I returned from the Yukon several days ago and have been busy trying to get back into the swing of real life.
It’s been a long time since I was in my hometown of Whitehorse, but I’ve made a trip back for the first time in two years. I will likely blog some of my time here since I do usually like to write while I’m travelling. And this is just that now – no longer necessarily a hometown visit, but more of an actual adventure.
I’m now safely back in Edmonton and in the process of getting settled into my new room at Slanty House. I was disappointed in the lack of snow in Edmonton right now, but I’m glad to be here. I spent a few days in Kelowna, during which my mom put me to work making jewelry, and then the two of us made the drive over to Edmonton. I just love Jasper National Park.
Now that I am back in Canada, there are many things I am excited to have around me again. The following list is in no particular order.
1) My roommates. It was so nice to feel that I had a place to come “home” here, and fitting in at this house is just so natural for me that many of us agree that it’s almost as if I’d been here all along.
2) Hockey. It’s nice to be able to see hockey games on TV, and even to see shinny games happening on outdoor rinks. One thing that I didn’t even notice I missed was seeing people wearing NHL jerseys at all times. I was walking through the Vancouver airport when I saw a guy wandering around in a Canucks jersey. That really brought home the fact that I am back in Canada.
3) Fall/Winter clothing. I love sweaters, turtlenecks, layering, boots, leggings, and mittens. I was able to wear none of these things in Hawaii. Which brings me to my next point…
4) Having a full closet. I’m excited to have more than a few select outfits to wear. Living out of a suitcase is totally reasonable, but it also gets old after awhile. I don’t know if I’ll want to touch any of the clothing I had with me for a few months. Then again, I definitely don’t need summer clothing right now and won’t for awhile.
5) Loonies and Toonies. I despise carrying around $1 bills, always thinking I have a lot more money than I actually do. Not to mention, who doesn’t love being able to pay for purchases entirely in change?
It’s very strange to be here while everyone is frantically studying for exams, but I guess that means I have lots of time to settle into my room and try to accomplish things (such as posting to my blog, obviously).
During my time on the Big Island of Hawaii, many similarities to my home territory of the Yukon have come to my attention. I know what you are thinking right now – “you’re crazy” and “I can’t think of two places that have less in common”, but hear me out. I thought the same thing coming here, but I’ve seen too many similarities to ignore.
Yes, the Big Island is an island, while the Yukon is surrounded mostly by land (but for a few exceptions). The Big Island is a year-round paradise, while the Yukon is thought by many to be a desolate land of ice and snow (though this is not the case all the time). The similarities I see are more in the lifestyle and the people than anything.
Both of these places are quite isolated and have that everyone-knows-everyone feeling as far as residents are concerned. Both of these places also thrive on tourism. Though the Big Island is a bit more of a tourist destination than the Yukon, many people looking for excitement and adventure tend to head to the Yukon, or Alaska via the Yukon, so we get quite the crew of interesting characters there as well. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the territory.
In the Yukon, it is not uncommon to meet residents that traveled there once and decided to stay, or to meet tourists that keep returning again and again. Everyone has a story about how they ended up in the Yukon for good. I will never forget about my high school history teacher and how he ended up there, or at least the story he told us about it. He had just graduated from the University of Alberta and was married to a girl. One summer, he took a motorcycle trip through the Yukon to Alaska and just absolutely fell for the Yukon. He vowed that he would return there to live. When he arrived back to his wife in Alberta, she flatly refused to move somewhere as far away and desolate as the Yukon. Not long later, they got a divorce and he moved up north. Many years later, he was happily married to someone else and teaching high school students in Whitehorse, never regretting his decision. My own parents arrived in the Yukon planning to stay only a year or two, when I was two years old. I ended up spending my entire childhood there. The Yukon is full of stories like this, but I have found that the Big Island is as well. Many people just have a feeling that “this is where they belong”. People leave behind perfectly good lives on the mainland to come and struggle to make ends meet here in Hawaii, but they stick to the idea that this is where they are supposed to be. Some come to visit once, and then decide to move to the Big Island. People are attracted from all over the world to settle in both of these places, and I find that amazing.
The inherent culture of the Hawaiians is very central and obvious here, and I found the same thing with Native culture growing up in Whitehorse. My elementary school used to have “Native Culture Days”, where we would eat bannock and make Native crafts, or learn how to snare a rabbit. Hawaiian culture is apparent everywhere here, and I know that the schools teach children Hawaiian Culture classes, as this is probably the favourite of my 6-year-old cousin. I think that tourists enjoy the injection of culture at both of these locations.
