24 Biggest Adjustments To Living In Alaska

No one should be surprised by the idea that a lot of my articles on here are taking my experience and knowledge with moving to and from Alaska and using that to help others who are looking at doing the same. While there is a lot of information throughout the blog on various specifics, sometimes you want the Bird’s Eye view of a topic and that’s exactly what this guide is.

As much as I, and many others (especially those from the Midwest) absolutely love the state, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious adjustments that you’ll need to make if you’re making the move. Some of these apply to certain places more than others, or certain living situations more than others, but in general if you’re moving to Alaska you’ll have some level of experience with all of these…and the adjustments are more than a little minor.

The good news is that by knowing what you’re getting into, you can at least be in the right mindset to prepare and take away a little bit of the culture shock from the big move.

24 Major Adjustments To Living in Alaska

Keep in mind that every single area will have its own specific trends, tendencies, and other unique features that can cause a certain amount of adjustment, but these will get you started with Alaska in general.

Very High Cost of Living

You don’t want to know what a gallon of milk costs in many parts of Alaska, and if you think the price of eggs has been bad in other parts of the country…well you haven’t seen anything until you hit those Alaska prices. Keep in mind everything, and I mean everything needs to come up via freight and it’s ship or plane because no railroad lines cut through Canada up to Alaska.

That means everything has to be shipped, and everything becomes much more expensive. While there is a yearly dividend from living in the state of Alaska, and jobs up there tend to pay a much higher amount due to less people and higher expenses, you will still need to keep a careful budget especially early on.

When I first moved to Alaska, way back when a value meal at Burger King was $5 and a whiskey and coke was $2.50 in most places, I was shell shocked to pay $14 for the value meal (granted, that was at an airport so it was a bit inflated) and $8 for a whiskey and coke. The first run to a grocery store to “fill” the apartment fridge also went a very different direction than originally planned.

Just be aware that even with all the benefits, and the hopefully high paying job, it’s an initial sticker shock.

Pro Tip: When you have a long-term living situation setup you’ll want to look at getting a deep freeze box freezer. If you’re a hunter the reasons why will be obvious. Even if not, there are times where a neighbor may have dozens of pounds of Reindeer Sausage, Bear Steaks, Salmon, or Ground Moose and if they don’t have room they might offer a lot of delicious meat for free.

Even if you pay them a token amount, which is always good out of respect, getting 50 lbs of meat for $40 are prices that you will never come close to matching even in the best sale in Alaska. Plus when there actually is a good sale, now you have storage space. Trust me – you want the deep freeze.

Extreme Light in the Summer

I didn’t sleep much my first three years up in Alaska. As in I went 90 minutes maximum on the nights I did actually sleep. The light affects people in different ways, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Moods tend to be high because of all the light, energy levels tend to be very high, and there are many Alaskans looking to socialize after another long, long winter.

Summers are a slice of heaven, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with a little bit of a challenge. Because things can get manic when you barely sleep for weeks or months at a time, and if you need to keep your sleep schedule normal for work…that can be a problem when it’s light enough at 3 a.m. to read a book in the woods.

Pro Tip: If you just can’t sleep with light in the room, or don’t want to run around on 90 minutes of sleep a night for 4 months, you want to buy black out curtains. Just like the Mood Light for the winter, blackout curtains are a godsend for Alaskans in the summer.

There are many decent blackout curtains around, the ones below are the ones that have been most recommended to me. Or you can do what I do and just not sleep…but doctors keep telling me that’s not recommended 🙂

I never slept much, so I needed to go to friends who have spent years (or in a couple cases, decades) in the great white north for a recommendation.

Nicetown blackout curtains were the ones most recommended to me from friends sensitive to life who live up there, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a product with over 100,000 very positive reviews online, so I’m trusting the experts that these being the best option – make sure to get enough for each bedroom!

Click here to check current prices on Amazon.

Extreme Darkness in the Winter

Alaska is a land of extremes and just as there is no sign of darkness throughout most of the summer, there is no (or very little) light in the winter. This is a huge adjustment for many people, and Seasonal Mood Disorder (SMD) is a common even with people who previously had no issue with depression, sadness, or mood disorders of any kind in autumn or winter.

