Moving to Alaska is something I had wanted to do since a very young age. Throughout my life, I asked what it was like to live here in Alaska to those who had lived here. I had daydreamed about moving here since I was a kid, reading actual paper books, and getting lost in the stories of this “far away land.”
The day came when I looked in the mirror and saw this woman staring back at me, and I was trying to figure out what had happened.
Where did the time go?
Suddenly, the hyper 20 something that I felt that I still was now had a late 30 – something woman staring back at me in the mirror. I knew it was happening, but there it was — the very moment in time where the reality of getting a little older fully sinks in.
I thought to myself, “you’re not getting any younger.” We all have that moment, I’m sure. But, for each of us, it’s always a little different.
All the dreams and plans we had for our lives had not fully come to pass, if at all. I had become very used to my comfort zone. My life consisted of working, helping my family, laundry, dishes, and a daily routine. The same was true with Daryl.
Then the day came, after talking about moving to Alaska for most of my life at this point;
My family got on board.
Are you guys serious?
The excitement set in, and we started forming a game plan.
Five more years passed because life will always toss you a million excuses or struggles. Or, things flat out get in the way because we let them.
Then one day, the house goes on the market, finally!
This plan going into action is a pivotal moment when most of your family and friends think you have lost your mind. Literally.
A few people said they were jealous and wished they were moving to Alaska too!
Then somewhere around another two years pass, and the house is still for sale — because not many people like living an hour away from the nearest mall.
By this time, we were wondering if this would ever happen.
It’s at this point that our son introduces us to the girl he had fallen head over heels for. After supper, one night, one of us brought up the move. I remember asking her, are you sure you want to go? She said, “hell yeah! I was born there!”
Just like that, the wind was put back in my sails, and I was reminded that everything happens at certain times for a reason.
We did a partial remodel on the house. And we gave the trim on the outside a fresh coat of paint.
It wasn’t long after that my husband inquired about another job posting. Looking for work in Alaska was not out of the norm for him, but he usually would get an answer that he would have to be in Alaska first to apply.
He had the work history, experience, knowledge, references, etc. We were just not here yet.
At that point, he had been with the small trucking company he worked for almost ten years. He thought he had just found another small family-run company like where he currently was.
He had found a company that wanted a driver with a clean driving record and experience. They also wanted a couple to work for them.
The owners of this company explained at great length how they kept going through employees that would come and go and how they desperately needed dependable people. They told us how the man’s ailing father was not in good health and how they would need to leave at times to fly out to Arizona to take care of his parents. Her grandfather, as we were told, was also in poor health. They had bought their company from him.
When they found out, there were four of us moving together, they said they would happily put everyone to work.
That is the micro version of that part of the story. But this is how the new plan was born.
We all talked about it in-depth. Being the type of person I am, I researched this company, and I could not find anything negative online. I still had a nagging feeling that would not go away, but I ignored it after asking about a thousand questions. (Maybe more knowing me)
I chalked that feeling up to being a bit nervous about it because I knew this move was fixing to happen, and it was now happening fast.
*If you are moving or thinking about moving to Alaska, you may want to read this: Moving to Alaska*
The couple who owned this company explained that they offer employee housing to everyone who works for them. The reason was the lack of accommodations available in rural Alaska. In the town of 400, where this company was at that time, there were not a lot of rentals, they explained.
They knew our house was on the market already, and we all thought it was the perfect plan until the house sold. Once that happened, we would find our land and start building. On the surface, this seemed to be a fool-proof plan, especially considering that we wanted to be further out in the country than we already were.
For us, adding another couple of hours to get to town for supply runs was not going to be an issue at all. We do not like city life.
I watched the new realtor we had just signed a new contract with put a sign in the yard. Standing there, I thought back to the days when I was a teenager lying on my bed, reading books about Alaska & the Yukon.
That “pipe dream” of mine had become all of our dreams. Our closest friends soon realized that this was not something that I had just talked about for years on end. Instead, we had found a new way to make this happen without waiting any longer for the house to sell.
When people I barely knew (or didn’t know at all) heard rumors that we were moving to Alaska, the stories and the tales started pouring in. It was like we had just been plucked out of our own lives and put straight into a reality show.
I was close to losing my mind a few times when I was asked for the millionth time, “So are y’all going to be the Alaskan Bush People?” The short answer to that would be – NO! Not on your life! I’m not too fond of that show, although my husband found the stupidity of it all funny for some reason.
Soon, everyone found out that three out of four of us had never even set foot on Alaska’s soil. Our DIL was born here but had no memory because she was so young when her parents left.
I would try to explain that we knew “what we are getting into,” but people didn’t understand for the most part.
Many days and nights were spent dreaming and researching a place I had never even been to. This was not just a decision that was made on a whim. Long before reality tv was a thing, I had my nose in books and asked lots of questions.
There is a word for being homesick for a place you’ve never been to. It is “Fernweh.”
It is a German word that describes a “far sickness” or “a longing to be somewhere you have never been.”
The closest word in the English language to compare “Fernweh” would be “Wanderlust,” in today’s terms, I suppose. Still, it does not do it justice – not even close.
