A perspective of living in Alaska….
I was born in raised in Los Angeles, and just spent the last three years living in Anchorage. I loved it very, very much – and indeed I only left because I could not afford to travel often back to CA to see my family, to whom I am very close.
You’re asking two very different questions – what it’s like to live there, and what it’s like to live there as a Californian.
What it’s like to live there:
•Incredible outdoor recreation, wildlife and parks within Anchorage. People, generally, are extremely outdoorsy in one way or another.
•Anchorage is very diverse. There are large military populations, large oil-company populations, large Alaska Native populations, large ethnic minority populations (mainly from Asia & Pacific Island nations) and lots of other people just seeking an adventurous life.
•Very tight-knit community. Anchorage is around 200,000 people – more, if you count the suburbs. It’s shockingly tight-knit in terms of the neighborhoods and communities of practice that develop within it. I always saw people I knew at restaurants, concerts, special events, etc.
•It’s the last frontier. People come to Alaska because it’s huge and sparsely populated – and there is not a whole lot of government-per-square mile to enforce laws and so forth. So people come there to be left alone. There are also a lot of creative “counter culture” people living truly adventurous lives, doing unusual stuff.
•The wilderness is right there, on your doorstep. Alaska is wild and almost inconceivably huge – and it’s just on the edge of Anchorage. People die in avalanches, get mauled by bears and suffer hypothermia, all within or just outside of city limits. You have unmatched access to public lands, wildlife, wilderness and freedom. The Chugach Range, Alaska Range and Cook Inlet surround Anchorage. You can fish for wild salmon in Ship Creek, see bears in Far North Bicentennial Park (or on your lawn) and see moose almost every day. Just wandering around.
What it’s like to live there as a Californian:
Cold and dark in the winter, rainy, light and less cold in the summer. Paradoxically, perhaps, Anchorage is sunny in the winter, when it’s cold and the days are short. It’s considerably less sunny in the summer. And still not warm – in the three years I lived there, I think it only got over 70 degrees 6 or 7 days. I missed warmth a lot, but it wasn’t something that I worried about a lot. I adjusted to the winters by staying very active and getting out in the sun whenever possible.
•Frankly, it’s kind of hard being a Californian specifically. Old-timer Alaskans have a very parochial view of people moving up from the lower 48, and you earn credibility by the length of time you spend there. I think a lot of people think we all move up there to bring our hippie culture and California tax laws while taking advantage of the Permanent Fund Dividend. Truthfully, I resented being dismissed as “just a Californian” when participating in conversations about the future of Alaska.
•It’s expensive to get out of AK (again, the reason I left). Plane tickets to and from the lower 48 are very expensive. If my family were there, I wouldn’t have left.
•You won’t have nearly as much access to diverse food, music and entertainment activities. In its place, you’ll have the wilderness and outdoor culture, an opportunity to learn about how communities wrestle with diverse cultures and differing views of the ownership of land.