Should I Move to Alaska?

After posting about Things I Wish I Had Known Before Moving to Alaska nearly a year ago, I have had a lot people ask me via the comments section or by e-mail: should I move to Alaska?

The good: beautiful scenery

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(From this post: Winner Creek + Sugarspoon)

The bad: friends and family are far away

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My sister and I

The ugly: snow in May

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(From this post.)

I always struggle with a clear-cut answer for those people who ask me about moving to Alaska. I know most people just want to bounce their questions off me and get a better picture of life in the 49th state. I am more than happy to help them discern whether or not Alaska is for them, but I am cautious on how I answer each question.

Of course I cannot give a yes or no answer since every person is so different, but I’ve compiled a (short) list of things you should consider before moving to Alaska because it definitely is not for everyone. I thought I would really enjoy my time here (I love the outdoors, always wanted to live near the mountains, and enjoy the open spaces.), but within a relatively short period of time, I realized there’s a lot more to this state than I originally thought.

Things to consider before moving to Alaska:

1. You must love winter. Period. I can’t put it any other way. Winter is here for a solid six months and the seasons that bored winter aren’t your true fall and spring like other places in this county.

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This is so very true!

2. You have to realize you will not see your family and friends very often. Flights out of Alaska start at $600/$700. (Occasionally you might be able to find a deal for $500, but most flights are much more expensive.) Not only are flights expensive, but you must allow for a solid 8-12+ hours of travel to get to your destination.

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3. Anchorage is a fairly large city (280,000 people), but it does not offer an endless number of things to do. Of course this is very relative and often depends upon where you came from. If you come from a large city on the East Coast versus a small town in the Midwest, your perspective on this might vary. There are things to do, but I’ve heard people mention that they do get bored easily.

4. The cost of living is much higher: food, housing, gas, household goods, etc. are going to cost more. The pay from most jobs help offset the higher cost of living, but I do miss the novelty of cheap things.

5. The winters are long and dark. In Anchorage the sun typically rises at 10:00 a.m. and sets at 3:00 p.m. in the winter. But even when the sun is up during these five short hours, it is so low in the horizon it doesn’t warm the air or provide that boost of energy you normally get from the sun. If you suffer from SAD where you live now, it will only get worse here!

Sunrise at 9:30 a.m.

6. There are endless opportunities to hunt, fish, trap, and catch big game animals—as well as small game—year round. Caribou and bear are very popular big game animals to hunt and fishing for salmon in the summer is a necessity.

7. Summer temps only get into the 60s—maybe low 70s, so don’t expect to be sporting your bathing suit of taking a dip in any lake. (The summer of 2013 was an exception.) The sun does shine for about 20 hours in the summer, but even those 4 hours in between, the skies are still dusky and not completely dark.

8. Once you are here, it is very hard to move back to The Lower 48. People get stuck here. It is hard because of how much it costs to actually move all of your belongings back—even if you sell off many of them. It isn’t like you are moving across the border to another state. It is 1700 miles just to get from Anchorage to Seattle!

Plus I’ve found it is very difficult to find a job out of state. Who wants to hire someone from Alaska and take the chance that they will actually move from that far away. Nonetheless, there are other well-qualified people much closer, so your application will probably get by-passed.

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(Picture from our trip to Maui.)

9. People either love Alaska or hate it. There isn’t much middle ground. For those who grew up here, it is a huge part of who they are and they will go to every length to defend their state. (Yes, I am speaking from experience.) And here is my theory on whether or not you will like it here:

If you are a female, and you were born and raised in Alaska: 75% of these people love it, 25% hate it.

If you are a female and you moved to Alaska as an adult: 50% love it, 50% hate it.

If you are a male and you were born and raised in Alaska: 100% of these people love living here.

If you are a male and you moved to Alaska as an adult: 75% love it, 25%hate it.

10. While Alaska is very different, Anchorage is still a US city with chain restaurants, shopping malls, fine arts entertainment, and most things you would find in a similar-sized city. We do not ride sled dogs to work, live in igloos, or eat whale blubber.

