How My Alaskan Vacation Gave Me a New Perspective on Life and the World
As I sit here, feeling cozy back at home, my mug says “Alaska, the last frontier.” I am trying to keep the spirit of the amazing month of July alive in my thoughts.
On my Alaskan holiday I traveled for 31 days by land, 7,500 miles to and across the roads of Alaska. Whenever you travel, you gain new perspectives. The big world out there is always happening all at once. Travel takes you to places and opens you up.
For me, this trip widened my perspective in three ways: the expansive sense of the immense wilderness, the heightened sense of the millennia and time, and a deepened sense of my own life in the context of it all.
First a Bit about the Trip and the Spectacular Beauty of the North
Starting on July 1st, my husband Rito and I drove from California to Alaska in a pickup truck with a camper shell. We slept comfortably on foam pads in the back. Our two dogs, Pepe a pointer-great Dane mix and Mango, an American bulldog slept on a platform my husband built in the back seat of the cab. I must say that we were the only 64 year olds we encountered who climbed out of the back of a pickup truck.
We saw hundreds of other people of all ages in RVs of all kinds, from spacious rolling mansions to funky old airstreams. We observed motorcyclists and even cyclists who carried saddlebags with tents. We even saw three legged stools and tiny stoves. It took a bit longer than a day to get out of the lower senior48 states. Then 6 long days of driving across British Columbia and the Yukon to get to Alaska.
Finally, we arrived! Alaska is one beautiful park covered with brilliant wildflowers; snow covered peaks, and all kinds of rushing rivers. The wildlife of Alaska (and the Yukon) was everywhere. We saw mama grizzlies with their cubs, a giant bull moose with velvety antlers, and majestic caribou, the cousins of Santa’s reindeer.
First, just being in Alaska caused me to appreciate and want to protect our earth. I experienced the wide expanse of a rugged land, most of which does not have roads. As we moved through Alaska, I could not help but feel a small taste of what the world was like before people arrived. The wide horizons so vast and so beautiful, the sunlight so warm and the cold so harsh.
I loved the long, warm days of the summer where it never got completely dark and shuddered to think of the many sunless days in winter.
Every creature who makes their life here must do careful planning. They must be so highly organized to be sure to have the needed food or they will not survive the winter. Each animal has developed such amazing techniques to do it, from the bears who hibernate to the caribou who stay outside all winter long.
The most amazing was the Wood Frog. The only frog in Alaska, we saw him humbly sitting in long grass by a lake. This tiny creature freezes its heart for the winter, becoming a solid frozen frog and then thaws itself when the weather warms up.
Being in Alaska put me in awe of the 10,000 plus years that humans have lived in Alaska. We visited the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage where we learned how the 11 major cultural groups of native peoples lived differently from one another.
The Aleuts fished for salmon and smoked it while the Athabascans, the largest group, lived in the interior and hunted. We learned how they used every single part of the moose. We saw native artwork from the beautifully carved totem poles to the intricacies of the fur clothing and beadwork that the women did during the long dark winters. What courage and fortitude it must take to live in this unique environment.
Finally, the feelings I experienced during this special month of travel brought me back to myself. It gave me a perspective on my own life. I felt tremendous gratitude for the interesting life I have lived, with all its challenges. I also was grateful for being in my sixties and getting to experience this unique opportunity. I love being able to still travel, and pursue my passions.
I was excited to come home to the life I have made for myself. My work to stop bullying and intolerance is needed now more than ever. I was happy to come home to my wonderful family and friends. I appreciated my warm cozy bed, all the more comfortable now that I did not need to climb over the tailgate of a pick-up to get into it.
Without reservation, I highly recommend taking an Alaska vacation, and finding your new frontiers either by land, sea, or air.
Have you traveled to Alaska? What did you think? What new perspectives did you gain? What was the favorite part of your Alaskan holiday? Please share your experiences below.
Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D works as an independent consultant to schools and organizations with over 35 years as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, and superintendent in public education in California. With Dr. Dorothy Steele, she co-authored the book, Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn. Becki and her husband Rito are also working to develop an environmental research center on their private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest. They live in El Sobrante, California, and have three adult children.