Marriage isn’t the End

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Two Married People Traveling- What?! Adventure and Sarcasm after Marriage??

I am the first of my friend group to get married. And after that I’m the first to have a baby. If you believed the myriad of articles and mommy bloggers on the internet than you would think that I no longer have any friends, I sit alone all day, and my life is basically over. Quite frankly that is so far from the truth, and I’m getting tired reading articles that purport this kind of thinking.

I have found myself reading articles like this, or this, or this one, a lot recently. Maybe it’s because I have a lot of single friends that they keep popping up on my social media, but I feel like I need to scream. This has to stop. We need to stop treating marriage like it is simply a destination, and the end of being an individual. The fade out, happily ever after at the end of the movie, nothing else matters. The same goes for articles that have the same sentiments about having kids. Sure things change, but I don’t know why our culture is obsessed with listing X things you MUST do BEFORE you are in a relationship/married/have kids. Perhaps it is just a way to feel better about not having reached these (extremely personal) milestones by an arbitrary age.

But I think it does more harm than that. Stating that there is a list of musts before you do any of these things isn’t exactly the problem. The problem are the types of things that are listed. Over and over again I read that you have to travel before you are in a relationship, or married, or have kids, because it will be impossible once you are. I’m married with a kid. And a dog. And guess what? I still travel! Yes, it takes a little more effort, but these things are not mutually exclusive. So let’s stop treating them this way. Writing and sharing articles like this reinforce the ideas that these things can not be done once you commit to anything else in life. How many people are afraid to commit because of these lies?

Babies are really good at hanging out in airports. They travel better than you think.

Life is a journey where we can continually expound on our experiences. So that means if you value traveling, even when you find someone you decide to spend your life with, you will continue to value traveling and make time and space for it in your life.

Now this doesn’t mean there aren’t things that you should focus on prior to a relationship. Learning to communicate, and love yourself as well as learning sacrifice are all great things that will deepen relationships you do have. I guess the message is that life doesn’t stop when you get married. You will continue to grow, just with someone else by your side. In most cases, that other person will help you grow in ways you couldn’t alone.

Same goes for saving money or being set in your career. There isn’t some magic number that your bank account hits that makes you ready to plan a wedding or have a kid. If you waited until you had enough money, you would never decide to get pregnant in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know how to budget, or save as they are both important life skills for anyone, but please let’s stop pretending that you have to be completely secure before living your life with someone else. If I waited for that time, I would still be alone, worried about the balance of my savings account.

Maybe this is why we have commitment issues nowadays. We are being slammed with ‘advice’ from all directions saying we have all of these things to accomplish before we settle down. We have to have our fun before we say ‘I do’. Quite frankly, if you aren’t having fun in your marriage, you’re doing it wrong. Every relationship has ups and downs for sure, but if you look at your wedding day as the death of yourself as an individual, you are doing a disservice not only to yourself, but your partner as well.

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Still Havin’ Fun. Take that!

In full disclosure, I write this after almost 4 years of marriage to an amazing man, with whom I have a beautiful son, and spunky adopted dog. We have lived in Pennsylvania and now Alaska. We travel each year, albeit with more luggage than we used to. We are still spontaneous, and occasionally have vacations away from each other. We didn’t stop having individual needs and wants. We didn’t stop seeing our friends, shared or individual. We didn’t stop being fun people when we had a kid. Life got more complicated, but really, it became so much richer because of it. Live each day as a gift, and you will worry less about what ‘Musts’ you have checked off someone’s arbitrary list.

Flying by the Seat of Our Pants

lessons-learned

If I have learned anything by living out in the bush, it is that mistakes are expensive, and by golly you are bound to make mistakes. Traveling home for Christmas wasn’t a mistake, but I sure learned some important lessons that will hopefully help me save some money in the future.

Lesson Learned #1: First of all, if you plan on moving to Alaska (and I might have said this before, but it begs repeating) get the Alaska Airlines Credit Card. You will be flying a lot, and the points and miles add up. There are also a lot of other benefits if you have the premium card like companion fares, etc. Okay, now that I have made my little advertisement (I swear I’m not getting paid, but wouldn’t that be cool) let’s move on to booking flights.

