Living Alaska: 5 big city signs you’re an Alaskan
One of my earliest memories is when I learned to drive a four-wheeler; my dad taught me. I also remember the time he explained how bear spray worked — I was little and imagined myself running through the woods carrying it like Pocahontas but with Alaska swag.
Once, I did more than half of a hike barefoot because my new adventure boots were hurting my feet so much. The best breakfast I’ve ever had was one my mom made over a fire. I now know how to cook over a open flame better than a stovetop burner. And my favorite love story mostly begins fishing on the Kenai River.
When I read that all out loud, it does sound like I’m a salmon-eating, woods-lovin’ Alaska girl. I am. But I’m human; I’ve doubted my place in the Last Frontier on and off for years. Luckily, there are cab-stealin’, designer loving, pedantic New Yorkers to remind me exactly where you belong — and it isn’t on their urine-covered streets.
I returned to Anchorage after more than a week on the East Coast. My boyfriend and I were in Boston and then New York City. As an Alaskan, you don’t realize how different your life is until you’ve traveled across North America — a few times. I don’t normally get homesick when I travel, but this time I did.
This trip east really showed me how Alaskan I am and I feel better about living here since I returned. I could write pages about all of the ways those mad, metropolis cities made me feel — but I’ll spare you; I’ll share a few reasons.
Big reasons you’re not a big city person
Being stylish makes me uncomfortable. I’ll always pick practical over what’s hip and happening. In Alaska, if my car breaks down when I’m driving home from work in the winter and I have to wait for help, or walk, I have to be able to do so without becoming hypothermic or getting frost bite. On only one Big Apple occasion did I try to wear high-heeled shoes — we were going to a play on Broadway — and I regretted by the time we got to the bottom of the five floors of stairs in our apartment building. It did not matter how many times I told myself to just channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw and just commit to the shoes and strut around the city; it hurt really bad.
Being the palest person around is normal. I know I’m pale. I eagerly wait to become a somewhat darker shade of white every summer and this summer I thought I did well. I knew I wasn’t California tan, but I did not know I looked like a zombie extra from the “Walking Dead.” We spent one afternoon at Coney Island Beach and the reflection of the sun on our poor Alaska skin about blinded people.
You think keeping dogs in the city is inhumane. We walked by a dog park — smaller than my dining room — that was made up of solid pavement. The dogs looked like goldfish swimming in a concrete fish bowl. I felt sad for them and like my dogs are spoiled; but then I realized my dogs are just lucky. My boys know how it feels to run through the woods and bound over fallen trees. Those poor city dogs will never get that feeling and that is just wrong.
Produce shocks you. “Two dollars for a flat of apples. Come on sweetheart, they’re fresh,” a man with a thick New England accent exclaimed as we walked through a Saturday market in Boston. It was about all I could do not to just throw the money at him, take the apples and run. On a trip to California in January, we found a roadside fruit and vegetable stand. I loaded up a paper sack with tomatoes, avocados — several of which I brought home and ate — and oranges. I spent $5 — on all of it. I had to ask the young woman working the stand if I heard her right. Then, as we made our way back to the highway, I peeled a fresh orange. It was like no other orange I’d ever tasted; it was juicy, sweet and just a little tart, and I felt as if I could feel the vitamins moving through my vitamin deprived body. And that price! I couldn’t stop talking about it; I was shocked and shocked again in Boston. In New York, we stayed in China Town; need I say more?
Your lungs miss fresh air. Oh my, how I longed to take a deep drag of clean air. I was almost annoyed by how crappy the air was; each breath dirty, leaving my lungs in need of a shower. I came back with a cold, but when we walked out of the Anchorage airport — I gluttonously took in Alaska.
Believe it or not, I don’t hate New York. I think the daily commotion is bonkers, but the havoc can be enlightening. There’s endless adventure and opportunity. And to be honest, I’m thankful for my time there. The chaotic, concrete jungle reminded me that Alaska is and always will be my home and nothing will ever compare. And that there is nowhere else where flannel, Carhartts, untouched wilderness and campfires are so beautiful.
Side note to Outsiders, who may come across a traveling Alaskan: We’re asked the same set of questions every time we leave. So, in an effort to save your time and my breath, let me answer your questions. We do not all know Sarah Palin or the cast of the “Deadliest Catch.” We don’t get a kick of the “Alaska State Troopers” show, unless we see someone we didn’t like from high school make an appearance. If you’re on the East Coast, your winters are worse than ours. Also, I’ve never lived in an igloo — I’ve never even seen an actual igloo. Yes, we have dog teams. No, dog teams are not a practical form of transportation.
Megan Edge is a lifelong Alaskan residing in West Anchorage. The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of KTVA. Living Alaska is a regular feature, appearing on KTVA.com, about experiencing the Last Frontier through the outdoors.