When we were getting ready to move to Alaska so many people were curious and intrigued by our decision. They would ask us questions and state misconceptions they heard as facts.
Alaska is the great unknown for many people. It is this far out land that no one actually knows anything about. They get their knowledge from stories, myths, fairy tales and nowadays reality shows that try to depict what life in Alaska is really like. But even those reality shows don't really give the full picture of life in Alaska.
I decided to list some of the misconceptions we were approached with and honestly we had some of them ourselves prior to our first visit here.
We live in igloos – although that would be a very cheap and economical way to live, at least in the winter, this is simply not true. Native Alaskans don’t even live in igloos. Because our climate is so dry we can’t build snowmen or snow forts because our snow has no moisture in it, this is where filling in molds with water and a drop of food coloring comes in handy at building your own fun igloo fort in the winter.
Dog sledding is our main mode of transportation- Yes, there are plenty of dog sleds and in the winter you see them very often running along side of the roads. But they are not our main mode of transportation. Dog Sledding is the state sport and like anyone that does a sport they are always practicing and training their skills. When you see a dog sled that is simply what they are doing, practicing a sport. It is also a great hobby and comparable to deciding to take the 4 wheeler for a ride down to the gas station for a snack, instead you can take a dog sled.
It is always cold and snowing- Alaska does get cold, and where I live in the interior it gets very cold. It can dip to -50 below zero during the winter. But contrary to popular belief Alaska does still have all the seasons. The only season we tend to skip is spring. Alaska seems to have the ability to jump from “Buried in Snow” to “Full on Green”. We do have summer and summer is warm and wonderful. It can even get “hot” for a few weeks. By hot, I mean we get in the 90’s. We still swim and enjoy all the summer activities anyone else would. Our blood gets thicker from the cold winters so we are able to withstand the colder water we swim in.
You have to watch out for Polar Bears and Penguins- When we first told people we were moving to Alaska they were very concerned for our safety and our ability to survive and a flee from Polar Bears walking around. There are Polar Bears in Alaska, but they are only on the farthest northern coast of Alaska and they are generally not seen very often by any human settlements. I have 2 goals to accomplish during our time in Alaska and one is seeing a Polar Bear in the wild. It can be done by flight tours that will take you up to the top of Alaska. You can also see penguins by flight tours but that flight takes a little longer because they have to fly you to the Southern Hemisphere. No Penguins live in Alaska.
We are an island near Hawaii- I remember when I told my best friend I was moving to Alaska and her first thought was “where exactly is Alaska”. Almost all maps show us as a slightly larger island between Hawaii and Mexico. People don’t understand the massive size that Alaska is because map makers shrink us down to a tiny corner of the map. No, we are not an island.
It is dark 24 hours a day- As I mentioned before, Alaska is huge. It can take 25+ hours to drive from the top of Alaska (Prudhoe Bay) in a relatively straight line down to the bottom (Homer). That means that the sun has a wide range to do different things within the state itself. Yes, it gets dark for a long time in Alaska. But the 24 hours of darkness is reserved for the most northern tip of Alaska and we gain more daylight in the winter the farther south you go. Which means in the winter, Anchorage experiences more daylight than Fairbanks, but Fairbanks experiences more daylight than Prudhoe Bay. In the winter in Fairbanks our shortest span of daylight is about 3 hours. It can feel a lot worse than that because we have so much cloud cover in the winter, so we never actually see the sun on most days. But the opposite is true in the summer. We have no darkness in the summer. It works on the same scale, just backwards. Prudhoe is a true 24 hours of daylight for multiple days straight and then Fairbanks gets more daylight than Anchorage, etc. It is a gradual scale. So after Winter Solstice in December we are start gaining more light each day until we reach the peak of 24 hour daylight at Summer Solstice in June and then after Summer Solstice we slowly lose daylight each day until we reach the lowest amount of 3 hours back at Winter Solstice and the cycle continues.
Alaska doesn’t have electricity-It depends on where you choose to live. There are people who choose to live in remote Alaska, which means they live in “dry cabins”. Dry Cabins have no electricity or plumbing. But that is a choice. There are plenty of places to live in Alaska that has electricity.
We eat whales and baby seals- Alaskan do like to live off the land and there is plenty of land to live off of. But hunting and harvesting whales and seals are only reserved for Native Alaskans. It is still a very prominent part of their culture and if you visit a Native Village you may have the opportunity to try whale or seal. It is not something that is sold in stores; you need to have the honor of a native giving you some to try. That same rule applies to furs. There are certain protected animals where only Natives are allowed to harvest and sell the fur.
You can’t drive to Alaska- We are not an island, so yes you can drive to Alaska and no you don’t have to cross a huge bridge to get to us. You do need a passport to drive to Alaska, but that doesn’t mean we are a foreign country. We are indeed a part of the United States. We are just as American as Chicago; you just have to drive through another country to get to us. If you want to drive to Alaska it is possible, but it is definitely a road trip that you must be very prepared for. You drive through some pretty remote places in Canada to get to us. There is a road and over the years the road has improved immensely.
What Alaskan Misconceptions do you have or have you heard? Comment below, I would love to hear them and answer any questions you may have about life in Alaska.
I am a 30 something year old wife and mother of two. I have a 13 year old son and an 12 year old daughter. They are keeping me busy and on my toes in this new phase I call "Teenagedom".
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