Lesson Learned #2: In October there are PFD Sales all throughout Alaska. The PFD is the Permanent Fund Distribution, or oil dividend money that every resident of Alaska receives if they have been living in the state for more than 1 calendar year (Jan-Dec) and have the intention of staying. Because of this money being injected into the economy, everyone is vying for a piece of your PFD and the sales abound. We were given a heads up about these sales and that they were the perfect time to buy your tickets home for Christmas.

Lesson Learned #3: The time of day you fly out of your hub DOES matter. I scheduled our Christmas flights for just whenever, and it ran into some expensive problems. To get from the village to Bethel you have to travel by frozen river or plane. The planes only fly at specific times, and the first flight out of Bethel from Alaska Airlines is scheduled before any of the small charters can get you into town. So I had to travel in a day before and get a hotel room. Which of course was about $200 for a single night, and the only place in town that would accept my dog. Like I said, expensive mistakes. At least with the extra time I was able to get my Alaska driver’s license! Looking on the bright side of life!

Lesson Learned #4:This one only applies if you are flying with a pet, but it was an expensive mistake. If you book multiple airlines (a common thing when going from AK to the East coast) you have to pay EACH airline’s pet fee. So we paid Alaska Airlines AND Delta BOTH WAYS to take our puppy for the holidays. She is wonderful and we love her so it was worth it. (and would have cost the same to board her in Anchorage or Bethel) From now on, we will fly into a different airport on the East Coast in order to stay on Alaska Airlines the entire trip.

Lesson Learned #5: You will rationalize overspending when visiting the Lower 48. Grocery stores and the mall were dangerous, sneakily expensive places over the holidays. Prices looked so good in comparison to Alaska that I didn’t keep track of spending like I would have normally. It adds up.

Life is about the adventure, and hopefully you can learn something along the way. I am already planning a trip to Tampa to see my sister’s Master’s Thesis Defense, and have made much better choices in my flights- hopefully saving time, money and a little bit of my sanity!

A Visit to the Vet

One of the joys that goes along with being a pet parent is that eventually you will find yourself taking a trip to the veterinarian’s office. For most people this just means wrestling their critter into a carrier, or loading them safely in the car and driving down to the local office at a convenient time.

Oh how I wish that was true here… Today Sammy, our 7 month old puppy had her first visit to the vet.

Our adorable pup posing nicely for a family photo!

Our adorable pup posing nicely for a family photo!

Now, out here in the village, most dogs are never seen by a vet. We don’t have one in the village, and the attitude towards animals is less cuddly/family oriented than in the lower 48. Most dogs are work dogs, or strays. Overpopulation is a problem, and that was how we came to adopt Sammy. With the holidays coming, we decided that we wanted her to travel back to the East Coast with us, where we will be spending just about a month with families during the Christmas break. If you have ever flown with a pet before, you know how much goes into this. You have to have the correct carrier, a reservation, and most importantly be up to date with all shots and have a health certificate.

I had everything in place for Sammy to fly, except the vet visit. Now the vet comes once a month from Anchorage to the hub town of Bethel for 4 days. You can only call for an appointment when he is in town. Two others from our village (both teachers) are planning on flying their dogs home as well, so I talked with them, and became the point person for our little adventure. So Monday morning I called the phone number at 9am. No one answered. The voicemail said that the vet would be in at 3pm that day. So I called back, praying that I would be able to get 3 appointments this week, and all at about the same time. We all have flights before the next time the vet will be in town, so it was crucial that we were seen. Thankfully at 2:58 the receptionist took my call and was able to set up the appointment for late afternoon, so the teachers didn’t have to miss much of their day.

