Whenever I share I was born and raised in Alaska I wait for the reaction. Nine times out of ten I will be met with a look of surprise followed by an emphatic, “Really?!” Amused, I’ll watch the wheels quietly spin in their mind with the question I know they want to ask, but they aren’t sure how. Most of the time they don’t. Most will then begin to ask me questions regarding if the cold and darkness rumors are true. But some are more bold. I’ll never forget the first time someone paused for a minute and said, “I’m sorry, but…there are Black people in Alaska?”

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I was born and raised in Alaska.

My whole life, I’ve had people look at the state I grew up in and ask me, “Why would anybody live here? It seems like it would be challenging to live in a place like this.” I’d nod my head and smile. I would nod because they were right. It wasn’t the easiest place to live. I smiled because they have no idea that for many Alaskans its a source of pride. While some may think Alaskans are crazy for choosing a life where everything isn’t easily accessible, they feel that they were up for the challenge many weren’t strong enough to take.

This is why growing up we would scoff at our friends in the “lower 48” who would talk about how cold the weather was in their neck of the woods. Understand, 40 degrees sounds like a heat wave when you are sitting in -50. We would shake our heads when we turned on the news and saw people in different parts of the country freaking out over a few inches of snow. It was hard to relate to when we had so much snow we couldn’t leave our driveway. It seemed easy when for us, forgetting to plug in your car that night meant waking up to a dead battery.

This attitude of “the challenge is part of the adventure” was very much a part of my upbringing. Our vacations were never pool side in a beautiful resort, but rather our getaways were piling in our old minivan and driving hours out into the middle of nowhere. There was no room service. There was only a cooler full of drinks, snacks and sandwiches that my mom made with love. Our vacations didn’t smell of fresh salty air. They smelled of bug deet and gutted fish. Our “grand stays” were never in fancy hotels with warm beds. They were in sleeping bags in cold tents. And we absolutely wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Creek in the woods with trees on RV trip

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