This is harsh, especially if you go north of Anchorage and end up in Fairbanks, the North Slope, Nome, or Barrow. Even in the southern parts of Alaska winter is no joke, and that extreme darkness is rough.

I would go so far to say that Light Therapy Boxes, often just referred to as mood lights, are absolutely mandatory for around 1/3 of the people moving up to those conditions and they are a good idea for pretty much anyone.

Recommended Product: Verilux Happy Light. Far thinner and sleeker than the common model when I first moved to Alaska, these are much more convenient to have at the cubicle or desk to help take 10-15 minutes out of the day and get rejuvenated during the long, long winter. When it’s pitch dark out at 3:15 p.m. this is a little boost that you really don’t want to skip.

These “Happy Lights” are often found in cubicles, offices, and work spaces across Alaska and no one will look twice if you bring them out during break or in most places even for a few minutes on the clock just to reset.

These were an absolute life saver during those long Fairbanks winters.

A New Level of Cold

If you have never lived in a place with cold winters, this is going to be a stunning shock. Even if you have lived in New England or the Midwest, the long exposures to deep cold will take adjustment. Life can’t stop just because it’s -40, or 72 degrees below freezing. Because if you’re living in Fairbanks it’s going to be that way all winter.

You will learn two things very quickly:

  • You need to layer, and I mean layer
  • The term “Cold Weather Gear” doesn’t mean jack – dive into the specifics buried in the details because “Good to minus ten degrees” just isn’t going to cut it

The more layers you have, the harder it is for the cold to get it. Legs for me meant long underwear, underwear over the top, socks, a second pair of wool socks over the top, lined winter jeans, and winter boots. Waist up was a thin long sleeve shirt, long enough to tuck into the jeans without issue, t-shit over the top, sweater or sweatshirt, and winter coat fully zipped up.

And forget the stocking hat unless that’s just layer one. I wore a bomber hat that was tested for -40 and I tested the heck out of it. In fact, mine was good at -50 and even kept my hair wet post shower for a walk of 5 blocks one time when I had to rush from shower to class, and the 20+ year old hat is still my go to when the Midwest decides to do its best impression of the Arctic.

So it really pays to buy for quality 🙂

Do your research for true deep winter gear and have layers ready to go when the winter months roll around.

Bear Awareness Is Important

You are living in the backyard of wild animals that are way above the food chain compared to you. Bears are found throughout the state, and Alaska is home to all three: black, brown, and polar. Generally speaking, bears prefer to be left alone but they are big and potentially dangerous animals and it’s crucial to understand how to act around them.

You are in their home turf, so knowing how to keep your distance, how to walk backwards when two annoying bear cubs decide to use the trail walking towards you with Mama bear right behind, how to not jump and escalate when the bear is just walking by and could not care less that you’re around (plenty of videos of this happening in Alaska parks, but make sure you take the right lesson from these videos, NOT that bears are big fuzzy friendly animals, but that those bears are so confident they don’t give AF people are close by…so treat them with respect because you’re in their house and they know it).

Learning how to handle scary situations with bears is one of those skills that you hope you never need to use but it’s important to know them for those “just in case” moments.

This video shows a hiker that handled things the right way. Never turned his back, didn’t run, kept backing away and not making any sudden movements. Don’t know if they had bear spray, but not escalating the situation if not necessary, they did everything right in a very tense and potentially dangerous situation.

Moose Awareness Might Be Even More So

Moose don’t look as intimidating as bears at first glance, but seasoned northerners will tell you that’s the wrong attitude to have. Moose are generally far more dangerous, and they are fully comfortable with just walking through the city. I remember stepping outside of an apartment complex that was a couple blocks from the University to light up a cigar.

I heard a sound, looked to my right, and a huge big pull moose came out, looked at me for a moment, took a couple steps forward, sniffed the air, decided I wasn’t interesting (thank God) and started munching on some grass less than 20 feet away. I respectfully backed my way back into the apartment and decided to wait for a better time.

More people die each year due to moose than bear, and male moose during rutting season can be particularly dangerous and aggressive, so be cautious and work with care around them.

