I am currently watching a program on SBS 1 called Bears of the Last Frontier – The Road North, part of a 3 episode saga. Alaska, wow. I went there once. Actually it was only 2 years ago. It feels like a life time. So much has changed, so much has happened, i’ve grown up, i’ve learnt some hard lessons and in between all that I have almost finished a undergrad degree. This program documented Chris Morgan’s adventure in Anchorage, north through Denali National Park and then onto Prudoe Bay, with spectacular shots of brown bears, black bears and other incredible wildlife as they live life in the last frontier. He aptly describes Prudoe Bay as “a cross between a truck stop and a space space,” it is a desolate town, inhabited by men working on the oil rigs, this is the end of the road, where it all stops. You can’t go any further.
It is astonishing to view Alaska from another perspective, when I travelled through Anchorage and Fairbanks I took it for granted. Naïve 21 year old me, thought it would easy and comfortable, how different could it really be to what I knew. I realised it wasn’t going to be easy as soon as I arrived at 1.30am (from Los Angeles via Salt Lake City, Utah) and the hostel didn’t get my booking. Jump to the following morning where I woke up in a shabby hotel room, at the Super 8 down the road, trying to recall if the night before has actually happened. Plus my laptop harddrive died the day I left LA. The challenges I faced so far where bearable, but I was stoked to actually be in Alaska. Bring on the northern lights I said, to my non-existant friends, I was in a country with no family, and a state with no friends. At such an exciting time for me, I should have been getting out there, finding things to do, except I was too timid, I was scared of trying something new and to step out of my comfort zone.
Watching Chris Morgan ride his motorcycle through some of the most rugged country that the United States has to offer, it was a stark relisation that when I travelled through that same country, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The loneliness of travelling alone took over me, I was obsessed with finding an internet connection to talk to those back home. Fearful of spending my money on unnecessary adventures, that things won’t work out, when those adventures of solitude could have been the best of my life. I live with an abundance of regrets.
After struggling through 4 days in Alaska, I turned my attitude around and took it upon myself to find something that I would enjoy doing by myself, where I felt in control and happy. I returned from a trip up north to Fairbanks, the northern lights had practically swept me off my feet, as I watched from afar in 10 below temperatures during the month of October. The colours flew around the sky as if they were dancing. It was like someone had a fat paintbrush and was streaking it back and forth, changing the colours from green to blue to red and back again. In Anchorage I hired a car and travelled south down the Kenai Peninsula to a sleepy fishing town called Seward. It was beautiful. The old fishing boats lined the marina, the tired little houses with broken weatherboards down the sides, it was so quiet. It was as if time stood still.
Following a week in Alaska, I finally had my eyes opened and experienced some amazing sites, but I still feel as if I need to travel back there to do it again. The people were friendly, few and far between and a few were slightly creepy but overall the willingness of the locals to help out a traveller was generous. One day i’ll make it back to The Last Frontier, with a stronger body, a tougher heart and an ability to keep my eyes open and a willingness to take some risks.