Moving around in nature (whether it is hiking, jogging, or walking) is a huge part of my life. No day passes by without me being outside. This is information that my friends and acquaintances know, so I often get the question about what was the place I visited that I liked most.
This is not an easy question to answer. Each place I visited touched me differently and I cannot say that one experience was better than the other. The experiences are always unique, and all contribute to the enrichment of my personal growth.
However, if I were to choose only one answer it would be Alaska. It is not because it sounds so exotic, but because it was so different than anything else I had experienced before.
Most people I know have the same reaction when they hear Alaska: they associate it with wilderness and most of all with cold. Deep-snowy-winter-minus-temperatures cold. That might be true for the winter months, but I went to Alaska during the summer months and experienced almost positive 20 degrees Celsius.
I am a person who is always cold. Even sometimes in the chilly summer evenings. Except when I am outside moving my body. Cold can be a real torture to me when it gets into my bones and I cannot shake it, so naturally one would think that I would love going to warm countries and lying in the sun for hours. But that is not the case. Interestingly I am magically drawn to the mountains and the wild, uncomfortable (and quite cold) nature.
Alaska was a very conscious decision for me. It had been in the back of my mind for years as this faraway unreachable place full of raw nature and challenges. Nobody I knew had ever been to Alaska nor had intentions of going there. The connotation was “uncomfortable”, “far”, or “hard to survive”, so why would anyone want to go there voluntarily?
The most stunning thing that I was confronted with from the very moment I set my foot outside of Anchorage was the colorful nature. It was something I had never seen before and thus never knew existed. To see the icy milky turquoise of the lakes in contrast to the dark grey mountains covered with the brightest snow, surrounded by yellow-green-violet vegetation under a clear blue sky left my mouth open. I was overwhelmed like never before. Not to mention the clearest blue blurs of color that you can see peeking out of the glaciers, or the greenest green of the trees in front of a brown moose family.
Up to this day, I associate Alaska with vivid colors and (for me) unusual things. In summer you get only hints of how harsh the winters can be. One of the first strange things I saw was an electric plugin hanging in the back of our rental Jeep. We stood there looking at it and wondering what to do with it. Later we found out that it was used in winter when the temperatures sank around negative 40 degrees Celsius to plug in the car to the house and help it start.
Another hint we found were high poles directly near the highway that seemed to have no function whatsoever. We learned that they were a great help in deep snowy winters when it was impossible to see anything else than snow to indicate where the highway actually was.
The stories told by locals about situations in which their cars broke down in the middle of nowhere during the wintertime and their struggle to get help (if any at all) or to walk for days to the next place dwelled by humans confronted me with things I never had to think about. That made me realize that the cold winters I must put up with in my country is nothing compared to the winters Alaskans have for about nine months every single year.
Besides the challenging living conditions and the colors, the next things that I automatically connect with Alaska are the encounters with extraordinary people. I will never forget how it felt like to get a peek into a musher’s life and to “drive” a dogsled pulled by twelve inpatient Yukon Quest winners Alaskan Huskies.
I still smile when I think of the mornings while having breakfast, we were able to admire our hosts’ guest moose that paid a visit to their garden each morning.
These are just small bits of what I experienced in Alaska that left a melancholy in my heart ever since. Alaska is indeed a captivating world that I want to experience again someday.