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living in AK, advice

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living in AK, advice

Postby tigerlilly » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:23 pm

Hi all,

What is it like to live in AK? (seriously)

I kinda fell for the place...hard. I felt at home with the people and I could see living there.

My first thought when I got home was, "how can I get back?"

Need advice/info on schools, best place to live, jobs for lawyers, etc...I'll take any advice.

Thanks
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Postby Tonka » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:00 am

Spent 7 months working on the TSA project back in the early 2000's in many of the citeies you were in. We were federalizing Alaskan airports. What was nice is that I got to spend 4-6 weeks in each location so I got a feel for what it would be like to live there in the various areas. I also fell in love with the place. The problems are it's expensive and Jobs. These are biggies. It's cool that the different locations can be soooo different. The people are all generally very nice but how can you compare Fairbanks, Juneau and Nome. Do you have a career? Could you do it there? Could you work for peanuts in the service industry? Do you have a good bankroll to bring up? These are the starting questions. I'm heading back for the first time this Sept. and I can't wait.
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Re: living in AK, advice

Postby James_W » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:00 am

Try it out for a year and see if it is a good fit. I have no regrets on transplanting myself to the mountains.
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Postby Tonka » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:25 am

Sorry, I didn't see the lawyer line. You can make much more money elsewhere because noone in Alaska has money :) If you're a corporate lawyer you could move over to contracts and start working with crab fishermen. Big $$ in crab fishing these days. I say head to Kodiak, Juneau or Sitka.
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Postby chugach001 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 3:30 am

I made the leap and lived there through my 20's. After checking your profile, it would be a different deal. Anchorage is the only real city and can provide a career path. The land surrounding Anchorage is amazing - a life time of adventure. Most folks prefer to either live downtown or in the 'burbs. Check the Hillside area and Eagle River. I loved Palmer which is a hour commute to Anchorage and a real nice bedroom community.

Take the leap.
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Postby tigerlilly » Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:50 am

The lawyer is my husband who, I assume, would move with me! I should consult him before putting the house on the market..... ha ha ha,

We have kids, so schools are important.
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Some ideas...

Postby Steve Gruhn » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:12 pm

Though I am a lifelong Alaskan (living in Anchorage), my wife is from the Lower 48, so I can foresee some of the issues that might arise.

First, you've visited Alaska in the summer (and presumable enjoyed your experience). Would you be able to handle the darkness of fall and winter? Some can and some can't. Are you OK if you rarely have an outside temperature of 70 degrees (in southcentral and southeastern Alaska)? Are you OK with not having four distinct seasons? Our fall can be extremely short-lived. We're usually snow-free from mid-May to mid-October (mid-September farther north). There's a month on either side of that when there might be snow or there might not.

As for employment, I would advise making inquiries well in advance of making your decision to move. The market can be a tough one to break into because emplyers don't want to hire someone who may well want to leave the state in a year. When considering wages, remember that there are no state income or sales taxes and I'm sure you've heard about the permanent fund dividend, which is given to residents who have lived in Alaska for at least a full calendar year. Some muncipalities or boroughs have sales taxes and some have property taxes and some have both. In some of the smaller communities there might be limited opportunity to switch employers (and stay in the same community); in the larger areas (Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau) your employment mobility won't be as limited.

How would you feel about being an expensive plane flight away from the Lower 48? Some might appreciate this buffer from relatives who stop by unannounced, while others might long for more family contact. Are you OK with your children growing up far from their grandparents? From a personal perspective, I never got to really know my grandparents (who lived in the Lower 48 ), but my family had wonderfully close, familial relationships with other families whom we adopted as our own.

While the Anchorage School District used to be among the top districts in the nation, that is no longer the case. I don't think that our schools are at the bottom of the heap, though. For college, the majority of Alaskan college students attend college out of state. There are four Alaskan universities - one in College (outside Fairbanks), one in Juneau, and two in Anchorage - as well as some community colleges throughout the state.

I disagree with Tonka's advice about crab fishing. The heydays of crab fishing are over and the majority of their legal issues are handled in Washington (where most of the fleet is based). Kodiak, Sitka, and Juneau really aren't near significant crab fisheries. Unalaska, Saint Paul, and Akutan are in the prime area for crab fishing and of those communities none has a courthouse (although Unalaska might be slated to get one soon).

The pace of life in Alaska is somewhat slower than in the northeast or DC area. In the Bush it is even slower. To some this relaxed pace is great; to others it can be frustrating to not be able to schedule things by the clock.

