’m adjusting to the challenge of living in Alaska. I also know that with all the new family I’ve acquired I’ll be doing some Facebook stalking of life in Alaska when I leave.
Lori Spears has been an Army wife for nine years. She, her three children, and her husband have lived in Eagle River for two years. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.