Our Alaska Backstory

Our Alaska backstory came with humble beginnings. Throughout my life, I asked what it was like to live here in Alaska to those of that had lived here. I had daydreamed about moving to Alaska since I was a kid, reading real paper books, and getting lost in the stories of this “far away land.”

The day came that I looked in the mirror, and I saw this woman staring back at me, and I was trying to figure out what 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 here it is — the very moment in time to where it fully sinks in.

You’re not getting any younger.

We all have that moment, I’m sure. For each of us, it is different.

All those things that we had planned to do in life had not fully come to pass. I had become very used to my comfort zone. My life consisted of working, helping my family, laundry, dishes, and a daily routine.

Then the day came, after talking about Alaska for most of my life at this point…

Part of 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 you let them.

Then, the house goes on the market, finally!

moving to alaska

This plan going into action is a pivotal moment in time where most of your family and friends think that you have lost your mind.

Literally.

A few people said that they were jealous and they wished they were moving to Alaska too!

Then somewhere around another two years pass, and the house is still for sale — because of the fact that not a lot of people like living an hour away from the nearest mall.

By this time, we are wondering if this was ever going to 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.

A partial remodel was done on the house. And we gave the trim on the outside a fresh coat of paint.

our Alaska backstory
Our house went on the market

Alaska Job Posting

Alaska Job Posting

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 back 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 who 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 went on to explain 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. It was him that they bought their company from.

When they found out there were four of us moving up 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 did a ton of research on this company, and I could not find anything negative about them. 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 paranoid or 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*

Housing

The couple who owned this company explained to us that they offer employee housing to everyone that works for them. The reason was because of 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 hours to get to town for supply runs was not going to be an issue at all. WE DO NOT like city life lol.

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.

Moving to Alaska was happening now!

Pipe Dreams

Alaska Pipeline and Fireweed. Richardson Highway, Alaska.
Alaska Pipeline and Fireweed. Richardson Highway, Alaska

That “pipe dream” of mine had become all of our dreams.

Our closest friends soon realized that this is not something that I had just talked about for years on end.

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 going 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 wouldn’t say I like that show, although my husband found the stupidity of it all funny for some reason.

Then, everyone finds out that three out of four of us had never even set foot on Alaska’s soil.

We had never experienced standing on a mountain pass with our heads in the clouds.

Thompson Pass Valdez, Alaska.
Thompson Pass Valdez, Alaska

We had never experienced a herd of moose on the side of the road.

moose
A herd of moose off the Richardson Highway

None of us had… well, you get the point. We had not been to Alaska!

I would try to explain that we knew “what we are getting into,” but for the most part, people just didn’t understand.

Many days and nights were spent dreaming and researching a place that 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.

Fernweh

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.

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.

Welcome Home

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!”

Listen to your Gut

We made it to Glennallen after a few more hours on the road.

We took a short break after being reunited with my husband. (he had been flown out ahead of us by our new bosses due to them being so short-handed)

Then, we started unloading mattresses and a few belongings into employee housing.

The plans had changed ten or more times once we took this 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 the tourist season, all four of us were kept extremely busy with the workload of this company. Most days, I had lost track of what time it was because of how busy we were, and the fact that we were not used to experiencing the mindnight sun.

Seasons Change

Soon, summer was over. Fall came and went quickly that year, and then winter set in.

Alaska Snow
Our first winter

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.

We were all looking for different jobs by this time – 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 own behavior were wearing thin on all of us. Blaming other people and other companies was in the list of their go-to reasons to try to cover their own 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.

True Friends

The short version of what happened next is this;

Inside of 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 as well to my best friend in the lower 48 for keeping me as calm as you could from over 4,000 miles away.

The kindness that we were shown as our once stable lives got turned upside down will never, ever be forgotten.

We found ourselves surrounded by people, and pizza, that 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.

Which direction were we going to go?

How did this happen?!

My mind was racing…

No plan is fool-proof, but especially not when you are 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.

Lesson learned.

This horrible situation was our first set back here in Alaska. We all knew that 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 was shivering because my body had not acclimated 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 saw 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 hubbs 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.

Imagine that!

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 an ongoing case to prove as much.

5-star customer reviews on Social media and Google can be very deceiving in cases such as this. Especially when fake accounts made most of those reviews 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.

We realized, 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 and strength of a few great people that had faith in us 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.

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. Now we knew which direction we were going.

Daryl was given temporary work at a great local company to not only help get us through this transition period but to 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 Years, 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 that we had fallen so in love with, but we knew that we would be back someday.

welcome to valdez
Headed south to Valdez

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.

Our land and building our cabins may be on hold for a little bit longer after the domino effect of that circumstance, but that’s okay!

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. Never take your overtime for granted!

The views weren’t bad, either!

Alaska
A view from the south fuel dock in Valdez small boat harbor.

Here we are today – still standing as I write this.

Okay, Okay, I am sitting, but you know what I mean.

We are all very different than we were when we first got here, but we know that this is not even close to this being the end of the story for us.

We write some of it, and Alaska herself writes the rest at this point.

As we rapidly approach another anniversary here, change is in the air.

Has it been hard? Well yeah, everything worth having in life is always hard at some point.

Has it been worth it?

Hell yes!

We’re home! And we are all closer than we have ever been.

Until next time, Follow Alaska with us…

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