The cost of living for certain items can be high in our urban areas, but you're in Maryland where the cost of living in the DC beltway area can be just as high. Our rural areas are somewhat costlier (except, perhaps, for real estate).

But you originally asked what it's like. I wouldn't live anyplace else. I went to college in New York and the best education I received was that Alaska was someplace special. I often work a full day at my job, leave work at 5, and can be hiking by 5:30 or 6, climb to the top of a mountain (with over 3000 feet of elevation gain) with our long daylight in the spring and summer, and drive home for a late dinner, go to bed, and get up the next morning and do it all over again. Where else can you do that? And sometimes I spot whales as I'm driving to the trailhead! I consider myself very fortunate to live here. Last year I climbed a peak that had never been previously climbed and I started the approach by walking out the front door of my friend's house and hiking into the mountains. That's not easily done in the Lower 48. I hunt and fish and pick berries to put food on the table. Wildlife frequent my back yard. (I love it, but not having grown up in bear country, my wife had a hard time understanding why we couldn't put the garbage out the night before it was to be collected.)

Alaska was a terrific place in which to grow up. I'm not a parent, but despite the changes since my childhood in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, I think Alaska would still be a wonderful place to raise children. There are plenty of outdoor recreational activities for them to experience life and to grow.

I guess a summation would be that Alaska is what you make of it - it can be a miserable, cold, dark place that is distant from your loved ones or it can be a wonderful place if you let it. It's all dependent upon you.
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Postby tigerlilly » Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:00 am

Thanks. Well written and thoughtful. Much appreciated. Guess I need to come and visit this winter. :-D
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Re: Some ideas...

Postby chugach mtn boy » Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:30 am

Steve's post is great, much better than I could do. But in the finest Steve Gruhn tradition, I can't resist quibbling with a couple of things.

Steve Gruhn wrote: The pace of life in Alaska is somewhat slower than in the northeast or DC area. In the Bush it is even slower. To some this relaxed pace is great; to others it can be frustrating to not be able to schedule things by the clock.

In the bush, sure. But I'd say Anchorage, Fairbanks & Juneau are pretty much like mid-sized cities elsewhere when it comes to the pace of the professional world, at least based on my experience in Maine and NC.

Steve Gruhn wrote:While the Anchorage School District used to be among the top districts in the nation, that is no longer the case. I don't think that our schools are at the bottom of the heap, though.

Gosh, Steve, sounds like you're saying "when I was a boy, these schools were great, but standards have declined ..." :) Well, I'm a huge fan of Anchorage School District and I just can't let that go by. ASD has become very unusual, with its huge range of choices, but if you pick well (whether it be Montessori, Japanese Immersion, Seminar School, I.B. ...) you can get the most amazing free education here. I just had two girls graduate with not a college rejection between them, from Ivies on down ... meanwhile family members around DC seem to have much more of a struggle sometimes, even in them highfalutin' private private high schools they got back there.
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Postby jvarholak » Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:31 am

FortMental wrote:
.....and don't forget to tell people you're from the D.C. area.


you're a baaaaaad man, FortMental. :D
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Postby chugach mtn boy » Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:32 am

FortMental wrote:.....and don't forget to tell people you're from the D.C. area.

FortMental, TigerLilly is nice! You trying to get her killed? :shock:
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Postby John Duffield » Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:46 am

tigerlilly wrote:Thanks. Well written and thoughtful. Much appreciated. Guess I need to come and visit this winter. :-D


Did you see the movie "Insomnia"? Go in the summer.
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Postby jfrishmanIII » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:39 am

My experience was pretty minimal: we spent three months in Kodiak in the winter. We planned to be there long-term, but our situation just didn't work out (the less said the better). But the advice about trying a stint in winter is good. I actually liked it pretty well: a lot of dark, but long, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and that early-morning slanting-through-the-trees light all day. You have to just ignore the darkness and head out the door to do your thing, whether it's pitch-black or not. I was busy, which definitely helped. Looking for work up there in winter would be really depressing. And being far from family was indeed hard; you should probably factor a lot of airfare into your yearly budget.

Also, maybe it was just Kodiak, but there weren't many places to go without a boat or a plane, and that was really frustrating. It's probably better on the mainland, but I imagine the issue still exists: without a big transportation budget, it's torture knowing so much spectacular country is so close, but you can't get there.

All that said, if I had a decent opportunity to try it again, I'd probably go for it.
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