Learn to Off Road

Alaska is not heavily developed and the best way from Point A to Point B if you’re even on the outskirts of a city might be four wheeler, dog sled, cross country skiing, or otherwise off-roading to get to a friend’s cabin which may or may not have any connection to a road system at all…state made, human made, or otherwise. Four wheelers are a very common form of conveyance on the outskirts of town and depending how big a town, in it as well.

A good four wheeler that can be turned up after a hard winter and run through challenging terrain all spring and summer will be a huge boon to anyone not living directly in the city.

Open to New (Survival) Experiences

The best way to get the most out of Alaska is to experience it. Being open to new experiences opens up meeting new people but it also involves things that help you become a part of the community, and many of these can revolve around food gathering or survival experiences that you would not have considered prior to moving there.

One example is dip netting. Dip netting for salmon is not something I would have considered or thought of as an experience to try, but it was fun, I met plenty of people including those laughing at the new guy before helping him out (it’s like a rite of passage with your local neighbors) and if you’re around the Kenai and have that deep freezer I recommended you can grab up to 25 salmon and 10 flounder for the permit holder and 10 salmon for each additional household member according to Alaska’s regulations.

Those fish get big – and that means a LOT of free protein to help keep the grocery bills down. Not to mention the fish up there are freaking delicious.

Berry picking is another activity a lot of neighbors get together to do and you would be amazed at the pounds and pounds left over even after the bears have had their fill.

If a neighbor has a friend building a cabin and they can use some extra hands, volunteer to help. See some of these cabins built from scratch in the middle of nowhere. They’re quite a sight and the camaraderie from these events lasts long after the fact, getting you those friendly nods from acquaintances in town or the occasional invite to bon fire party.

Experiences in Alaska are still very social based and very different from what you’re going to be used to even in more outdoorsy areas of the Lower 48. Embrace that with openness and excitement versus fear and you’ll have great experiences embracing your new home.

Learn to Love the Craft Beers

No one should be surprised that in a very rustic and rural area full of independent people that swings from seasonal extremes of all light party time to the sun disappears for months like their alcohol. The craft beer scene in Alaska is frankly amazing, and a heavily ingrained part of the culture up there. If you can learn to love good craft beer, or do already, then there is a lot here to love.

Per person, I’m guessing they put Seattle and Denver to shame. Even 20 years ago around Fairbanks the Spring Grand Opening of Fox Brewery was a huge celebration and big deal – and there were no shortage of great stouts from Alaska Glacier Bay or Alaska Brewing Company each year that hit the mark. The craft beer scene is huge up there, so don’t be afraid to try something new.

Or go with near endless $1 cans of PBR. Live your best life…however you define that.

You Need to Be More Active

No surprise that Alaska is a very active, very outdoor, very get out and do things state. Being more active is crucial to living in Alaska. There are multiple reasons for this. One is building your community, meeting like-minded people, and interacting. Alaska really is a state where people go out and do things. If you want to be part of the community you need to get out and do things.

Hit popular Nature Trails if you love hiking. Go fly fishing with at local favorite spots. Check out local parks, local groups teaching primitive skills, or if you’re in Fairbanks check out Creamer’s Field and go bird watching. Whatever activities interest you, go out and do them. You’ll meet other people who enjoy doing the same thing and your network of friends and acquaintances will just grow.

A lot more friendships in Alaska are created by doing as opposed to talking and traditional meet and greets. That doesn’t mean you can’t hit the bar for a Sunday football game or check out local churches if that’s your thing, but being active will bring you to other people who have similar interests. There’s so much to do and so much freedom in Alaska that it’s easy to just solo activities all the time if you don’t meet anyone you click with so there are less “friends because we’re neighbors” friendships developed.

Then there’s the mental health aspect. Exercise is good. Being active is good. Even if you are a big introvert and mainly enjoy being left alone at home, sometimes you just want to be out and about, and these are all good things for your own personal mental health.

If you want to be part of the community you need to learn to get out and do more than any other place I’ve lived the past 20 years…but doing so means meeting tons of super interesting people who are always interested to meet a new person or meet the new face in a group.

