Moving to a new city or a different state can often be a cause of apprehension and anxiety. Rarely does a place make you feel fortunate for having the opportunity to move there, but Alaska is one of those rare states. Moving to Alaska is often met with excitement and wonder because, despite being one of America’s 50 states, it’s like a whole other world of its own that’s far removed from the regular American lifestyle. While this is exciting, it also means there are some important things to consider before moving to Alaska.
1. Moving to Alaska Requires Big Lifestyle Changes
The first thing you need to understand about moving to Alaska is that life in this state can be quite different from the life you’re used to. Many native Alaskans still follow the subsistence way of life. They live like their ancestors did and hunt, fish, or gather berries to meet their everyday requirements for food. While you may not have to adopt this way of life, you’ll still have to make several changes to the life you’re accustomed to.
One such change is dealing with the reality of living in extreme weather conditions. Sometimes, several days may go by before you get to see the sun, and at other times, you may be snowed in for a considerable period of time. This means you’ll have to get used to stocking up for such days and that you cannot run out and get something from a store on a whim. You’ll also need to learn basic wildlife safety. It may be a welcome change to know that in Alaska, people dress for the weather with little or no worry about keeping up with the latest trends. Depending on where you live, you may also need to learn to fly and get a pilot’s license.
2. Consider How Accessible Your New Home Will Be
If you’re moving to Alaska for a job, your company may find a place for you to live. However, if you’re moving to Alaska on your own, the search for a place to stay is entirely your responsibility. The thing you need to know about Alaska is that several regions in the state are only accessible by boat or plane. The state’s road system only connects some of the centrally populated regions with the Alaska Highway.
The road network isn’t developed enough to access several of the interior regions. If you find a home in one such area, it can be a hassle to get around. Another imminent problem is that many of the roads can also become blocked when it snows during the winters. So, even if you do find a home in a region that’s accessible by road, you may have to keep an alternative solution handy in case of emergencies. If you can find a way to sort out these issues, moving to Alaska can be a workable option.
3. Can You Handle the Cold?
The winters aren’t always as bad as they’re made out to be, especially in certain parts of Anchorage where the weather resembles the winters in cities like Chicago or Minneapolis. Southeast Alaska is also relatively warmer. This is because of the proximity of these regions to the ocean. That said, some other regions of the state do see a considerable drop in temperatures. This is particularly true in the interior regions which do not have the regulating influence of the oceans. They experience cold temperatures that can plummet to around negative 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’ve lived in other states or countries that are quite cold, moving to Alaska may only be a small change from the cold you’re generally used to. This is why many people actually grow to enjoy the low temperatures in Alaska. However, if you’re from a summery place that has ample sunshine throughout the year, Alaska may be a shocking contrast. It could take some time for you to get used to it.
4. Are You Ready for the Wildlife?
Another important thing to consider before moving to Alaska is the possibility of living in close proximity to wildlife. Unlike city life where spotting wild animals often involves a trip to the zoo or to a wildlife sanctuary, living in Alaska means you’ll see more than one kind of animal roaming around freely in your immediate surroundings. It’s not uncommon to notice a moose cross the road, spot a bald eagle soaring overhead, or catch sight of a beluga whale from your bike trails. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, this could be a golden opportunity for you to watch some of the magnificent animals that thrive in the state.
The flip side to this is that it’s also equally likely that some of these wild animals, including bears, moose, or wolves, can wander into your backyard. It’s also not uncommon for these animals to attack or eat small pets like chihuahuas and small terriers. Sometimes, they even attack children. Eagles and owls can also pick up and carry away any small, teacup-sized pets you may have. You’ll definitely need to consider the implications of living among wildlife before moving to Alaska.
5. Nights Are Longer
The summers in Alaska are one-of-a-kind. The sun stays up for so long that people enjoy the warmth up to ten or eleven o’clock in the night. But what happens in the months that aren’t blessed with the midnight sun? The answer is quite the opposite. When you move to Alaska, you’ll quickly learn after one seasonal cycle in the state that winters are for staying indoors. Sunlight is so rare and fleeting during the winter months that if you head outdoors, or if you’re working a regular job in Alaska, you’ll often head to work and return home in the dark.
You need to be prepared to handle up to 20 hours of darkness in the winter, which lasts three months or longer around the Anchorage area. In and around Fairbanks, be prepared for around six months of darkness. Winters also come with frequent power outages, storms that can ruin all of your plans, and the very real possibility of getting snowed in. If you’re someone with seasonal depression, moving to Alaska may not be the best thing for you unless you find a way to tackle it.
6. Are You Financially Prepared?
Moving to Alaska and living in the state can be heavy on your budget. The costs of living are considerably higher in Alaska than in most other states in the U.S. Groceries and other regular provisions are much more expensive, primarily because they need to be shipped in from other states. This increases the cost price of the items, thus pushing their retail price upward. Healthcare and transportation are also pricier. It's not unusual for the monthly rent of a cozy one-bedroom space to be over $1,000. This is around $200 more than the average rent for a similar space in other parts of the country.
Costs also increase if you live off the road system or in the remote areas of Alaska. If you’re moving to Alaska, you’ll need to ensure that you’re financially prepared to meet this undeniable increase in your living expenses. There are some ways to work around this, though. You could limit yourself to only buying things that are on sale. You could clip coupons, budget well, and plan your meals in advance. There are also stores like Target and Best Buy that can match the online prices of most products, thus bringing down the cost of some big-ticket goods.
7. Moving Costs Are Higher
As you’ve already gathered from reading about the increased costs of living in Alaska, the expenses involved in moving to Alaska are also pretty steep. Although the process itself is fairly straightforward, the reason the move can be expensive is because moving to Alaska may mean that your possessions need to be shipped over water. Naturally, this is more expensive than ground transport. However, since some parts of Alaska can only be best accessed by boat, you may have to pay for this expensive form of shipping.
Also, there’s a region in the interior or Alaska that’s popularly known as the Bush. Most of Alaska’s native population is concentrated in this rural area, and you’ll be required to charter a small plane to get to these parts. If you plan on moving to this part of the state, it’s a given that the costs of moving will shoot up even further. There are also restrictions on the size of shipments flown in, meaning that multiple trips may be needed.
Despite these reservations and considerations, there’s no denying that Alaska is a beautiful place to live. The state abounds with natural beauty, and even people who’ve lived here all their lives are often awed by breathtaking sights like the glow of the sun in the sky after a long winter or a snow-covered mountain. As an added bonus, let’s not forget that moving to Alaska means that you get to view the Northern Lights several times a year.
If you’re moving to this incredible state, all you need to do is find a way to work around a few roadblocks. Once that’s done, you’ve got a beautiful life waiting for you in Alaska.