There are a few small ideas that hilariously carry over between the two places. In Hawaii, there is this idea of “Hawaiian Time”, or always being fashionably late. More than that, I think it is being a little bit zen and living in the moment, and if you end up being late for something, well, so be it. I grew up learning of “Yukon Time”. In the Yukon, things never begin on-time and people are rarely expected to be on-time. In the Yukon, we also have this idea of “Yukon Formal”. Events rarely have a strict dress code, and this idea is merely one that reflects that. It is the idea that whatever you are wearing is fine for wherever you are going. Don’t get me wrong, we often have events where the majority of people are dressed up nicely, but you always have to arrive in boots and a winter jacket. Not to mention, that old guy in the plaid shirt and huge winter boots with no change of clothes always shows up fashionably on “Yukon Time”. It’s the Yukon – you can’t expect to change people. I bring this idea up because here on the Big Island, the trend seems to be “You’re in Hawaii – no one cares what you’re wearing”. There is no appropriate level of dressiness for almost anything here, or so it seems from my experience. Even on the resorts, the staff are dressed rather casually compared to upscale hotels on the mainland. In fact, I often feel silly spending too much time on my hair or clothes here, much like I do in Whitehorse.
The final reason that I see so much in common between these two places is the connection with the outdoors and all the activities it affords. Yes, in Hawaii, many of these activities are on the ocean – but in the Yukon we do many similar things, just on lakes and rivers instead. The Big Island has many beautiful hikes that tourists and locals alike flock to, and this is true of the Yukon as well. During my day off-roading all over Waipio Valley, it hit me that this was probably the biggest reason that I felt these places had so much in common. That day was totally something that a group of people would have done in the Yukon, it just would have been a different type of location. Overall, both of these places have an amazing attachment to the land that they exist on, and the people make full use of that.
This is a topic I never would have considered writing about when I first arrived here, as it had never occurred to me that this could be possible. I have found two places that just feel incredibly similar to me, more so than any other two places I have been in my life. I find it amazing that two places that really are so different have so many inherent similarities.
I don’t mean to take away from either of these amazing, unique places. The similarities that I see don’t make either of these places ordinary – in fact, I really do think that they are both extraordinary locations. There are still many things that make each special, but it is in parts of the people and the lifestyle that they feel the same. Maybe this is why I have had such an easy time adjusting to life here in Hawaii.
Today I started my journey south by travelling along the Alaska Highway. I am writing this from the safety of my hotel room in Fort St. John after a long 14 hours of driving in a cramped car. Speaking of cramped, I fit all this and more into my car, somehow:
I have to say, all the time I spent rolling t-shirts for t-shirt tosses while working for the Oilers/Oil Kings paid off this week while packing.
My brother ended up leaving at the same time as me to bring my dog, Jovo, down to Kelowna, so we have been able to convoy along the route so far. Tomorrow we’ll have to head in different directions, but it was nice to be able to travel together today. There is something really intimidating about being in literally the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest town and hours away from cell service. I definitely use the term “town” loosely here, as many of the little stops along the highway either consist of only a gas station or have become ghost towns completely.
Anyways, we started the day with an easy drive on the Yukon side of things. We stopped at Teslin to let Jovo run around, and this was the view we had from our perch.
We made another stop in Watson Lake a few hours later, and I snapped a photo of the very touristy signpost forest. Basically, people from all over the world hang signs from their home town/city/country on these posts. I guess it kind of promotes vandalism and theft of public property (the signs), but people seem to like stopping here… it gets visits from all over the world.
Between Watson Lake and Fort Nelson is one of the most beautiful sections of the drive… but also the most intimidating. The Stone Mountain and Muncho Lake Provincial Parks are absolutely gorgeous, but the roads twist and turn through mountains, along cliffs, and around the edges of deep mountain lakes. Every time I drive this route, I wish that I had taken pictures during this section of the drive, but it is also the part that requires the most concentration… not to mention, much of this segment has cliffs rising up to one side, and stopping is not allowed. I was even more mesmerized than usual throughout most of the day as I have never driven this highway so late in the year before, and the abundance of red, orange, and yellow leaves made everything look very different.
I did add something today to my list of things to do before I die. This list has yet to actually be created, so I guess today I decided on the first item on the list. Somewhere along this aforementioned part of the Alaska Highway, there was an adorable little sign pointing to “Strawberry Flats Campground”. This campground is on the edge of a beautiful lake, and looks to be the tiniest campground I have ever seen. I’ve driven by this area before and the sign has always caught my eye – I have now decided I would one day like to camp there. I find, being a northern local, I tend to just power through this route every time I do it, as opposed to the tourists that do this adventure the right way. In fact, maybe I should just look at doing this trip in several days instead of just two, and stopping at every sight along the way. As much as I love the Alaska Highway now, I think I would appreciate it even more after experiencing it like that.
The rest of the day is a blur of Lady Gaga tunes and the Edmonton-based “Inside Sport” radio podcasts, but we did eventually make it to Fort St. John. Granted, Fort St. John isn’t quite Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway (as specified in the title of this post), but it’s close enough for me. Tomorrow will be a comparatively short drive for me, so I am quite excited to make it to Edmonton. I’ll leave you today with this photo:
See you soon, Edmonton!