It’s over now right? Wrong. How are we going to get to Bethel the next day? I had been out on the frozen river the day before, but it has been warming up again, and the snow all melted. River travel is happening, but it is very dangerous. If you fall through the ice, you may not come back up- and because it isn’t a real road, no one is going to come out and help (police, EMTs, etc.) So we have to charter flights. Bethel is only 7 miles away, but without roads, you don’t really have any options. I called and set up two separate charters, and was told we had to take the 207 plane which was more expensive because it was too warm to take a 3 seater if there were 3 of us and dogs. Awesome.

So adorable while she is sleeping!

So adorable while she is sleeping!

So we’re all set! …except no. I wake up Tuesday morning to a phone call from the airline that they had mechanical issues and needed to cancel all 207 charters for the day. So I scramble- do I change the vet appointments and reschedule the charters with the airline that is the cheapest and I’ve always flown, or do I try another airline that is going to charge more? I ended up booking charters with another airline that was extremely accommodating. It ended up costing more, but so goes life in the Bush right? Nothing is cheap.

Our super-pup was certainly very brave today- and didn't complain at all during shots, even though she was scared.

Our super-pup was certainly very brave today- and didn’t complain at all during shots, even though she was scared.

In the end, the flights went well, and the puppy is now vaccinated and certified to fly- thank goodness! You might wonder how much this costs? Well, like I said everything in the Bush is more expensive and this goes for vet bills too, I guess. Overall, the vet visit was about $280 and the chartered flights were $130 (per person- we split the bill 3 ways!) At least I got airline miles right?

So in the end, it’s worth it to have our puppy with us for the holidays, and we were prepared for the cost, but our ‘free’ adopted puppy sure is costing us a bunch! Be thankful next time you have to visit the vet- and don’t have to take a plane to get there!

Charter Flights

The huge pile of luggage we had to transport downriver!

The huge pile of luggage we had to transport downriver!

To travel from Bethel to Napaskiak after the orientation days our school principal chartered two separate planes for our group of five because we had so much luggage. I saw the manifest at one point, and in addition to the five of us we had 515lbs of luggage. Mind you, this was because we had been shopping and Nathan and I still hadn’t been out to the village yet, so we had all of our large luggage we had carried with us on the commercial flights.

The first group of three teachers and a miniature schnauzer dog got onto the small four seat plane at about 5:50pm.

Such a tiny plane!

Such a tiny plane!

We watched with anticipation as they took off down the runway and disappeared into the sky. I was surprised at how quickly the plane lifted off the ground and was gone!

We were supposed to be right behind them in a six seat plane with all the luggage. However, the airline had been running really far behind that day because of all the fog in the mornings. Come to find out, after speaking with the girl in the Charter room, this time of year is notorious for being behind schedule. They simply don’t fly when it is foggy or the weather is bad because safety of the pilots, passengers and planes must come first. So we sat down and watched other flights take off and land for about another hour and a half until we would get news that we had a plane.

During that time, we might have gotten a little silly…

#bearselfie

#bearselfie

#angrymoose

After the principal came by the airport to see if we were still there, they did some digging to see if they could find us a plane any sooner. About half and hour later they had confirmation that a plane the size we needed was coming back in; We actually jumped up and down and cheered- Nathan, myself, and the girl in the Charter Department who would finally get to go home too! The airport workers grabbed all of our luggage that had already been weighed and tagged to put onto a pallet to bring out when the plane parked.

The view of our plan from inside the airport building

Loading our luggage inside!

Holding the door open for us to get inside the tiny six seat plane!

The flight itself was only five minutes. Our pilot told us that it is the only flight they fly that doesn’t have an interim period- it is simply taking off and landing procedures. I have posted the video I took of the flight on my facebook page, and it really was that short- in fact it has taken longer to upload the video than it took to fly here!

I was so excited to finally make it to our village after such a long journey… More posts later to explore what we have found here!

Bush Flying

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This is the plane that we took from Anchorage to the hub town of Bethel. I’m actually watching them load my bright orange luggage on now.