Straight Forward Does Not Mean Unfriendly

In my experience, there’s a lot less fluff in conversations in Alaska and this can come in many forms. That means no “7 Stage Good-Byes” which all Midwesterners will understand, and if you’re from cities on the East Coast where you can say “F You” 20 times to each other without a fight breaking out…wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to be punched in the face right away.

Alaskans appreciate a straight shooter. Never hurts to be polite, but be direct. You don’t need 5 minutes of niceties, and many of us have the feeling that there’s so much to do and see each day that we don’t want to waste time with idle chit-chat.

Conversations can go deep very quickly, they often get to the point very quickly, and that’s not impolite – it’s just a different type of cadence. It can be a bit surprising at first, but I really came to appreciate it after a while.

To be clear, there are plenty of “Give me my land and leave me alone” people up in Alaska. If they want to socialize, they will, otherwise they’ll just have their own property they don’t leave. And that’s fair. If you want to be left alone, you can grab an isolated chunk of Alaska land and have no issue being a hermit, but the other group opposite of the “Leave Alones” tend to be super friendly.

They’re just very straight forward.

You Are in a Wild Land

I know this is a “No Duh” type entry, but it’s important enough to hammer the point home again. There are both major pros and cons with this, but it is going to be a big adjustment. On the pro side you can find nature everywhere, and walk dirt or gravel roads with sights that are the envy of people who live in many other parts of the country.

I remember having several hundred pictures of Alaska on my laptop when I went back to visit my family for the first time and after the first dozen my Mom and Sister were impressed with just how beautiful the photos were. My Dad asked “What park is that?” referring to a state park and my response was “That’s just the first rest stop.”

It was just a small place to stretch the legs off the road. It wasn’t a Scenic Outlook, wasn’t a park, nothing like that. Being in a wild land also means so many opportunities for hiking, cross country skiing, or just having additional adventures kayaking, camping, hiking, or exploring. For someone like me those are huge benefits.

On the con side, concerns about bears and moose are 100% valid. Emergency response outside of the immediate area is also going to often be spotty, especially if you live in very rural areas. Alcoholism is a huge problem in the winter and if you have issues with loneliness, long winters without sunlight are not especially helpful.

Until you experience it, it can be very hard to underscore how wild Alaska is. Do you live in the largest city that is clearly urbanized in Anchorage? Cool – you’re still likely to run into bears on the biking trails in the main city parks. Live in Fairbanks in the Interior? You’re going to see a lot of moose, even in the city proper.

As someone who loves exploring off the beaten path and has a way of finding friends who love doing the same, it was fun going 20, 30, 40 miles out of Fairbanks to explore every gravel rest stop or pull-off where there used to be a depot or building, but I was very aware of how far away we were looking at rusted out bridges or exploring trails that nature had clearly reclaimed.

If anything went wrong out there…we were done because there was no cell signal, no one close. I don’t want to paint it as too menacing, but if you’re going to be exploring in random directions being aware of just how wild things are is really an important adjustment to make.

This led to my favorite story ever of my best excuse for not coming into class. I called the English Department secretary and let her know: “Can you please tell my professors I can’t make it today? There’s a giant moose on my porch staring through the door window and after two hours it’s not moving.”

She laughed, I was excused, and no one batted an eye at that the next day. It was the mildly amusing office story for one day and then we moved on – life in Alaska.

Be Open To Learning New Cultures

Alaska has a large indigenous population, but it’s very important to understand that Alaska isn’t just one native group. There are many different different indigenous groups native to Alaska, and each one has their own specific manners, customs, and more. While there’s going to be a lot of overlap, being open to learning the small manners and customs of cultures is really cool and opens you up to meeting more people and having experiences you might otherwise not get.

For example, I meet multiple cool people from Inuit, Yupik, and Athabascan backgrounds, respectively, and each one is a little bit different in how they do things. One common element: if you’re polite and ask respectful questions about the right way to carry yourself in a gathering, you get points for being polite and showing respect.

Small things I remember include the order in which people eat in a large group, waiting for introductions to elders from another in the family, and understanding when invitations are being given.