North, to Alaska!
The cargo trailer was packed to the max, and what had not fit or was not deemed necessary for a move of this type had already been sold.
Daryl had flown out ahead a day before because the company needed him there. Of course, that was something he and the rest of us were not okay with, but it’s the way it happened.
When he landed, after arriving in Anchorage, he called. The excitement in his voice was like no other as he described what he was seeing. The couple picked him up we had gone to work for, and they drove him back out to the area we were to call home.
When he arrived, he called again to check in with us. I could almost see the beauty of this place through his voice. However, the excitement somewhat faded when the reality kicked in for both of us that the kids, Jack (our German Shephard) and I, were setting out the following day for that 4,000-mile journey home.
Daryl went over last-minute details, doing what good husbands and dads do best.
The last night in that house was very surreal. Jack was wound up not understanding why his bed was gone. I was wound up and ready to go. We ate supper and camped out in the living room in sleeping bags, telling stories and wondering how the trip would be. I was also going over the last-minute to-do list in my head.
Morning came. It was July 1st, and I was ready to go. I don’t think any of us slept well that night, but it was now time to head out. We said our goodbyes and hit the road. The only thing left to do was stop in town to get a spare tire for the trailer on our way out. Finding that tire proved to be more difficult than it should have been. We ended up finding one right before crossing the Canadian border after driving across the country.
As we made our way into Dallas that afternoon, I realized that I had been so focused on everything but the fact that this was a significant holiday week for not only the United States but Canada as well. Two major holidays and we were going to hit the traffic for both.
And, we did.
After going through some nasty weather and a couple of tornado warnings, we finally arrived at the border crossing at the end of day two.
We went through the crossing and had to go in and answer questions, which was fine, of course. Then, we had to pull the trailer into a building, and a border agent did a random search on that. Then, after all, that was done, we went into the next town to stop for the night, our first night in Canada.
The further north we drove, the more daylight we had. That started messing with me right off the bat, but I didn’t fully realize it at the time.
Even with the extra traffic and RVs for the holidays, the further north we came, the fewer people there were except for touristy locations and construction zones. But, of course, there was no lack of construction zones that year.
As we got closer to getting here, somewhere in the Canadian Rockies, I realized that this place – this place I had never been to, that I had longed for, for so long, is home. I felt it to my core, with no doubts about Alaska herself whatsoever.
When I stopped at the border crossing to cross into Alaska, I realized that everything I thought I knew was spot on. However, it was on a much, much larger scale than I could have ever imagined. I only thought I knew what wide-open spaces were! There was so much that was and still is just waiting for me to learn!
When the border officer said, “Welcome Home,” I know I must have been smiling from ear to ear.
As I sat on the other side of the border crossing, parked with Jack, my faithful four-legged buddy, waiting for the “kids” to come through, I thought, “I am FINALLY HERE! After all these years, I am finally here!”
We made it to Glennallen after a few more hours on the road. We took a short break after being reunited with Daryl. Then, we started unloading mattresses and a few belongings into employee housing.
The plans had changed ten or more times once we took those jobs job, but we were all finally here.
All of us went right to work, and the rest of the summer flew by in a flash. With the traffic of tourist season, all four of us were kept extremely busy with the workload of that company. Most days, I had lost track of what time it was because of how busy we were and was not used to having almost 20 hours of daylight.
Listen to your Gut
Soon, summer was over. Fall came and went quickly that year, and then winter set in. The fastest four months of my life had just passed in the blink of an eye. By this time, we all realized that this place – that company – was not where we wanted or needed to be.
We were onto their shenanigans by the fall, which is when the woman (the owner) blamed her spouse for everything and asked me for help. That turned out to be a lie too. (But I already suspected that at the time she was discussing that with me) They are two peas in a pod.
By this time, we were all looking for different jobs – jobs that would pay the actual hours we were working. This company was the polar opposite of the company that my husband had left behind.
What was said and agreed upon was continually changing with them. Their excuses for their behavior were wearing thin on all of us. Blaming other people and other companies was on the list of their go-to reasons to try to cover their lousy behavior.
We were also looking for different housing and still waiting on our home in the lower 48 to sell. At that point, none of us cared what we lived in as long as we were together, warm, and had work. We just wanted to get away from there and have our personal space back intact.
We longed for the day that people wouldn’t just walk into the house (or, in that case, an apartment above the shop). Having these people go through our belongings while we were gone or to walk in and sit down at the table while I’m taking a shower, not knowing anyone is there, is not okay!. Employee housing or not, personal space is PERSONAL SPACE! And doing things like that is not alright!
The short version of what happened next is this; Within a week after our “bosses” had figured out that we had figured out that they were con artists – they let all of us go and gave us three days to get out of employee housing.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers here, who knew what was happening, for softening that blow. Thanks to my best friend in the lower 48 for keeping me as calm as you could from 4,000 miles away. The kindness that we were shown as our once stable lives turned upside down will never be forgotten.
We found ourselves surrounded by people, and pizza, which happened to be at that moment in time, strangers here except for one that we had gotten to know pretty well.