I’m not sure if these things help or make your decision more difficult but hopefully they at least cause you to take some new things into consideration. Alaska is like no other. Whatever you decide, I hope you follow your heart and live life to the fullest.

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19 responses to “Should I Move to Alaska?

  1. Most of us are complaining around here in Texas about having less daylight than normal at this time of year, but we’re getting much more than you are there! I love the mountains, but it would be hard to live without much sunshine. Thanks for the info!

  2. Excellent post – you pretty much nailed it as far as what to expect and (we think) even the percentages of who does and does not find Alaska to be a good fit. One thing you mentioned and that we would underscore is this: Alaska is not a good fit for people who need to be “entertained.” People who thrive up here are generally people who are doers, not watchers. We know plenty of people who thought that the TV would keep them sufficiently “entertained” through Alaska’s long winters only to discover that with this much darkness and cold, TV alone just doesn’t cut it.
    For the past four years, we have spent nine months – from mid-August through mid-May – in the Arctic. We do not suffer from SAD (fortunately), and we NEVER get bored. Our lives are filled with one project after another. We have lots and lots and lots of free time, and we love and utilize every moment of it. We’ve learned to cook just about anything you can think of from scratch – from pop tarts to cheezits to all kinds of breads, pastries and entrees – all of which come out better (way better) than store-bought. We will never go back to old cooking and eating habits.
    The free time has also allowed us to get deep into a passion: photography. Before we came up here, we never had the time this hobby really requires. Now we do. We love to read (a way more sustainable pastime than watching the boob tube) and the perfect way to acquire new skills regarding fishing, sailing, boating, cooking and photography.
    This winter break, we will be taking on yet another new challenge: making a quilt tailored to the bed in our sailboat. (We spend our summers living aboard our sailboat Bandon in the Seward, Alaska harbor.)
    As to Alaska’s summers, there is nothing in the world like them. There’s so much to do: hiking, boating, fishing, animal watching, traveling and more, and the luxury of virtually endless days where the sun barely sets! And, oh, for the record, we do eat whale blubber, aka muktuk. Regularly. Quite tasty.

    • I appreciate this comment–very thoughtful. You are very right in that people have to find their own entertainment here. I would love to be able to live off the land more–almost pioneer-like. I knew I should have put a caveat in there that some people do eat whale blubber and ride dog sleds. 😉

  3. I’ve honestly always wondered what living in Alaska would be like. Thank you for sharing this. I don’t have the freedom to move to Alaska due to military constrictions but have always wondered. I didn’t realize how long it stayed light in the summer-that is really interesting!

  4. I found your blog because I read the post about “things I wish I had known…” when I was looking at info about Anchorage just before we moved here.
    Knowing that we should only be here for three years helps me. I am not entirely opposed to this place and right now it has some novelty to it as we moved from a ski resort town of about 10,000 people. We have been enjoying shopping without having to drive 175 miles to Denver, movies, theater and having our daughter’s grandparents (free babysitting!) a five minute drive away instead of a long plane ride (or two). We have been on dates without having to pay for a babysitter!
    I miss my family and friends (we are near my in-laws) and have just exhausted almost all of our miles to get us “home” and back after the holidays.
    My husband did not grow up here but his dad has been stationed here for the last 6 years. His parents plan to leave in a few years too, they are actually tired of the lack of a real summer.
    Yes, it was expensive to get here. We spent a lot to drive here with a trailer we bought. From Colorado it was about 3500 miles and a good week of driving and sightseeing. Hotels, food and a new tire along the way, and Canada was expensive! (fuel was $1.10 to 1.89 a litre)
    My husband has always wanted to live in Alaska and I chose to go back to school here, partly because of the free grandma babysitting. My husband works on ships on the west coast so his home is location neutral but since things cost more here in AK, it’s like he took a bit of a pay cut. For instance we are paying $400 more a month in rent for a place that is not as nice as our place in Colorado. I’m sure my husband will enjoy his time off work fishing and skiing. I do like skiing (cross country and downhill) and we have lived in an area that gets lots of snow (300″ a year) so that doesn’t bother me. Time will tell what really will get to me but I suspect it will be the lack of real summer too. Every time I visited in summer I never wore shorts, it was too cold for me. I even said “Alaska is for people who hate summer”. And now here I am, living in Alaska!

