I have traveled with my parents. I have traveled with my siblings. Friends. And even coworkers. Until this summer, I had never traveled with a significant other. And it was wonderful.
I should probably start with I can be a bit of a planner, but Don isn’t, don’t take that as a bad thing at all. I knew as soon as I left Alaska last summer, that I would be back at some point because I was hooked. Fortunately, for me (and Don), the opportunity to return presented itself. Earlier this year one of my best friends, Jenna, moved from her work as a contractor to a full-time position there. When I first started thinking about going back to Alaska, Don and I were early into our relationship. I genuinely felt that I wanted to experience Alaska with him, so I asked if he wanted to go. His response was something along the lines of “Alaska has always been on my bucket list." Needless to say, we were going to Alaska together.
Now, here is where the planner part comes into play. Don had also started a new job at the beginning of the year and we weren’t sure about time off and how much time he could take. The planner in me was like OMG we need to book these tickets before the price jumps (flying to Alaska from Atlanta can be a little unpredictable). The not planner in him still took the time to figure some of these details out. Choosing the dates and the layover options was honestly the last thing we sort of planned. We had decided at that point that the most important thing was to experience the vacation together and take things as they came... which, for me, was not the easiest decision (the planner) but truthfully; it was the best decision to make with regard to our trip.
We flew out July 4th and had chosen a layover in Seattle that afforded us an opportunity to eat dinner and maybe watch festive fireworks in a different city. Due to it being a holiday, the restaurant Don wanted us to go to was closed, but we found a fantastic option that allowed us a fantastic view of Seattle's landmark tower, the Space Needle. We also didn’t get to see fireworks from the ground... but as we flew out of Sea-Tac, we had a birdseye view of all the fireworks from all the towns and municipalities around Seattle. It was a unique experience that will be hard to replicate!
If you have never been to Alaska, the hours of light versus dark or conventional East Coast day and night times does not exist. It was like dusk when we landed at 1:00 in the morning. Jenna picked us up from the airport and we began our Alaska Adventure with our wonderful hosts Jenna, her significant other Tyler, her dog/beast Hunter, and her Kitty, aptly named Cat. We all went hiking in the Chugach Mountains and it felt like we had entered this alternate dimension that you only see on TV.
The next day we all went hiking to the base of Byron Glacier. It was hot. There we were in the mountains that had snow caps and were hiking to a literal glacier and we ourselves are melting in 90 degree temperatures. We played in the snow, and I made the obligatory snow angel. It was surreal that it was that hot in the snow.
Over the next few days, Don and I were more on our own as Jenna and Tyler had to go back to work. While we were visiting my friends, now ours, Don and I had decided before our trip that we would venture off without our friends at some point. We hadn’t planned it before we went to Alaska because we wanted to feel it out before we booked anything. Not getting paid for the plug- but Airbnb is fantastic and allowed us to book the day before with incredible results. We decided to go up to the base camp town of Talkeetna for Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley. It is the tallest mountain from base to peak, but not in elevation- Mt. Everest still has that title. I fell in love with all the Tibetan Prayer Flags flying around town. It was a quiet town that was full of life and a sense of the next adventure. Don and I went to see Denali in all her glory, but raging local wildfires put so much haze and smoke into the air, that she remained ever elusive. And while we were really wanting to see Denali, it only gave us a reason to come back for another trip.
When we came back from our mini adventure, we enjoyed what Anchorage has to offer. There is a lot of great local food and adult beverage offerings for any and all to enjoy. As our trip neared an end, the four of us, plus Hunter, went on another mini adventure. We had decided to go down to the Kenai Peninsula and go to the beach. On the drive to the peninsula, we had a front row to the beautiful Last Frontier as we drove along the Kenai Lake. While driving, we glimpsed a view of a beautifully colored lake- a color that for us was transformative. None of us had ever seen this color in person. To describe this color will never do it justice. To experience this color is the only way to truly capture the beauty of it. Glacially fed lakes and rivers have a different color to them- it is almost turquoise. We pulled over to get a closer look at the lake and all of us were captivated. It was one of those moments in life that you bond with others over a single experience. This was one of ours. Jenna, Tyler, Don, and I will never forget looking over the cliff and onto the lake before us. We begrudgingly left the lake view to continue our adventure, we made it to the Peninsula and found the beach. It was stunning in its own right. Rocky shores are vastly different than the sandy beaches that we're used to, but the ocean has forever captivated our souls so we will greet her wherever she wants.
After ten days in Alaska, Don and I returned to Atlanta. We left Atlanta not knowing what to expect, not knowing how things would go, not knowing if our relationship would be tested, and many more not knowings. But we were all in and honestly had the greatest adventure we could have had. Traveling with Don is something I will always seek and always sign up for. We have already begun thinking about returning to Alaska. Don and I can’t wait to see where our adventurous souls will lead us to next.
To end this post, I want to say a few things: (1) If you have a choice, choose to travel with someone you know you will want to experience the adventure with (not limited to significant others). (2) Plan, but don’t over plan. Planning can lead to organization, but it can also lead to great expectations that because life happens, sometimes are not met. (3) Find time for yourself as well as others on the trip- take a walk by yourself. (4) Just go. Even if it is just up the road to the creek, just go. New experiences allow you to grow as a person… but you have to go to get there!