One example: I was with a friend at their village, which could only be reached by Bush Plane. While there for a week at one point his neighbor came over and told me “I’m making rice for dinner.” And I answered politely that sounded delicious, and then she came back and said the same thing twice. Fortunately, the third time my friend was back and she laughed and responded for us “That sounds wonderful, should we bring anything?”

Turns out “I’m making rice for dinner” was an invitation for me to be their dinner guest, but you can see how I would miss that since I come from a much more direct culture.

One of my best friends from Alaska was married to a wonderful Yupik woman, and so I was invited to multiple dinners, got to meet many family members, and it was a great experience that really filled out some of my earliest time there.

You also never know when being familiar with a culture can pay off in unexpected ways. At a large Thrift Store in Anchorage I was chatting with the clerk and asked, “Apologies if this is rude, but are you Athabascan, by chance?” The guy laughed, really surprised, and told me I was the first white guy who could ever tell he wasn’t Yupik or Inuit. A 20 minute conversation later I asked about a really cool pocket knife with a carved wolf’s head and art of wolves in the snow on the side. It was labeled as $20.

He said “$4” and I said “SOLD!”

But being curious, respectful, and friendly can go a long way to meeting really cool people and having great experiences.

You Are Alone

Hopefully not in a local community if you’re getting out and meeting people but Alaska is vast, it is sparse, and the transition form “urban” to “endless wilds in the middle of nowhere” can happen in a matter of city blocks. This isn’t meant to be a scary or depressing thing, but needing to be hyper aware of your surroundings, aware of potential dangers, aware of the area on a consistent basis is something you don’t have in most of the U.S.

This doesn’t always apply if you are in the heart of a town or small city, but even a mile out of town, you can be very alone if the power goes out, a fire breaks out, or a problem of another nature pop up.

Learning Self Sufficiency and Self Confidence is important, especially if you’re going to be off the beaten path. If you are single when you go to Alaska it’s important to make friends or have hobbies, or figure out how you’re going to keep active and connected because I can tell you from experience, long cold winters can get really rough when the sun doesn’t show up for months.

Feels Like Two Worlds

Alaska, then whatever happens outside. Time flies in the other. If you’re in AK, very hard to keep in touch consistently with friends/family outside that, and vice-versa if you move. While it’s not impossible with Social Media and email, living in Alaska is like living in a different country. Because of that I’ve found it’s very, very hard to keep up with all your groups inside Alaska and all those outside it.

The biggest point here isn’t that you must choose one world over the other, but if you have a lot of relationships to keep up, you will want to take special efforts to maintain those relationships via letters, cards, emails, etc. This is because time can absolutely fly and like I said, Alaska keeps doing its thing, the rest of the world does theirs, and because of that it feels like two separate worlds where one is always moving fast outside of the other.

Rain, Smoke, Mosquito, or Snow?

One thing about Alaska: the weather is extreme no matter where you are. Coastal areas have insane amounts of rain throughout the year. Fairbanks gets virtually none (but many feet of snow). Bad forest fire years means tons of smoke. Not an every year thing, but it happens here or there. My first summer working up there we were dealing with a fire the size of Connecticut. That put some smoke in the air.

Even that summer, there were so many mosquitoes. You will learn very quickly to find the mosquito repellent that works best for you…and that light long sleeves are great. Also the mosquitoes here are HUGE. Being in Alaska was also the first time I was glad to have massive puffs of arm hair, because more than once I saw frustrated mosquitoes struggling to get that clean stab in.

And they still got me dozens of times. Any state that calls Mosquito a season that isn’t Alaska…trust me, you ain’t seen nothing.

Winters have tons of snow. Snow piles at the University could be 30+ feet tall and students had to be reminded not to play king of the mountain, as some of us took an unfortunate fall and learned that many layers of clothing won’t stop the pain from a separated shoulder. And of course, there’s that extreme cold.

Then in summers the light doesn’t go away.

One extreme to another extreme to another extreme…except for those two weeks of spring when leaves first appear on trees and those two weeks of fall between the first leaves turning yellow and winter coming in with a fury (usually in late September to first few days of October in Fairbanks).

