My experience has been that travel – especially, to places far different than home — broadens my perspective. One might assume that would be the case for everyone; then again, travel itself has taught me that things are not always what they seem. Ironically, some perceived universal truths aren’t necessarily universal. We each have different ways of viewing, interpreting and reacting to things that happen based on our experiences and our understanding of what we’ve learned.
Where am I going, you might wonder? Literally, I’m starting to plan a trip to Alaska to attend a nephew’s mid-summer wedding. Metaphorically, I ponder how and why people often choose or end up at such divergent destinations, especially when they seemingly start out together.
Let me begin by posing a few questions. I’m curious, what do you value the most about your vacations and time on the water? Where are your favorite places and what makes them special?
Front-of-mind for me is spectacular natural beauty and the wildness of some places. Quiet harbors and other peaceful settings are high on my list for get-aways. I love silence — where thoughts, ideas and observations can play out and run their full course without distraction. Conversely, my favorite places also include some urban settings, and interesting tourist destinations. And, some favorite places are favorites because they evoke strong, wonderful memories.
Alaska is near the top of my list for all of those reasons. My first trip there was the beginning of a love story that evolved into an adventure story; later chapters have segued into hardship, tenacity and now more recently, resilience. Hopefully, more interesting plot twists and a happy ending are part of the narrative…but, it’s still being written.
Our vacation began in mid-August, almost 25 years ago, with a 3-day voyage aboard the Alaska Ferry from Washington state. We pitched our tent on one of the uncovered outdoor decks, heedless of the wind that would kick up once we were underway; it almost went airborne with all of our gear inside while we went inside to get a bite to eat. We returned just in time to wrestle it back from the railing!
What we lacked in comfort on the open deck, we gained with amazing close-up views of whales, eagles, and seabirds. We also had views of deer, bears and other wildlife on the shore as we traveled between islands and close to the coast of Canada and Alaska.
Desire for adventure took us all over the state after our arrival on what was to be a very full two-week vacation. Boating highlights included trips to offshore islands to see Puffins and unusual seabirds. Peak fishing season was underway on the Kenai Peninsula; I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The Northern Lights were also stunning and incredible. Scenic flights, camping and hiking trips in Denali Park, and hundreds of miles by car, also gave us an in-depth sense of the vastness, and the striking and often stark beauty of the landscape.
Looking back, what also remains vivid are the unexpected challenges we faced, things that surprised us, and experiences we hadn’t anticipated. The most significant of those was a car accident. I was driving on a remote stretch of gravel road and I rolled the car over an embankment. We were surprisingly and thankfully uninjured, but the car was totaled.
The vacation and adventure didn’t end at that point, though that part of the story will have to wait to be told at another time. Interestingly, everyone (strangers who saw the remains of the car, insurance people, family and colleagues who heard about it or saw photos) assumed that we would pack up our things and fly home. The fact that we did not, became a turning point.
I’ll wrap up on a somewhat different, but timely, note. Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd. I thought I’d post a reminder about the many activities that each of us can do in our communities to make a positive difference in the health of our waterways!