Day 12 – A Love Letter to Alaska
Gail Jessen, Live Voyage Reports
Every time I travel I fall in love. Movement seduces me. My wanderlust is palpable, an insatiable ache. This is true for every vagabond soul I’ve met. I’ve been wandering long enough to not confuse this love with a naive crush on travel. My love is seasoned and unconditional. I love the bad days, the tired days, the beautiful days, the productive days, the rainy days.
Yet my soul spends too much time inside concrete jungles, offices, four straight walls. I’ve been craving a wild travel experience. I want endless space and crisp air. I fantasize about virgin land unexplored by man. I need pure silence. There was no option but The Last Frontier. Naturalist John Muir said Alaska is “hopelessly beyond description.” Author Miranda Weiss writes that “people move to Alaska to find themselves, but also to get lost. [They’re] in search of some indefinable hybrid of adventure, wilderness, and what I imagined would be a simpler life. I think we all wanted to know what we would look like in front of a backdrop of wilderness, who we would become once the fancy clothes and high ambitions were stripped away.”
Miranda moved permanently to Alaska as a young, recent college graduate. I traveled briefly to Alaska as a stressed out thirty-something professional. We arrived as different people with the same goal. We wanted Alaska to strip us down without apologies. We understood that the less control we took over her refiner’s fire, the more it would change us. She forces you to realize how small you are. She forces you to admit Nature is entirely self-serving, virtually indifferent to your existence. She forces you to question how you show up in your real life, how you define yourself inside your four straight walls. Miranda writes that “doctoral degrees mean nothing when your car slips off the road, when it’s moose season, or when the northern lights strike us all dumb with awe.”
We’re still sailing away and I’m already thinking about next time. I’m thinking about boarding a train to Denali. I’m thinking about floating in the turquoise Glacier Bay. I’m thinking about a motorcycle ride from Skagway to Carcross, stopping to wade my bare feet into every lake. I’m thinking about the layers I have left to strip away. As Muir said, “I had nothing to do but look and listen and join the trees in their hymns and prayers.” I’m going home changed. Everyone who lets themselves breathe in the energy of Alaska goes home changed. That’s her gift to anyone who understands how to receive it.
This is the place that is given to you
because you have found it yourself
because you stayed long enough
to move your gaze fully to the south
because you returned at times
to accept the ritual: to care
and be cared for by rock
and bush, creek, and bird.
This is the place where your faze
took hold, found words and moods
for words, where others will come
for your small sound when you are gone,
to listen for the door you left
swinging, just out of reach
on immense hinges.
It’s your turn. Just go.
You can re-live this adventure and join me on my next journey via Instagram and Twitter @fourthirtyam. If you’re wondering who you shared this adventure with, here’s a quick post about me and how I ended up reporting for The Avid Cruiser.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual vacation. We disembark in San Francisco tomorrow morning. Once I’m home and the dust settles, I’ll tell you how that process went. Check back soon!