Lower 48 expectations vs. AK veteran’s expectations

I’m constantly amused, aghast, or fascinated about expectations of Outsiders regarding their first trip to Alaska, and about what long-time Alaskans think about that. Now, it needs to be said that I am still very much an Outsider here myself. I have made it through my first winter, which I was assured was pretty lightweight compared to the 70’s and 80’s and before that. I love it here – it’s a perfect match for my tomboy-energetic-always-have-to-be-learning or thinking-about-something “teach me that *right now*” personality. Even if I wasn’t a librarian anymore, I’d have to find some way to stay here. I’ve met a lot of cool people so far, and none refused to get to know me because I’d only just arrived. But, I have heard this opinion voiced from some people who have been here a long time:

“So many people come up here looking for what they think they want as “an Alaska lifestyle”, I just don’t bother getting to know them until they’ve been here a while.”

“They have to be here for a minimum of seven years before I even want to get to know them.”

–Or, words to that effect. I’ve been told or read that the amount of time that is proper to spend waiting is anywhere from 1 year to 7 years to 10 years. I’m not really sure *where* this statement comes from? Is it because we have two big honkin’ military bases that rotate families in and out? Is it because people generally move here expecting one thing and get another? Not to be too “Obama-rific” about it, but why draw a line where there doesn’t need to be any? And if I only stay for five years, that deprives you of five years of knowing a pretty awesome individual! **sarcastic grin**

I’m not kidding when I say that almost *everyone* I’ve met who knows anything about Fairbanks, whether for a few days visit, a military posting, or through 20 years of living here, LOVES this quirky area almost immediately. (And, yes, once friends and acquaintances knew I was moving here, almost everyone knew someone, if not themselves, that had lived here.) So, I know I’m not alone in that, by far. I’ve had more people say this to me: “I loved living there, but I just couldn’t do / got tired of / wanted to escape from the cold and /or dark, after so many years.” Or, “I needed someplace to stay that was cheaper to live in during the winter.”

It seems to me that not having *any* expectations is the best way to enjoy life and get acquainted with people here, but that a certain maintenance of “the Alaskan lifestyle” appearance is important so that tourists can travel here and get their expectations met (and spend their $$!). That’s no different than the marketing hype that goes on in Florida. It’s like there are two Fairbanks: One for the tourists, and one for the people who live here. Just like when I was growing up in Sarasota / Bradenton / Venice. I guess what I’m trying to get to the heart of is: How can you ever know when you’ve gotten to the real “authentic” experience of being or living somewhere? Isn’t that going to change with each person? Your experiences of what it’s like to live here are going to be different than mine, whether we’re in Fairbanks, AK, Walla Walla, WA, Seattle, or Sarasota, FL. All else is folly – so, it’s ridiculous to feel “gypped” by your side trip to Fairbanks, as I overheard someone downtown say the other day. (They must’ve been off a Princess bus or something – and that may be the reason why for the “not bothering to get to know” statements.)

Can’t wait to see what summer is like here! đŸ˜›


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