WHENEVER I LEAVE Alaska I'm asked a familiar question: “Is it hard to live in Alaska being so disconnected from everything?”
Yes, it is true that we are geographically disconnected from the other 48 states, but you know I live in the fairly populated area of Juneau - the state capital - where I feel like I'm always connected. I'm an urban Alaskan and most people that call this state home fall into the same category. We have smart phones with 3G and 4G service. Wi-fi hotspots are more common than wildlife sightings. I have more television channels than I have time for and I check multiple news sites (yes the same ones you have access to Outside) multiple times a day not missing a beat on the latest campaign “news” and the latest technology releases.
The problem really isn't disconnection, rather it's being too connected to things that don't matter as much as family. So, last week we went dark from the tracking devices of our normal life, the political conventions, world events, and work messages that collected in our inboxes and made a run for the border.
"Come on in! No campaigns, cell service or email here!"
My family and parents all headed to Atlin, British Columbia in Canada for 6 days of solace.
This journey required a ferry ride and a 3 ½ hour drive to get to our lakefront cabin destination. Our 6+ hour ferry ride from Juneau to Skagway was National Geographic-quality. In short sleeves we played, rested, and viewed whales, eagles, sea lions, mountain peaks, and glaciers from the outside deck in the warmth of the sun for the entire journey. In 2 brief nights we connected with old friends in Skagway and rode the world famous White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. We were then on our way to Canada!
For our youngest son this 3-4 hour car ride was challenging but we planned it for nap time trying to ease the stress on all of us. Even so we had to pull off the road and rock him to sleep before continuing on quiet northern Canadian roads.
They grow the flowers tall in Canada...
During our first travel day of road travel our oldest made a request for iPhone time and he was told that this would be an iPhone-free trip. Maybe he asked another time but he did not seem interested in asking again throughout the duration of our time away from Juneau. Once we left Skagway there wasn't any cell service anyway.
For six days are chores consisted of cooking, cleaning, keeping fires burning, and keeping a sufficient water supply. One day revolved around the luxury of a shower for everyone and washing laundry. Outside of these daily chores we enjoyed the sound of the wind through the trees, the moon, stars, throwing rocks into Atlin Lake, and playing games together. We also enjoyed the setting of our cabins within 100 yards of and 88-mile long lake on an expansive tree covered property.
No electricity, no running water, and no technological connections to the outside was a liberating experience for all of us and being located in a beautiful place with family made this trip perfect.
Look! An eagle!
For some time now I have advocated with my partner for at least one disconnected family trip a year. This experience was relaxing and truly put life and what we value into perspective. After all we live in Alaska and that is what people expect we do daily!
If it has been a while since you and your family have disconnected I would encourage you to do so soon. The experience will allow you to make some real and long lasting connections that will last well beyond the fleetingness of today’s technology or big event.
Steve SueWing also writes about family life at AKDad.com.