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Lower 48 Stops and Shops

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

So, as much as you grow to love Alaska, nothing is like getting to go home for a couple of days -- mostly ‘cause it means your mom can cook for you and you don’t have to adult AS much.

But, odds are you are not flying home EVERY weekend so it is important to take advantage of your time there when you do. As much as we want to say Alaska Has Something for Everyone, this does not mean Alaska has everything for everyone.

I knew moving here there would be some things I would just need to go home to do, and that is okay. Just like any other place I’ve lived, nowhere has every store and amenity and Alaska is no different.

Every time I think about how there is not a Trader Joe’s, I do get sad, and want to write a strongly worded letter to corporate about how much I need it in my life and that they should open a store in Alaska. They would do fantastic here in this market and I could talk about this forever (I have spoken to countless Trader Joe's cashiers about this too).

But, the way I deal with this is when I get home, I get my shopping and errands in.

My number one stop is getting my hair cut. Now, there are plenty of amazing stylists up here that you can go to and most women do. BUT, I have been faithfully seeing my stylist since junior high so getting my hair done anywhere else feels like cheating.

Although you may not feel that way about your stylist (or maybe you do and we should be friends), taking care of appointments while home is important.

Last time I got my hair done by my amazing stylist before the world shut down. Yes she takes glam shots afterwards. No one said I wasn't bougie.

Most people have a primary care doctor and a gyno in Alaska because there are a lot of great options for general care.

But, any specialist you want to see, often you want to go home for and many people do their specialty appointments in Seattle since it is the closest major city. There are lots of specialists available in the city (if you have frostbite, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else) but there’s a comfort in going to specialists you have grown up.

I am blind as a bat so unless I am desperate and out of contacts because I did not plan well, I like to go to a specialty optometrist while I am home too.

Once you take care of all the boring appointments you want to get done, take advantage of shopping you can do.

I STOCK UP on Trader Joe’s. For reference, when I lived by one and was buying enough for a month, I rarely spent over $75. When I stock up, I am the person that is spending hundreds (my current record is close to $300 and 6 shopping bags). And it is not ‘cause I buy produce, it is mainly frozen food and freeze dried bananas.

My cart the last time I went to Trader Joe's. I wonder why no one wanted to stand behind me in line (and no, the Joe Joe's did not make it a week before I ate them all).

The cool thing is, being an Alaskan resident gives you perks with Alaska Airlines. I have been a member since I was 2 so it holds a special place in my heart, but I have to say, being a resident makes their rewards program even better.

If you open up a credit card with them and your address is in Alaska, you get two free checked bags every time you fly.

Some people use this to ship fish from Alaska to the Lower 48 but I use it to ship Trader Joe’s food to Alaska. And any other things I want to stock up on.

Now, there are some great store options here for clothes like H&M and local boutiques, but a lot of people shop for work clothes and cocktail/formal dresses in the Lower 48. You have more options and can use your second checked bag to bring your finds back.

I tend to order clothes online because I am a shopaholic, but I do like to still get my professional clothes while I am home so I have time to return anything I do not need and try multiple sizes.

I am lucky and my mom is nice so I also keep some stuff at home that I really do not need here. I really invested in shorts while living in California so now have close to 20 pairs. I cannot decide which ones to get rid of so I leave all but one or two pairs at her house and keep an emergency pair in Alaska for the random day it is 80 in the summer.

I also keep some dresses and jumpsuits there that I can rotate with ones I have here since I do not love wearing dresses when it is 15 degrees outside but do love to wear them in the summer as much as I can.

I brought this jumpsuit from my last trip home and immediately spilled on it the first time I wore it. Who let me out in public?

No matter what, I also just give my mom a big hug when I am home. One of the hardest things about living in Alaska is that it feels like you are on a giant island. Some people joke it is really the largest island in the US, even though it connects to Canada, because driving from Anchorage to Seattle is a week long journey and only accessible in the summers.

Just like living on an island, you can feel trapped and you can feel like you are so far from everything. When that feeling hits, I like to remember:

  1. Take a deep breath and take a nap. Usually these feelings hit because I am cranky and need some sleep.

  2. Home is only a plane ride away if I really need to have a break

  3. Even when COVID-19 was at its worst and the world was shut down, you could still get on a plane back to the Lower 48 any day of the week if you needed.

It is easy to think you are on an island when you are here and only focus on the negatives. It does get cold. And I miss my favorite stores. And I miss my friends.

It is okay to feel that way -- we all do. We all miss things and people are lying if they say they don’t. But, I also try to think about the things I love here. Every time I look at the mountains, I am amazed at how beautiful they are. They are so gorgeous, I would think they are facades if I had not hiked one before. The people here are also amazing. It is a melting pot of people from all over the country and the world. Everyone is so friendly and easy to have a conversation with like nowhere else I have ever experienced. And, I love knowing that I get to have this experience that many people would never be willing to try.

So, my number one recommendation when home is to savor it and take it in. Give your family and friends some love. And know when you are feeling low and homesick, they are only a plane ride away.

Alaska is amazing and I love it, but it has its trade offs like anywhere else so take advantage of any time you can get back home. Get your favorite foods, get some shopping done, and hang with your mom. It is necessary and it is important to get these types of things done when you can. And then, come back to Alaska refreshed and ready to take on your next grand adventure, whatever that may be.

-XOXO Rachel

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. All statements are from personal experience and reflect the opinion of the author.

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