If You’re Rural, You’re Very, Very Rural

Living in places where you need to plan a month, 3 months, or even 6 months of groceries bought at a time actually isn’t that unusual. When you mass order, you need to be able to plan out a long menu. Or have all the repair parts on hand for a solar or wind energy system because it might be months before you can get out to get more.

One time 30 miles out of Fairbanks there had been nothing, nothing for many miles. We turned a corner and saw a man with a hand cannon on his side, holding the hand of a three year old. We both gave a polite nod, which he returned, and kept driving. Unless you knew there was a cabin around there somewhere, there were no signs of it.

“What a cool way to grow up,” I commented, to which JT agreed, and we kept exploring, following it up with a discussion how that was the same caliber handgun I had, but I pointed out mine looked cooler because of the cowboy revolver grips.

Rural takes on a whole new meaning there, with multiple friends of mine having worked at camps to create a cabin and living area by a lake that could only be reached by boat or float plane, and was dozens and dozens of miles from the nearest village…which itself was isolated and could only be reached by bush plane.

Dogs Are Very Common

Not just at homes but around schools, at businesses, riding along with people in town – lots of dogs everywhere you look. This makes sense for a wide variety of reasons but the long and short of it is expect to see a lot of Man’s Best Friend everywhere that you look. This isn’t unusual at all but it can be very surprising for newcomers.

A Separate Country, Not A State

The best single piece advice I can give to someone looking to move to Alaska for the first time is to think of it as moving to an entirely different country, and to learn the new culture with the same openness and gusto as you find your place in a new home. Because even though Alaska is a state, the culture is so different, the land is so different, that it really is much more like a different country with some cultural similarities than another state.

I have talked to a few people who mentioned having more culture shock moving to Alaska than to other countries. This usually involved relatively similar countries or those with similar backgrounds (England-Canada, U.S.-Canada, etc).

There are culture shocks, things are just done differently, and you also are living with many Natives who have their own Indigenous based cultural habits and mannerisms, as well. The weather is extreme, the way things have to be done in many businesses is different, and when you factor in the fact that the state of Alaska is just huge, as the map of Alaska over the Continent of Europe shows below, and far away from the Lower 48, the idea of Alaska as its own country with its own culture shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Alaska outline over Europe map
Juneau is in the Greece/Albania area, Anchorage is northern Italy, Barrow is Denmark, Nome is in the Channel between France and the UK, Fairbanks is in mid-Germany, and Deadliest Catch is out in the Atlantic.

If you look at the state of Alaska as moving to another country, then you will be more mentally prepared to deal with the inevitable culture shock that is going to follow, especially in that first year or two. This really brings home just how different the state can be even just from distance, and if you want the version that shows Alaska vs the U.S. take a look at this one:

alaska outlined over continental us map
Compare the Southern culture of Georgia and Tennessee to Midwest Iowa and Minnesota to Wyoming, Oklahoma, and all the way down to Mexico and suddenly Alaska as its own country doesn’t seem so strange from a culture standpoint.

Getting Anywhere Is Expensive

Bush plane flights are not cheap. Neither are flights to and from Alaska…and budget flights are a new level of stressful on your lower legs after a six or seven hour flight. The train between Fairbanks and Anchorage that I adore during the summer tourist months is actually quite reasonably priced…but you are spending an entire day of time.

Driving from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks? Don’t look too closely at that gas bill because it’s not going to be pretty. And if you have to get off the very few small connecting highways to really get to somewhere isolated and those expenses are going to apply even more so.

whether long drives or the high cost of plane tickets to get…anywhere.

Alaska Is Huge and Sprawling

On the map a drive from Anchorage to Denali or Fairbanks to Anchorage doesn’t look that bad. You need to recheck the distances on the map because that “thumb width” that is 5 miles on a roadmap of Iowa might be 25 or 50 miles for the roadmap of Alaska. If there is one thing that Alaska has in abundance, it’s space. Because of that, not to mention that road conditions are not going to be silky smooth wherever you go, means that getting around the Last Frontier can be a much more time-intensive effort than you would think.

