Welcome to Alaska

by Britta on 3 July 2010

in Alaska Escapades,The Freelancing Life

Passage Ray Stinson, born June 9, 2010

Passage Ray Stinson, born June 9, 2010

I’m in love. My nephew, Passage Ray, was born 3 weeks ago, and since then, I’ve hardly missed a day of seeing him. He’s the first one of his generation in the family, and so right now, he’s the darling. I am so glad I made it back to the U.S., and Alaska, in time to see his first taste of life.

He’s still getting used to it — this big world is a whole lot different than the gentle security of the womb. Although I suppose we are all still getting used to it, in a way. For me, there’s still so much of the world to discover, but it’s sometimes just as frightening as it is fascinating, and there’s still a part of me that wants to crawl back into Mommy’s arms whenever things get too scary or difficult. Passage is welcome to crawl back into my arms whenever he feels like it, however. He’s so adorable, I hardly want to spend a moment away from him (except changing poopy diapers — I gladly hand him back to his parents for that. Ahh, the joys of auntie-hood).

That is, of course, the biggest event since my return to Alaska. I spent a little while with the relatives in California before heading back to the North, and I realized once I got back to the land of the familiar, that I actually really missed it. I love traveling — I love the new things I learn and the people I meet, the foods and the fun and the fears. All of it, even the not-so-fun stuff, contributes to the experience, and I am richer for having done it. I am also infinitely grateful to have been able to do it. But by the end, I was done.

Gamle (Old) Stockholm

Gamle (Old) Stockholm

And in fact, I surprised myself. I had felt cooped up for so long, had been dying to travel for so much time that when I finally got the opportunity to go, I thought I’d stay on the road forever. Or at least a couple of years. But two things happened: I got tired, and my sister announced that I’d have a nephew. I knew I’d want to be there for my nephew’s birth, so that gave me something of a deadline, and by the time it rolled around, I was ready to go home.

There’s something to be said for the familiar. At the beginning of my adventure, it was the unfamiliar that excited me. The everyday, the mundane: done in a different culture and a different language, those basic things are novel and exciting. But by the end, it was those very same things that were the hardest to deal with. It takes more effort to do things when they are unfamiliar. Most of the time, this is fun: trying to figure out how to use the washing machines in a laundromat in Aix-en-Provence, France (or, for that matter, Bristol, England), for example. Or going to the Bastille Market in Paris for my groceries. Or using the Underground in London. Or going skiing in Oslo. Everyday experiences made unfamiliar by virtue of being done in a different language or a different climate or a different terrain. The same thing that made those things so exciting is also what made them so exhausting. So though ordering Scandinavian pastries at a cafe in Stockholm was fun and exciting, I was glad to have my first Kaladi coffee in back Alaska when I returned — I didn’t have to try to translate the menu, didn’t have to ask anyone if they spoke English, didn’t have to figure out if I should order first or sit down first. I already knew how to do it. So while it wasn’t an exotic experience, I appreciated it more than I had before I left. (Plus, it was less expensive when I paid in U.S. dollars. Imagine that.)

Playful Dolphins in California

Playful Dolphins in California

I’m content on my own, usually. I like making my own way, relying on myself and my own ingenuity, continually inventing myself and my life. It’s not that I’m misanthropic, it’s just that I know I interact better in a new place when I’m on my own. It’s up to me to not be lonely, and as a result, I’m easier to approach and it’s easier for me to do the approaching. I like that, and I prefer to travel that way: I get more out of the experience. But that’s not to say I don’t appreciate an occasional travel companion, or a nice long stay with the relatives. I missed the people I love; Skype is a wonderful tool, but being able to give and receive hugs and personal touches on a regular basis is something Skype or any other online tool will never be able to duplicate.

Since I traveled alone, I made new friends and interacted with different cultures quite often. My Facebook friends have swelled with new faces from different places and cultures. I have to remember my French to read a few updates, Spanish to read some others. But making new friends is not the same thing as having old ones. People to whom you don’t have to introduce yourself or present your best side. People with whom you’re already comfortable and who already know your quirks and oddities. Basically, people who already love you. Which is why I was able to appreciate anew just how great my family is. When I arrived in California after Stockholm, I pretty much just showed up on my aunt and uncle’s doorstep, and they had a place for me. What’s more, they were even happy to see me! I hadn’t realized I missed them so much.

Prince William Sound, Alaska

Prince William Sound, Alaska

So in a sense, I understand how Passage feels. When everything is unfamiliar, and right now, for him, that is everything, it’s really hard just to do even those natural things, like eat and sleep. But with time, the unfamiliar things become familiar, and it starts to get easier. After two months in Paris, I felt like I knew the city pretty well — at least how to get places, and generally how things worked. Things had become somewhat familiar so that riding the metro or finding a restaurant took a little less effort than it had when I first arrived, and I had even come up with a short list of my favorite places in the city.

Though I’ve returned to Alaska, which is definitely the most familiar of my most recent “homes,” instead of returning to my hometown, I’ve decided to move to the town my sister and brother-in-law (and thus, my nephew) live in, and I’m just about at that point where the new experiences are starting to become everyday. Running down to the store or the post office is now a little less exciting, but not yet completely without excitement. But my family is here, and provides my anchor to the familiar, and the town wasn’t completely unknown to me before I arrived anyway. It’s a nice balance, at this point, between new and mundane, and I’ve got the summer for things to get back to the everyday. However, once the trip to the store or the post office starts to become a chore is when I know I’ve got to get going again. I’d like to be able to appreciate both the familiar and the unfamiliar, so I’m already mulling around the possibilities for where I’ll go next.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

David Reynolds July 24, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Hey Britta, great news about your (almost) little bundle of joy.

I was starting to worry since you had not blogged for such a long time.
Nice to know you are in the land of the living and yeh its nice to be around family too.

I know what you mean about doing stuff on your own. Well your never really on your own. Your friendships travel with you wherever you go. Though it is just nice to be able to go with the flow in an uncomlicated way.

Ok soak up those Alaskan rays of sunshine and have fun getting to know Passage and your new home town.

David x
PS Yeh and I think it is fair to say …..No two days are exactly the same.

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