Lifetime friendships were forming in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Fountain of Youth
I went outside by myself one night to try and collect what thought process I had left. We were finally away from that place, but now we were in limbo.
Which direction were we going to go?
How did this happen?!
Why did this happen?!
My mind was racing…
No plan is fool-proof, but especially not when dealing with evil, selfish people who are excellent at lying and manipulating. We had all gone to work for the same company. Regrettably, we had put all of our eggs into the same basket. Those people proved time and time again to be untrustworthy on so many levels.
This horrible situation was our first setback after moving here. We all knew we would have setbacks but did not expect it to be like this.
As the tears poured like a river down my face on a negative 30-degree night, I sobbed until I was out of breath and could barely breathe. (crying is way out of the norm for me, much less crying like that).
When I finally got a hold of myself, I realized I was shivering because my body had not been acclimated to the climate yet.
I stood up in the snow and looked up.
My eyes met the sky.
There is something about the Alaskan sky that will calm your soul, to its core, instantly.
I had found my fountain of youth.
Wait — that caused you to find your fountain of youth?!
Yep. It sure did! I even forgot that I was cold for a few minutes!
Seeing the blanket of stars above me, so many of which I had never seen before, immediately took me back to the days of my youth. Only now, I was not sitting on my bed reading about this place.
I was seeing it right before my own tear-filled eyes. And oh, what a sight it was at that moment! Add in some Northern Lights, and oh my God!
I don’t know how long I stood there, but it was long enough that hubby came looking for me.
I thought to myself, “Dry your face, woman! You’re home!” Don’t let him see you like this!
We were home and, I knew it.
My family knew it.
We were not going to let the vile ugliness of 2 people destroy our game plan. It was time to re-focus on the positive things and not what had just happened.
Christmas Faded into New Years
This short time was a humbling transition period for all of us.
We were told by many people that we had not been the first people the owners of that company had done this to, and we would probably not be the last. (and we weren’t)
There had been a long history of this behavior with those two, with court records and ongoing cases to prove as much.
5-star customer reviews on Social media and Google can be very deceiving in cases like this. Especially when most of those reviews were made by fake accounts they had created!
Bad stuff happens in life, even if you try to be a good person. Sometimes shit happens that is beyond your control. The setbacks were to strengthen us, we all discovered in the months following that.
We realized that there are things that we want to do that we had never even thought about doing through all this. So we learned, after some time, that this life, this place, these adventures; are only the beginning for this family.
This was only the beginning of our Alaskan story, and it was not going to run us off.
Through the encouragement of a few great people who had faith that we could make it because we did not just try to take off at the first sign of trouble. It was time to readjust our game plan.
Our story was not over yet. Not even close.
We brought in the New Year one chilly night at some more newly found friend’s place.
I looked around at everyone we were now surrounded by.
We had found ourselves embraced by strangers that all quickly became friends. Lifelong friends.
As the fireworks deployed, I found myself watching these people and my family interact at both places we were that night. I wanted to remember these moments from all of them, forever, and I will, without a doubt.
Full-time work was found but delayed because of the holidays. So now we knew which direction we were going. Daryl was given a temporary job at a great local company to help get us through this transition period and fill in for one of their workers who had gone to see family for the holidays.
More friendships came from that!
What a way to end a year that had been so bittersweet! To be surrounded by different people that went above and beyond to make us feel at home. This is proof that no matter how bad a situation is, good things will always come from it!
Welcome to Valdez
The day after New Year’s day, it was time to hit the road again. We loaded up and headed south out of the Copper River Basin and into Prince William Sound. It was heartbreaking to leave the place we had fallen so in love with, but we knew that we would be back someday.
Valdez became our new home. At least momentarily.
We had to make the hard decision to let our house that was still for sale in the lower 48 go back to the bank at that point. Making payments on a home that had been for sale as long as it had been on the market at that point just did not make sense anymore. We had even dropped the price to just what was owed, and it still did not budge.
Our land and building our cabins were going to be on hold for a little bit longer after the domino effect of that circumstance from when we first got here, but that’s okay! Apartment life it was for the moment!
It took a few months after that to get back on track, but we did. It has taken a lot of hard work, which we are not strangers to. After all, our life in the lower 48 consisted of all work and little play.
We are people who had never even taken a real vacation for cryin’ out loud! Now, we have a permanent “stay-cation.”
Everyone got back to work, and I got to experience dock life, with paid overtime on my checks. So never take your overtime for granted!
The views weren’t bad, either!
Here we are today – still standing as I write this. Okay, I am sitting, but you know what I mean.
We are all very different from when we first got here, but we know that this is not even close to the end of the story for us. So we will write some of it, and Alaska herself will write the rest at this point.
As we rapidly approach another anniversary here, change is in the air again.
Has it been hard? Well yeah, everything worth having in life is always hard at some point.
Has it been worth it?
Hell yes! Moving to Alaska was the best decision we ever made!
We’re home! And we are all closer than we have ever been.
I do long for the day we can go back to the Copper River Basin, but we will continue to work towards our goals until then.
Until next time, as our story continues…