The liveliness of civilization and the buzz of traffic and people begin to fade into our background as we ventured further and further north towards our most northern destination, Alaska. If you’re lucky enough to explore the last frontier, I’m sure that your idea of seclusion and remote locations is forever changed. The drive was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. Since I have lived in Southern California my entire life, Fall was always a season that didn’t give much visual excitement as it transitioned into winter (if you can even say that winter exists in Los Angeles). Being able to see Canada and Alaska in its full Autumn transformation was a gift because it is a wild spectacle of color and there is nothing like witnessing the change happen on such a grand scale stretching in every direction for hundreds of miles. The golden colors of change swept through the hillsides and valleys contrasted against the bright blue lakes and rivers; there were trails to hike, mountains to climb and rivers to admire in their ebb and flow.
Its was the first week of September and after we spent some time exploring Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, we headed north towards the Yukon Territory and noticed the sudden drop in temperature. Mind you, our van is not equipped with a heater (except for the car heater that runs when we’re driving) and the nights began dipping into the low 30 degree Fahrenheit (0 degree Celsius) and little Izzy had to be moved from her bed into ours. It was beginning to become difficult to get out of bed in the mornings because of the cold, but we started the days with hot tea and coffee as we watched our breath fogging our windows. The average van temperatures were around 50-60 degrees and that became our new version of normal.
The small comforts that we took for granted at home began to surface as we made the necessary adjustments in our new living situation. The cold days/nights really made us appreciate the sunshine when it came around and we were lucky enough to experience the Northern Lights on clear nights, first in Miles Canyon in White Horse and again at Moon Lake Campground in Tok, Alaska. The Aurora Borealis, as they’re called on this side of the equator, are truly magical. What photos do not reveal is that the lights tend to flow in the night sky, showing up in different patterns and intensity, almost as if they are alive.
And even though the sights are incredible, do you know what its like to have not showered for a week because you’re either staying in “non-designated car camping areas” or Walmart parking lots and the best thing you can do is wash your hair with your solar shower that hasn’t heated because its 40 degrees fahrenheit during the day? And have that be the normal for the last 5 weeks? Yes, adjustments were made.
There are so many things that I miss:
- Hot showers
- Routines (Going to my fav studio or climbing gym, sleeping in, teaching etc basically everything I took for granted)
- Seeing friends
- Having a big enough fridge to fit more than 3 days worth of food
- Having a toilet that you can go to as many times as you want because its not freezing outside and you don’t have to walk 100 meters to get there
- Laundry in house
And as difficult as it is to not have these things, here is what I have gained:
- The freedom to travel
- Seeing things I’ve never even dreamed of seeing
- Meeting people with different passions and backgrounds
- Learning Spanish through a podcast
- More present moments because we are forced to digitally disconnect
- New habits that help me conserve water and create less waste and stay more organized
- Encounters with wild life that is bigger than life in their natural habitat (Bison, Moose, Elk, Bears, Marmots)
- Hikes and bike rides with the most incredible views
- Finding ways to implement the important things in my life and make it a priority no matter what
- More time to do things I never made time for, like reading, hiking, biking, yoga, climbing etc
- Moments that make me appreciate nature even more.
In those small discomforts, I have learned more in the last month of travel then I have all year and I’m grateful for the experience that has helped me realize more about myself than I ever have.
While in the Yukon, we visited a few of the small towns along the Alcan. Once we left Edmonton, we took 2 days and arrived at Liard River Hot Springs. This place was a real gem and the short hike on the boardwalk to the pools was an experience in itself. A portion of the hot springs was closed off for the season because of safety concerns, but the lower Alpha pool that is open year round was incredible and still well worth the visit. The naturally heated water flows into the right end of the pool, which is the hottest and the water streams to the left down a small waterfall into a secondary cooler pool located in the middle of a beautiful boreal spruce forest. The hot spring is also a campground so we visited the pools that evening and again in the morning because every chance one can get into a hot spring like this, one should.
After the morning soak we started our drive further north into WhiteHorse. This town stole my heart away. Even though we spent majority of our nights in a parking lot, the days were filled with hikes, bike rides along the river, yoga at the Breath of Life studio and long walks in the park. The first night there, though, was the best of all. I was told a while back about this app called “CouchSurfers” and Szymon reminded me of it and we decided to give it a try. As soon as I set up my profile I was contacted by a woman named Sofia. She said she was heading to dinner with a friend and asked if we wanted to join! We met at a restaurant in town and got to chatting. We found out that she is a Chilean native who moved to WhiteHorse and her friend Alex was another traveler who was visiting from Uruguay. We talked about different cultures, the differences in the Spanish language and things to do and see when we head down to their home countries. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other and it made us realize that speaking to strangers and getting their insight on places to visit has changed the dynamic of this trip. We are flowing along with new things to see and experiences to be had, all because of the information given to us by the locals that we’ve met along the way.
As much as I have trust issues with strangers, this trip is really teaching me that kindness is everywhere. In every town or city, on any trail or park, people have been kind. Instead of feeding into my own fears about putting trust in strangers and keeping myself isolated, I have been striving forward to break out of my comfort zone, put out the energy that I wish to receive and trust my instincts. Life is about stepping out of your box and taking hold of each and every experience with gratitude and love, that is what makes life worth living.