Because everywhere is Alaska.
“You’re really from Alaska? Why?”
I mean, it is a fair question to ask if we haven’t been acquainted yet. I’m not exactly the first image that comes to mind when you think of someone living all the way up here, not even to myself. When you think Alaska you usually begin with whaling, ice fishing, dog mushing, and other ‘Alaskan’ activities. Yet if you saw me on the street, you wouldn’t think twice of me being anything more than just a city kid.
Indeed, I am a first generation Alaskan through and through. It’s a badge of honor I wear proudly no matter wherever I may end up. My parents relocated here from New York City by way of the military, and ended up staying because it felt like the best place to raise children. We traveled back east very frequently while I growing up, and while I love NYC and everything it has to offer I can see why they chose to leave. I knew it was special as a kid when everyone I met treated Alaska like it’s a foreign country. Igloos, dogsleds, tundra — it seemed no one really knew what to expect, and that made it all the more exotic in their minds. To my parents, Alaska represented optimism and opportunity they had never had, while at the same time it provided a safe environment for me and my siblings to roam and “color outside the lines.”
31 years later I can say with absolute conviction that they made the right choice. Living in this great state has allowed me to dream as big it looks superimposed over the USA, and as far as the Aleutians stretch into the Pacific. It’s placed me in a position to meet people from various walks of life in all colors and creeds, which affords me the knowledge to treat everyone with the respect you would want in return. Most importantly, living here has nurtured my ability for 'getting lost’. The world ceases to feel so large when you have the last frontier as your literal backyard, and that impression has not been lost on me. No matter where I go, Alaska is always a conversation starter. The mere mention of the state brings inquisitive minds and a plethora of questions, but it also brings people together that otherwise would have nothing to do with each other. To me, this is what Alaska truly means.
So when I arrived back stateside after my adventure in Japan only to be questioned by immigration why I would choose to live in such a place, I only had one reply on my mind:
'Because everywhere is Alaska.’
By: David Starks
Photo By: Dean Humphries