So I got up a few hours after making that last post, had breakfast, and checked out of my room. Before I did, I managed to snap a quick picture of the survivalist guy I was sharing a room with:
After packing everything into my car I decided to walk back down to the river to see if I could catch any wildlife on camera. To my delight I did.
I was walking along the beach and I saw a couple of bald eagles sitting in a tree. It took a little while but I was able to approach them and snap this picture. You can see he’s staring at me, watching what I’m doing. While I was taking pictures of the eagles I saw something move out the corner of my eye. It was a red fox! Even better, it didn’t seem to care that I was there taking pictures! It came right up to me, within 5 feet! The entire time I was stunned, just taking pictures of it.
After a little while he just turned around and went off in search of food. I wandered the beach a bit more then headed back to my car and started my 5 hour drive back to Fairbanks, but not before stopping to take a picture of the airstrip. (Air tourism of Denali park is Talkeetna’s big industry)
That drive down and up from Fairbanks to Talkeetna was one of my favorite part of the trip. I really love driving an blasting my music, but I was able to do it to the beautiful scenery of Alaska.
When I got back I checked into my old hostel again and waited for my friend, the lady I met on the plane when I missed my flight, to get off work. When she was off I called her and she invited me to come hangout with her and her boyfriend at a local bar just outside of Fairbanks. I got my gear and went out to meet them. It was really great to hang out with all the locals away from everything. They were even kind enough to buy me two beers and dinner! They’re really “pay it forward” type people, so next time I meet a traveler I’m going to buy them dinner and some beers.
I got back to the hostel around 9-10 at night and crawled into bed. My final night in Fairbanks was really cloudy, but nonetheless I told my friends to wake me if the lights came out. I ended up sleeping all night, not realizing I was that exhausted.
In the morning I went out and got some Christmas shopping/travel gifts taken care of. I found a really neat local artist outside of Fairbanks that my friends at the bar tipped me off too. It was a fun drive out there as well since her shop is in this small collection of houses in the woods.
When I returned from that I still had about two hours to kill before I needed to get to the airport for my plane home. I decided to drive one of my German friends out to this Large Animal Research Station, hoping to see some muskoxen. Good thing I did because the station was closed and she would have walked a really long way to get there. Instead we ended up just driving around the woods looking for animals and happened upon a moose, so the trip wasn’t a total loss.
Understandably I was not looking forward to getting back on the plane and heading home. I’m still trying to digest my whole trip. I’m not sure I really accomplished as much introspection as I wanted. I was too busy having a blast in a new location.
Now that I’m back at work everyone is asking me “how was your vacation?” That really irks me for some reason. I guess it’s that I don’t like the assumptions built into the idea of “vacation’ that they’re asking about. I know it’s an innocent enough question, but even my parents said “back to reality.”
Back to reality. The idea is built into the question “how was your vacation?”, the idea that constant work and toil is the reality, that a vacation is a short and rare break from this bleak reality.
That really depresses me. Is this notion of work/life balance really the pinnacle of all human development? I’m not saying that I reject the notion of work, some work can be pleasurable and a fulfilling part of life, but what I reject is this notion of a sort of forlorn submission to a life fated to bleak and dreary toil.
Oddly enough I find people here in the states get really defensive when you question this mentality of “work yourself to death in a grey office.” The US has the worst work/life balance of any industrialized country and I’d argue that our healthcare costs show it. But I’m really getting off topic here.
There has to be more to life then how we live here in the states. There has to be other ways of balancing work and exploration of the world around us. I know these other ways exist because I see people doing it. One of my favorite podcasts, The Indie Travel Podcast, is a couple that make their living traveling the world.
It’s just that the dreary work existence is familiar, it’s stable, it’s predictable it’s safe, and so well meaning people defend it.