Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Great Debate: Living in the Alaskan Bush

This has been a post I have been considering writing for the last few weeks.  It has been the source of much conversation in my house lately, so I have gone back and forth about writing it.  Finally, I decided that maybe if I wrote it out I would be able to look at it from a fresh perspective.  That's always the best solution, in my opinion.  So, if your interested in reading (a rather lengthy post) about living in the Alaskan Bush, stay tuned.

The topic that has been on my mind lately is teaching in the Alaskan Bush….let's rewind.  In 2010, I was living near St. Louis (going to college) and I desperately needed a little adventure.  So, I took a job working for a commercial fishing company (accepted the job off of CraigsList-seriously) and I boarded a plane to a fishing village in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  It was a small, rural town with a mostly native population and virtually no resources.  I ended up having the summer of my life! I wrote a few blog entries about it in my previous, and short-lived blog, Naknek Grime: A Summer in Bristol Bay Alaska.

Flying through the mountains near Anchorage. 
I had such an incredible learning experience.  We lived in a house with concrete floors, a steam house(to take baths in), no cars, and high-level bear activity.  Many homes in town did not have indoor plumbing and ran off of generators. There was one store that sold milk ($10/gallon), candy ($15/bag), and basic toiletries ($10-$20 per item).  If you wanted anything more involved than these simple items you had to order them online and have them shipped through a major company like Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer (and shipping took 4-6weeks).  It was truly "roughing it" and living the minimalist lifestyle. I can't explain the experience in a way that would make sense to most people but I can tell you that it made me appreciate my life in the Lower 48 so much more.  It also opened my eyes to an amazing demographic of people and they, and their lifestyle,  stuck with me through the years.

General Store in Naknek, AK. 

Ruins of a Russian Orthodox Church. 

Overlooking the ocean in the middle of summer. 

The backyard. 

F/V Oly aka the boat that ruled my life for three months.  

Sockeye Salmon. 

Upon graduating college I dreamt of going back to Alaskan Bush and teaching in a culturally and economically diverse school, which may or may not have electricity and indoor plumbing.  However, I had a fiance to consider and Cody still needed to finish college and adjust to living 3,000miles away from his family.  So, we settled on moving to Juneau, Alaska.  In Juneau he could adjust to living away from home and still attend University of Alaska Southeast.

We LOVE Juneau and every aspect of living here.  We have made great friends, we love our home, and we love our jobs (honestly, we both are in love with our jobs).  Our weekends are packed with fun activities and we are always exploring and finding new skills that we didn't know we possessed.  Juneau has truly been the greatest adventure we've had as a couple thus far.

Cody and I hiking in Juneau, AK. 

Walking across the ice on Douglas Island, AK. 

But, there is still something missing.  I am not helping the demographic that I have always dreamed of helping.  I do work for the native corporation through the school system in Juneau but I am not working for those truly rural students.  I wanted to immerse myself wholly in their culture and spend a year living a truly minimalist life.  Juneau is still a city, even if it is a fairly primitive one compared to cities in the Lower 48. Stores sell regularly priced goods, students graduate and attend college, plumbing is indoors, and all of the creature comforts are available in some way or another.

So, here we stand at a crossroads. I know that I will spend at least one more year in Juneau, because I do love it here and really can't imagine living anywhere else at the moment.  But, maybe next year, or the year after that, Cody and I are going to try to move to central or northern Alaska (possibly north of the Arctic Circle).  Believe me, it will be the source of much (healthy) debate in our household over the next year because it is such a huge decision.  But, I really wanted to share my thoughts about the love I have for the Bush.

Spending the day fishing after finishing an 18hour shift.  In love with life.  Bristol Bay, 2010. 

There are so many incredible places to visit in this huge state.  Alaska is home to some of the most amazing wildlife and the most amazing sights imaginable. Bears wander onto our school playground, moose graze on the sides of the road, eagles nest directly outside of our apartment.  Alaska (and everywhere I have been in this state) truly feels like home.

So, we will see where the next year takes us.  It may be here in Juneau or we may be heading north of the Arctic Circle by next May.  We plan on going where the tides take us.  Right now, it looks like they may take us as far north as we can go without a passport.  It may seems crazy to some people, but to us it just seems like the next great adventure.


  1. You are adorable Hannah! I totally get the calling you feel for the bush. I hear it repeatedly from others.seems some people fall in love and can't shake it. I communicate with Kavik Sue lol. Have you heard of her? She's 350 mi north of the circle.she's on twitter as sue aikens. Also on natgeo show life below zero. Im sure you'll love her. Also Kate Rork Bassich outside Eagle could be a huge source of info as her hubby is actively involved in the towns school system.just thought I'd suggest both. Looking forward to seeing what's ahead for you :D

  2. I just found out about Life Below Zero! I will have to check it out on YouTube tonight. And, thanks for giving me the contact names! I found both of them twitter. Always helpful to contact others with the same interest :)

    1. Good! Im so glad. I really think seeing how Kate and Andy live on the show is very similar to what you have expressed interest. Such an exciting life in a remote cabin off the grid. I am looking forward to seeing where you and Cody decide to go next. Keep following your dreams and know you have some friends in Baltimore cheering you on :)


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