For someone who loves to explore, this is a great thing, but since there’s land things tend to sprawl outward. A “basic drive” just on one part of Alaska that hits the University and Farmer’s Loop to McGrath road, a sliver of the northern part of the Fairbanks area is a 35 minute drive assuming you’re doing a straight loop from the University and back.

Going all the way across a small city can mean an hour of driving just because of the sheer distances from one point of interest in town to another, much less going to “neighboring” towns or cities. I remember a sign coming out of Fairbanks as we were road tripping to see my roommate’s friend in Anchorage and hit up the Alaska State Fair the next day.

The sign read: Nenana 54 Miles, Denali 121 Miles, Anchorage 360 Miles. Those were the next stops, and a lot of long, empty, but gorgeous road in between.

Funny Alaska Road Sign
Case in point on the sprawling nature of the state…and needing to be prepared for all scenarios.

Jaw-Droppingly Beautiful

I hope I never get over just how jaw-droppingly beautiful the state of Alaska can be. This is an adjustment because sometimes you just want to take time out of your schedule or day to appreciate the trees, the Sitka roses, the stunning mountains in the distance. Or if you’re really lucky during a cold winter walk, the Northern Lights dancing away in the skies above.

This is a huge pro in my book, and one of the best adjustments to make. Sometimes you just have to learn to slow down, to build in time to appreciate the day, and be prepared to be spoiled. There are plenty of amazing spots in the Lower 48, but even some of my favorite personal hidden gems like bluff country in NE Iowa are going to have a hard time competing.

Roads Are…Interesting

Despite being the largest state by land mass, only 20% of Alaska accessible or semi-accessible by road. And this is including roads that were not made by state or local municipalities as many dirt roads are formed over time from landowners who need a way to connect their cabins to a main road. In fact, every few years surveyors explore for new roads to map out.

And man, those Census and Surveying workers who were sent out to find new roads that were built the last X years have some serious stories to tell. But because of permafrost major roads are an unusual level of bumpy while roads in the country can switch drastically from one gravel or dirt road turn-off to another.

Census and Mapping government officials sent out to “find new roads” every few years and map them out have some serious stories, even by Alaska standards. It’s a different place and in many places the roads are fine. In some others – they can be very interesting as even major highways around Fairbanks can sometimes feel like riding a mini-roller coaster.

Shipping Is Spotty At Best

There’s no overnight or Amazon same day shipping, and it’s worth knowing that at least when I lived there many companies straight up don’t ship to the 907. Shipping is always going to be slower, more expensive, and not always even available. That’s one of the adjustments to living in Alaska that you have to make, a trade-off for all the benefits of living up there.

Also if you live in a very isolated area like Barrow or Nome, you may only be able to get shipments every few months or in some times even once a year, so keep that in mind when making an order of any kind.

Your Mood Is Attached To Weather

You hear all the time that this is the case and some people know this even before going to extreme climates. For me, I was always the opposite. I was a winter person who loved nights, loved winter, and kind of blew off the warnings about how much Winter and Summer would affect me in Alaska. I’ll admit, it was a Noob mistake.

No matter how much you are a winter/night person the winters, especially if you’re living in the Interior or even further north, you are going to be affected at some point. If you never noticed that you were in a better/happier mood with sunlight, or that your mood shifted at all, but after a few summers and winters up there, you’ll notice.

I’ve talked to friends who have been away for over a decade at this point and they still make comments about how much they notice the mood shifts that they never noticed pre-Alaska. Accept that this is true to some extent, and you’ll be well prepared to handle any mood swings no matter what direction they went.

Enjoy The Alaskan Life!

While this article focused on adjustments, not all of them are bad. In fact, many are quite good and lead to an active, exciting, and enjoyable life filled with memories and experiences in a place unlike any other.

Whether you’re in Alaska for a couple years or have found your dream land you want to stay in for the rest of your life, there’s a lot to love about what this amazing state has to offer. While there’s no denying there are some serious adjustments to make when preparing to live in the Last Frontier, the benefits are incredible as you’ll be living in a one of a kind land as you make the memories that will last you a lifetime.

Other Alaska Articles of Interest