Is living off the grid something that you have had on your bucket list? Have you ever thought about doing it?
This thought has crossed my mind a lot. One day I, a typical city girl, decided that it has to be now or never and booked my one way flight to Alaska.
I am obsessed with dogs, and there is no better place than Alaska to enjoy the nature and dogs. I came across this summer job listing on Sled Dog Kennel and was accepted for a dog handler position.
I have to warn you, this type of job is not for those seeking to make money. Dog handler jobs are designed strictly for mad dog lovers, and are essentially a volunteering position and won’t make you rich.
A few weeks after accepting the offer, my flight landed in Fairbank, AK. My living place was about 20 min away from the town, practically in the middle of the woods and tundra.
I didn’t have high expectations for the cabin, but it turned out to be really nice: loft style, cozy and very Alaskan. It became my home for the next 2 months.
For those who have no clue about the State of Alaska (just like I did) I need to bring up some terminology such as “dry cabin”. It means no running water and no electricity.
Welcome to Alaska!
You wanted to live off the grid, right?
I felt a little bit disoriented the first couple of days; having to lose all the urban life privileges like internet, shower, Starbucks around the corner, and city sounds. Yet it stopped bothering me soon enough. Instead I got to enjoy the smell of forest, be able to wake up to birds singing or squirrels jumping on the roof, and overlooking the mountains from the window. In Alaska you are so deeply involved into nature you become part of it. Humans didn’t always need to own a smart phone or drink cappuccinos.
There is something more to life that we are missing out on restricting ourselves to our concrete jungles.
Looking back at my time in Alaska, I think the first morning was probably the most emotional. I woke up early and due to the time difference and strange environment I almost felt lost. I walked out of the cabin to face the 57 dogs curiously looking at me.
If you didn’t register that, let me repeat it again: 57 Alaskan Huskies!
Wouldn’t you feel overwhelmed? I put myself together and made a few steps towards the dog lot. Huskies were barking and trying to sniff me. I was scared at first but got more comfortable as I walked through the lot and giving plenty of pets to all the dogs. The owner came over later and taught me how to care for her “fur babies”. At first I thought it was nearly impossible to memorize everyone’s name, but I was wrong. If you spend most of your day at the dog lot, you will not only remember the names, but unmistakably know who is barking. I found it rewarding to be surrounded by so much love and affection from my new furry friends!
It is remarkable how much “humanity” they show in their interaction with each other. I have witnessed true friendship, sibling love, and a mother-son relationship. In front of my eyes there were cases of sneaky behavior when Neptune (I’m referring to the dogs with all the upcoming random names) thought that if he steals his neighbors Mud bowl I would put food in it twice. Sneaky and creative little ones. I’ve seen the punishment lesson when Thelma’s son Tecati demonstrated his rebellious behavior, and was held (at 6th months he was bigger than his mom) to the ground as a little puppy. It melted my heart when Summit was licking the wounds on his girlfriend Mayhem.
I was fortunate to meet great people and experience the very special Alaskan kindness. Locals here are different in every way you can think of.
Not ever once did I feel the “fakeness” I see daily in California.
If someone helps or smiles at you, they mean it. Despite the distance between houses, neighbors know each other by name. It never crossed my mind before, but I don’t know my next door neighbor in my small apartment complex. But I had phone numbers, and knew by name, everyone near me in Alaska. I was surprised to receive a text message from a concerned neighbor who warned me about the huge bear walking in our area. These people are generous and open, willing to help a stranger.
One of the things that impressed me the most was the food. If people believe that God goes on vocation to San Diego, than he must be dining in Alaska! The taste of home cooked smoked salmon will always be remembered by the taste buds as the best meal I’ve ever had!
Alaskans add salmon to everything: salads, dips, soups, and all kinds of fish dishes.
Leaving Fairbanks was bitter-sweet; I was excited to continue my journey but sad to leave all 57 of my fur buddies. I couldn’t get enough of the hugging and kissing each dog was so eager to give me as I was leaving the kennel.
I visited Denali National Park which was an absolutely stunning and wonderful nature preserve. The fall colors of the tundra were bright and the whole beauty around made me feel as if I stepped into a fantasy world. Seeing the wild life such as Grizzly bears, moose, and Doll Sheep so close was a truly magical experience.
The train ride for 7 hours from Denali Park to Anchorage went faster than I thought. Most of the passengers were just like me, glued to the windows enjoying the splendid views of the fall colors.
Anchorage turned out to be very charming and welcoming. Only in Alaska, in a short 10-15 minute drive from the center of the city, you can see so much wild life. Anchorage is a wonderful mix of urban setting and nature. I’ve seen people on their lunch break fishing in the river right in the middle of Downtown. The signs of moose and bear crossings are everywhere. Alaskans seem to find that golden median of how to live in the city without destroying the nature.
My return back home to civilization surprised me by how easy and natural it was to get used to the “off grid” life style.
I did miss regular showers, wearing high heels instead of hiking boots, and having some urban style perks. This summer in Alaska allowed me to discover a part of me I never knew. A sense of peace, with no worries about the tedious and meaningless struggles that we all deal with on a daily basis; an escape from the world, a step into a quiet and peaceful dream.
I realized that the moment I was reading a book in the cabin, staring out the window with the dog’s eyes staring back at me. Definitely something I was missing in my life; a simple and delicate pleasure. Big changes are coming!
And thank you Alaska for waking up the human in my frozen urban soul.
Travel experience shared by Yulia