A Question of Scale

Paige emailed me today asking about the progress of the Alaska move. The real and only answer is that I’ve been thinking about it, a lot. She did attach her and Luc’s argument in the affirmative.

(I heart Ronald Jenkees.)

That argument, in more prosaic terms, is that Alaska has big wilderness of a kind the lower 48 categorically does not, and that given my increasing fascination with anything less, not moving is just denial. Everything else; the isolation and darkness of winter being the most salient objections, ought to fall by the wayside given that I’ve let proximity to the wild filter every decision relating to employment or residency or school since I left undergrad.

Except that year when we moved back to Iowa for M to finish school. For while location and the spiritual and recreational resources it provides are my first priority, they are not my only one. I’ve tried, on several occasions, in different ways, and at different times, to make the outdoors a vocation. It was never ultimately satisfying. I’ve built a career, and at the moment have a very happy job, doing what I think my moral position as a human demands of me. I find it fulfilling, and would not stop or substantially alter it even if I became rich off the lottery ticket I’ve never in my life purchased. This career, and any job I can see having while pursuing it for the next ~35+ years, will require me to work pretty close to full time. The human side of it, driven as it is by relationships, demands it.

So then, given these life choices, does it make sense to move to Alaska when my primary enjoyment of it would be in 2-3 day chunks? Or it is better to stay in the lower 48, with its easier access and the resultant abundantly weekend-sized pieces of terrain, and fly to Alaska for vacation?

That is what I think about when thinking about moving to Alaska. That and the phat dance music.

14 responses to “A Question of Scale”

  1. I’d prefer that you didn’t move but you should follow your heart as long as M is up for it.

  2. I would imagine there is plenty of social work in Alaska.

    1. It’d be hard to find a better work environment than my current one, but otherwise work in AK should be easy to find. Should pay significantly better, too.

  3. Go where your feet (and heart) want to take you. Everything else is secondary.

  4. Dave,
    Since moving to Alaska I can not picture living anywhere else. Like you I work full time and get out for 2 to 3 day adventures every weekend plus a couple week long ones a year. The wilderness you can find in 2 to 3 days is amazing plus the fishing is not bad. WInter in Alaska is my favorite season I thought the darkness would be hard but after coming from Wyoming I did not have too much of an adjustment to long winters. (plus the skiing is hard to beat). THe hardest thing I have is being away from family plus in the Anchorage area not much summer. Good luck making a decision! For me since moving to Alaska have been the happiest time in my life!

  5. Moving to Alaska can ruin your ability to live anywhere else.

  6. Follow your heart and do what you have to do.
    A trip to Alaska is still a big dream of mine.

  7. Hmmm, moving to Norway a few years ago was the best thing I ever did. Long, dark winters, isolation from my friends and family, $11 beers… but the access to beautiful mountains, forests and bogs more than makes up for it. I visited the UK a couple of weeks ago and suffered a pang of homesickness until my friends pointed out that nothing there had changed and if I moved back I would miss everything I have here in Scandinavia. They were right. The homesickness passed and I’m glad I didn’t make any rash decisions about moving back.

    As for working in the ‘outdoors’ I’ve always thought that if your ‘love’ becomes your job then you would lose a large part of what immersing yourself in the wilderness provides, that feeling of cleansing, change and centering. I work intermittently as a ski guide for school groups in the winter and still enjoy my friends coming out from the city on the weekends to ski even more but would those feelings remain if I had to do it month in, month out? I don’t know.

  8. I imagine Eric has a point. good luck with your decision. I’m facing something quite similar right now. I have to decide by tomorrow. Its tough.

    meanwhile your trips in alaska and elsewhere are fantastic, keep em up



  9. If you follow advice from anyone else you’ll just pack baggage you don’t need. Keep the decision pure and clean, and if you go, do so with the expectation that you might be there forever, or that you might just be trying it out for a bit, and that in reality, you just don’t know what’s ahead.

    I used to think I’d live in Bozeman forever. The longer I’m here, the more I realize that I could go just about anywhere and not be too bent out of shape about it.

    Exploring wilderness is well and good but there are a lot of other factors that go into it too, like the feel of the community and your connectedness to it, which is more important for day to day living.

    Oh, and access to good coffee.

    1. Good advice!

      I figured this would get some good thoughts from my esteemed readers, and I am not disappointed. Thanks everyone.

      Fire Island bakery Apricot-Fennel scones are enough reason to move on their own.

  10. Follow the phat dance music.

  11. I rarely regret a move I’ve made but often regret those that I let pass.
    Listen to your heart and hers. Spend a week there overwinter.
    Enjoy the dilemma, it’s a nice one to have.

  12. Stay? I say this having hauled me and my spouse across the country, to a place where we know nearly no one, and taken a 20% pay cut, to live within walking distance of surfable waves, everyday. For me, having a job doing meaningful and satisfying work that takes advantage of my skills was not something on which I was willing to compromise, even if that has meant sacrifices in other areas. That meant living somewhere with easy access to the ocean — I just don’t have time to regularly travel long distances to get in the water.

    Obviously, big ”wild’ is always going to be more remote than 45 minutes of pre-work dawn patrol. Nevertheless, a fantastic job that still allows you to do much of the outdoor activites you want to do is nothing to sneeze at. It took me a long time to find something — surfing — I would move heaven and earth to make a part of my everyday life. But even once I did, everything else still matters. Indeed, we didn’t make the move until we both had jobs worth moving for. It’s tough to figure out the balance, and it’s ok to decide that contributing something via your work is worth sacrificing for. That said, there is also a time for just striking out for the territories, so to speak, and maybe this is that time, for you. :)

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