I step off the airplane and look around nervously; I scan the unfamiliar faces until I suddenly make eye contact with a graying-redhead. I smile, run over, and give her a hug of pure exhilaration. I check my watch and look out the window at the dim light that covers the landscape, and the dark shadow of a mountain in the background. “Are you ready?” my aunt asks, eagerly. I give her an excited nod and tear my eyes away from the window, but take a bouncing step out the doors to the oh-so welcoming Alaska.
Though it’s nearly midnight it’s not dark; the most uncanny light gives the impression of daytime, which only furthers to meddle with my already off-balance internal clock. We travel down the road, surrounded by breathtaking mountains in every direction; I can’t stop looking all around me, and I can’t even fathom the fact that my aunt sees this everyday. When we arrive to her house, I quickly settle into bed, knowing that I need to get my rest for the event-filled week ahead of me. Suddenly, I jolt awake in the middle of the night, entirely disoriented. Where am I? What time is it? It’s light out—but it’s always light out in the summer here. Where is anything? Has it been an hour, has it been 10? Finally, I get myself sorted out, turn on the lights, and meander upstairs to find my aunt and uncle.
This was just the start of one of the most nearly indescribable weeks of my 18-year-old life. For Christmas my sophomore year, my aunt gave me her Frequent Flyer miles as my Christmas present, to come visit her at her humble abode in Eagle River, Alaska. My aunt is one of the most cultured people I know; with hikes across Spain, visits to Vietnam, and travels to Africa just several of the notches in her belt, I experienced Alaska as few others may ever get the opportunity to.
My aunt isn’t one to sit around and waste precious days, so my week was filled with adventures, whether it was kayaking down the river, hiking and setting up camp in one of the hilly mountains surrounding the scenery, climbing Flattop Mountain all the way to the top, or going to a farm and experiencing the difference in cultures between the cows at farms in Iowa, and the huge buffalo at farms in Alaska. One of the most uncanny and amazing experiences I’ve ever had is the feeling of standing on the middle of a two-mile long chunk of glacier in shorts and a tee-shirt, the sun warming my back and small wafts of cold coming from my feet. It was a truly incredible and treasured experience, and introduced me to just how much there is in the world. We as humans tend to limit ourselves, when the point of living is to gain experiences, to try new things, to go places you have never gone. Travel, explore, adventure, but don’t miss out on all the truly amazing things that this world has to offer us. Even just one week of my life I wouldn’t trade out for the world, and I know I’ll keep dearly in my memory forever.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.