    Heather

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree that one must not like hot summer weather to live here!! I pretty much wear my winter clothes year-round; it is sad. There are definitely perks, but for me they don’t outweigh the cons.

  5. Pingback: Winter is Here | The Runner's Plate·

  6. I really want to thank you for writing this post! I’ve been following your blog because I’m a runner who is planning on moving to Anchorage in May, so I figured I could learn a lot from following you! I absolutely hate hot weather and seem to have an aversion to it (I usually get heat exhaustion pretty easily and will pass out about once a week in the summer so to me it’s a season of hiding indoors from the heat and humidity!) so I’m actually looking forward to being able to go outside during the summer in Alaska! Winter is my favorite time of year because I can actually enjoy hiking/running/camping, but I do think that the super low temps in Anchorage may take some getting used to 🙂 The lowest it gets in Philly is in the teens so it will be interesting!

    • You definitely can’t enjoy hot summers to like living here, so it sounds like it would be perfect for you! It does get colder than the teens, but you will probably be okay–good gear can help.

  7. Pingback: Things I Wish I Had Known Before Moving to Alaska | The Runner's Plate·

  8. Early in my parent’s retirement they went to Alaska twice. They travelled the country with a big trailer and drove up twice. They loved it and my mother would prefer to live there than Florida where they are now. My father hates the cold – they were from New England and had their fill of the cold.
    My niece lives there and loves it. She loves hunting and fishing, has a great job, met her fiancé and is having a great time there.
    It sounds great, but you do point out a lot of the drawbacks.

  9. I was researching moving to Alaska and found this post along with the Things I should know before moving. It is very informative and even though I will be moving from the Caribbean where our only season is summer, I’m hoping that I adjust to the 6 months of winter. Can’t wait to go fishing, hiking and the experiences of a new place.

  10. I was raised in Alaska and I’m moving back , this summer, with my husband and daughter. I’m so excited! I was happy to read your statistics on the men that love Alasaka. Haha I was already checking things off of the the list but that made me laugh. My daughter is going to love it and the schools are so much better than where we are right now.
    I enjoyed reading your page. Thank you. Karen – from Alaska

  11. Thank you for the post, I enjoyed reading as much about AK and Anc as possible. Like a few of the others who have commented, I have plans to move to AK. I have only visited a few times, so I am a bit unsure. I am from ND and hate hot weather so that will be a plus if I follow through with the move.
    Do you have any advice on which months are the best in finding vacancies? Which areas of the city to look for rentals and which areas to avoid?

    • Are you wondering about vacancies for housing? If so, people move primarily in the summer (May – August/September) because who, frankly, wants to move in the winter. So I would assume there would be more openings during the winter?? Housing is competitive in Anchorage, in general. West and South Anchorage are generally the safer areas of town. East side has pockets of okay neighborhoods. Avoid: Fairview, Mountain View, and Muldoon.

  12. Was in Anchor Point last summer and fell in love with the State. Didn’t like the hot weather though. I am from southern California and want to get away from the heat and fast paced living. I live on the coast south of Los Angeles and when the winds blow offshore, it can get really hot and sometime really humid. Because I am from California, the prices of groceries and gas were about the same, which is a plus because I would be used to that. When people talk about the long winters, are they longer than they are in Chicago or other States? Is Anchorage area winters more extreme than other States? Does the snow stay on the ground all winter long and only melt when spring hits? Is it better to rent or buy if you can afford it? I have noticed houses on the market for over a year. I am 64 years old and have never wanted to move away from California until I went to Alaska!

    • Yes, winters are 1-2 months longer here. The fall and spring seasons are very short and sometimes feel non-existent. I grew up in MN and definitely notice the winters being longer here. Anchorage’s winters lack windchills, so it can be warmer than places with strong windchills (i.e. MN). Many people would argue the winters are more tolerable here. Once the snow starts to fall, it really doesn’t melt until the springtime–unlike CO where the snow comes and goes. I always think it is better to buy versus rent no matter where you live if you know you are going to be staying for a few years.

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