When I heard my former client, Lee Ann, and her husband, Chad, had decided to pack up and move to Alaska, I felt a tiny pang of irrational jealousy. When Pete and I visited Alaska, we wondered what it would be like to move there, and we liked the Wasilla, Mat-Su Valley vibe just north of Anchorage a lot. I knew our readers here at PassingThru would be very interested to hear the story of how they decided to move to Alaska, thousands of miles from their family and friends in Minnesota.
How did this “crazy” idea to move to Alaska, seemingly out of the blue, actually come about? I seem to recall you vacationed there, had a wonderful time and all of a sudden, you were moving. Was it one person’s idea at first, and if so, what did the other one think? Or if you both thought of it rather simultaneously…
Chad had mentioned a few years ago to Lee Ann that he wanted to move to Alaska. This came during a really hot summer, because Chad HATED it when it was hot. Lee Ann of course said “no” because neither of us had ever been to Alaska. Last year we went on a two week vacation with Chad’s parents and sister, brother-in-law and nephew. During those two weeks Lee Ann started to realize that Alaska is pretty awesome.
…had you considered yourselves fairly adventurous prior to this idea? What were your thoughts as you processed the decision? Did you entrust others with your secret before you had completely decided?
Not really that adventurous, more curious maybe. We had to think about all of the different things that would go into a move to Alaska. Where would we live? Would we rent or buy? Would it be doable with Lee Ann’s job? Where would Chad get a job? Would we be ok without any family or friends around? We told a few people that we were thinking about moving, but I don’t think that any of them really believed that we would do it.
How did you time the sharing of your news? What did everyone else think of your idea? Were you surprised by the reactions? Was anyone not supportive? If so, how did you deal with that?
We told family and friends as we were making the decision. Chad’s mom put in her Christmas letter that we were moving to AK. At that point there was really no turning back! 😀
Some of our friends were really supportive and others weren’t. Chad’s family was wonderful about it. They were going to miss us, but they helped us in so many different ways (Chad’s parents actually ended up driving the moving truck towing Lee Ann’s SUV through Canada to Wasilla while Chad and Lee Ann flew with Motley).
With those that were supportive we thanked them over and over. The others, we just treated as we normally did, hoping they would come around at some point.
What impact did you anticipate the move would have on your careers? How have things worked out on the job front since you’ve been in Alaska?
We were not sure exactly how things would work. Lee Ann talked to her employer and they agreed to let her work from home so that she would be able to keep her job when we moved. Chad wasn’t sure. He was going to transfer unions and was hoping to get something quickly once we arrived in AK.
Since we have been here Lee Ann’s job has been great. They have been letting her work on some days off to bank days to use when there are visitors. Chad didn’t get called to a job until we had been in Wasilla for 4 weeks. At that point they sent him up to the North Slope. He was gone for 4 weeks and worked EVERY day, 12-15 hours. We repeated this until mid-September when he was laid off due to the job winding down. Currently he is filling out applications hoping to get something while the union waits for the busy season to begin again.
Logistically, what were you faced with as you planned your move? What considerations did you have regarding your household and personal effects? Did you take it all with, store stuff or a combination? What would you recommend others do in a similar situation having been there now yourselves?
We had to decide what route we were going to take to the Canada border, as well as how long it would take. We had to plan the flights to leave about mid drive so that we would meet in Alaska in good time.
We ended up buying our own moving truck and reselling it when we got here. This took about $2,000.00 off of what our cost would have been using U-Haul. We had a 17ft truck that was PACKED! We kept our bedroom set, kitchen table, Lee Ann’s SUV and Chad’s snowmobile. We sold EVERYTHING else. Chad still does not have a car here, but it works out because Lee Ann works at home.
I would recommend that people analyze how much it costs to get the stuff to where they are going, vs. buying new stuff when they get there. Is it really worth keeping it and hauling it all over the place?
What made you decide to rent out your place, and are you renting in Alaska? How would you recommend people approach the housing aspect? Is it easy to find a place, and how do prices compare? Is it a good time to buy a home in Alaska? What about energy costs, etc? What’s your neighborhood like? Why did you choose it?
There were a few different factors that went into the decision to rent out our place. The first was that we were not sure if we wanted to stay in Alaska permanently. Renting gave us the opportunity to be here for a few years without having sold our house. Another was the market. To sell our place now would have hit us with a loss. We haven’t shopped around for a house here yet so I am not sure about prices. I would always suggest to not buy a house until you are sure you want to be there for awhile.
We are renting from one of Chad’s friends, so it was really easy for us to find a place. It would have been hard otherwise as we would have been doing our research while we were in MN before we moved. Energy costs are just a tad more, but not much.
Our neighborhood [in Wasilla] is wonderful. The people are great and are looking out for each other all of the time.
What are your favorite things to do in your leisure time? Are there activities that you do now that might surprise someone who knows the “old you”?
We don’t have all of the toys replaced yet, but we really enjoy four wheeling and snowmobiling. We have bought stuff for hiking now and have started to do that. You need day packs, a bear gun, bear spray and stuff like that to be safe. Lee Ann went rafting and on a glacier hike. I don’t think anything that we are filling our time with now would surprise anyone though.
Did you anticipate any lifestyle changes due to differences in the economy, weather, social relationships, etc.? How do you feel personally right now about the transition?
We knew there would be changes, we just were not sure exactly what they would be. It was very easy for Lee Ann to make new friends. When Chad left and was gone for four weeks, she was forced to. Being that she worked at home, she really had to get out of her bubble and introduce herself to everyone. Chad was gone for a good portion of the summer so he is still working on meeting new people. Slow but sure. This is a tough thing for him as he is not a social bug.
We love the transition! Very happy we moved. We have learned a lot about each other as well as ourselves individually.
Is Alaska your for now or your forever home? Are you planning any traveling, or are you staying put? Would you ever return to Minnesota or move somewhere else?
Currently we would both say that AK is our forever home. However, if you asked us that 5 years ago, we may have said the same about MN.
We have travels planned to visit family and friends, as well as vacations.
What is the advice you’d give to someone who is wondering if they could or should make a radical change such as this one in their own life?
Make sure you are organized about your move. Make sure to really talk and listen to the person that you are moving with. Transition and change is not easy. Bottom line though, don’t just talk your dream but instead, try to live it.
Anything else to add?
Relocating has been a very rewarding challenge so far. The people that we have met along the way are wonderful. We are truly pleased with our decision to move. Some people say that they can’t move because of friends, family, jobs etc. But in the end, those things really seem to start to be excuses to tie a person down, when really they could be opportunities.
Lee Ann and Chad, along with their cat, Motley, currently are living their dream in The Last Frontier.