You’ll hear a lot about Alaska’s exclusivity. Whether you’re just coming up for a visit or looking to move, at some point, someone will say, “Alaska, yeah, that’s not for everyone.” While I understand the sentiment, and some of the reasons Alaskans themselves have perpetuated it, I strongly disagree. Though Alaska may not be for everyone, always, I truly believe that anyone can enjoy Alaska. Alaska is for everyone--you just need to find the right fit!
Let’s first breakdown this faux-exclusivity and then get into why I think anyone can find something to enjoy across the 660,000 plus square miles of the 49th state.
Alaskans love to be exclusive
For the first year you live here, lifelong Alaskans and dedicated transplants will ask you a series of questions: (1) How long have you been here? (2) Why did you move here? (for more on this check out Rachel’s post) (3) Do you plan to stay? (4) Have you been fishing yet? And, finally, the one question I dreaded the most (5) So, have you made it through a full winter, yet? At times the last inquiry isn’t even a question, but an observation. The “real Alaskan” will stare at you, often through bushy untamed eyebrows and stroking a nicotine stained beard. They’ll offer the statement as judgment. And you, if you are like me and wanting to prove yourself, will counter with a trite comeback in an attempt to stand firm in your unique Alaskan story.
Even the State perpetuates this, with newcomers not gaining residency for the Permanent Fund Dividend (aka the PFD, the highly debated “free” “oil money”) or in-state hunting and fishing licenses until you’ve resided in Alaska for a full year--nearly cementing the idea that you must make it through your first winter become qualifying as a someone who is even eligible to be considered a “real Alaskan.”
The discussion of when someone becomes Alaskan is open for popular debate with mile markers ranging from wearing shorts when there is still snow on the ground, to experiencing the tough hardships of winter and scarcity, and to how quickly in a conversation you bring up Costco.
Exclusivity is good for marketing--kind of
A large part of the state’s economy is dependent on tourism, and exclusivity is easy to sell. The wild, adventurous, and tough brand brings in the soft bellied businessmen who want to experience the hardships of Alaska. Selling the idea that you can catch a salmon with your bare hands or sleep in a nearly untouched forest is sexy. It sells, and not only to men. The branding of Alaska is intentional, logical, and not wholly inaccurate. Alaskans definitely don’t bury the lede or hide their strengths. If you want to be wild and experience the great outdoors then there is no better place to do it than Alaska!
The mountains are humbling, the trails are endless, the salmon plentiful, and there are miles upon miles of untouched--or nearly untouched--forests, streams, fields, flowers, lakes, and rivers. It’s the introvert’s paradise, yet simultaneously, the best place to find a vibrant outdoors community.
Alaska has been able to sell itself on it’s exotic nature. And it should! Because, damn, this place is amazing and wild and crazy. But also, while Alaska shouldn’t bury the lede, by focusing, nearly exclusively, on the exclusivity, it fails to show all of the other amazing accessible finds and importantly--leaves cash on the table by falsely claiming that Alaska is only for some people.
It really is hard up here sometimes
It does suck sometimes. The long winters are hard. The lack of sun is hard. The all sun is also hard. Alaska isn’t for everyone all of the time. It can be dangerous and scary and a lot. But this doesn’t mean that it’s never for you. Whether you’re looking to visit, stuck on a family vacation, up here on business, or just curious, I promise that for whatever you’re looking, Alaska has it! It may be different and you may have to be a little more open, but it’s here!
Cheers to finding your place in Alaska
If Alaska is for everyone, how do I find where I fit it in?
To find your fit, you’re going to have to ask for help. Alaskans have such a warm hospitality, but they also respect your space. I’ve heard it aptly described as “cold hands, warm hearts.” If you left an active quilting community in the lower 48, you can find one up here! If you want to find luxurious French cheese, you can do that too (I recommend the Fromagio's)! If SoulCycle is bae, you’ll love Anchorage Cycle. But in order to find the best of Alaska, you’re going to have to talk to Alaskans. You can’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Be unabashedly who you are. Try new things and keep an open mind. For all of Alaskans’ exclusivity, I can firmly say that nowhere else in the nation will you be so warmly embraced for being exactly who you are.
So, now what, what can you find in Alaska that you thought you couldn’t? If it’s not all bears, and salmon, and men with long beards, then what is it?
Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are just a few things that I enjoy doing that are far from wild! Also, stay tuned, and we will continue and post about our favorite parts of the tame side of the Last Frontier.
10 Activities that Don’t Involve Killing Something:
Scour the numerous garage sales and thrift stores for furniture to up-cycle
Attend a poetry slam or open mic night at The Writer’s Block
Find the best broccolini at one of the MANY farmer’s markets
Take a cooking class at Marx Bros Cafe
Learn to sew, craft, or much more at ReMade
Explore the Anchorage Museum (free on first Fridays!)
Find some local fiction at Title Wave Books (they also have an active Scrabble club)