This was unique because we had to check all our bags except for our backpacks, tell the check in clerk how much we weighed, and then we didn’t have to go through security. Of course we didn’t know this and got in line. The TSA agent checking boarding passes informed us that we were welcome to go through security, but it was unnecessary. We were pointed down a long hallway on the other end of the terminal, and found the small gates for each of the regional airlines.

It was akin to stepping back in time, to a place where people could trust one another, and air travel was much simpler.

Chasing the Sun

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Sunlight over the wing of our plane on the way to Anchorage: approximately 12:30 pm

After leaving Chicago, we were on our longest flight to Seattle. It was interesting to find about 5 other groups were on their way up to Anchorage as well. Some were visiting family in nearby Wasilla while another group was heading down to Kodiak for a fishing trip.

We took off at about 7:30, delayed a bit by a snafu with a mysteriously wet seat in front of us. The poor guy who was supposed to sit there kept being shuffled around while the airlines looked for a new cushion. The passenger sitting next to the wet seat accidentally touched it, and caused a big to do about having to go wash his hands, and needing to bathe in sanitizer. We all just hope that it was water. Eventually someone from the airline was able to find a spare cushion, the last passenger was seated, and we were on our way.

This hadn’t been the first odd flight delay on our trip however. On the first flight we smelled something rotten. No one really wanted to say anything; I’m assuming that others like me were just thinking that they had the unfortunate luck to be seated near someone with less than ideal hygiene. However when I looked over towards the aisle I saw what appeared to be some smoke in rising from the vent in the floor that was causing the smell. This alarmed both myself and the woman across the aisle, so Nathan flagged down the flight attendant. When we asked if that was normal, she said “No” and went to grab the captain of the plane. The captain came back quietly so as not to cause any alarm and checked out the situation. After walking back and forth a couple of times she informed us that the smoke was just some condensation burning off because of the heat. That answer didn’t seem to account for the smell, but it was dissipating, and we all agreed that if that captain didn’t seem concerned, neither should we.

Needless to say the flight was uneventful.

The final flight of the trip was from Seattle to Anchorage. We had just enough time at Sea-Tac to board the train to the north terminal, use a bathroom and board. There was a good sized group of us headed in the same direction, so it was easy to find our way with so many eyes looking out for the right path.

The sun had already set in Seattle when we were taxing for takeoff, and all of the lights glittering below were beautiful. I have been in this airport twice now, and never seen the sun. Heading north though, we were chasing the sun as we had been all day- traveling back in time. It was incredible to look out the window at cruising altitude about two hours into the flight and see the pink glow on the horizon. The sun was setting on the sea just south of Alaska. By the time we touched down in Anchorage at 1:30am it was dark again.

More than 20 hours after we left my childhood home that morning we had our baggage and were tucked in safely at the home of friends here in Anchorage. One of our longest travel days was finally over.

Planes and Powerstrips

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Officially on our way!

Today is the day! We left Camden New York this morning at 9:30 to truly begin our adventure. We got to stop at one of my favorite local diners called Flo’s. It is known as the home of the 10¢ coffee, and features all of your favorite traditional diner fare. I think that is what I am going to miss the most outside of family; really good (and cheap!) diner food.

We have left the land of cheap anything for sure. I joked with Nathan that when we come back airport prices are going to look good to us!

I brought a power strip in my luggage after reading some tips for travel online, and it is truly a lifesaver. You would think that large airports like Chicago would have more plugs, but they are rare. I’m sitting now under a bank of pay phones at the sole plug in my area. It is placed far from the seating area of course.

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Does anyone use payphones anymore?

This has proved beneficial in more ways than one though. I am meeting people and hearing their stories as they share the plugs. In particular, a family of 10 all headed to vacation in Italy just unplugged to go board their flight.

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Extra plugs at the airport!

Our flight path for the day takes us from Syracuse to Chicago to Seattle, and finally to Anchorage, arriving at 1:29am: more than 16 hours after our first boarding. Our longest layover is here in Chicago for more than 6 hours. Thankfully the weather looks good across the country despite some thunderstorms early this morning in Central New York. Hopefully everything stays on track!

For now I’m going to go in search of some good coffee!