Every once in a while, I count the months and discover it’s been months since I went into the world. Went Outside. Flew to the Lower 48. Whatever you want to call it.
It’s Thursday night, a week before this will be printed, and I’m preparing myself. The plan is a few days in Laramie, Wyoming before heading a few hours south near Rocky Mountain National Park for a few nights in a yurt. We’ll access said yurt on touring skis. While I have very little ski experience, the trek into the yurt is only just under a mile from the parking lot, so I’m not really worried. This is the type of trip you remember for a long, long time, especially since it’s not available like this at home.
There are a series of questions you have to ask yourself when you are away from home and seeing the best side of somewhere you don’t live. I’m not talking about the general pros and cons: This place is awesome and has mountains, but not the ocean. There’s great hunting, but no fishing. This place has so much opportunity but with so many people you’ll never find solitude. I’m talking about contemplating the misery index. You ask yourself which is worse. Which do you dislike more, how likely are you to be impacted by it daily, and how difficult is it to recover? Assume you won’t waste opportunities and only do two or three fun things a year, assume you are going to make the most of things, so focus on the cons.
Say it’s Tuesday and work was terrible. Does my location offer something fulfilling that rejuvenates me that day? Or do I have to wait for the weekend when I have time to drive a couple hours? Which, put another way, do I want my most fun experiences to always be sandwiched between hours of driving, especially if I hate driving? I don’t hate driving, but I do hate traffic. When people from warm climates say, “Sure Alaska’s beautiful, but what about the weather?”, I say, “Sure your weather’s beautiful, but what about the traffic?”
There are nice, warm days in which weather is not an issue. There are light traffic days, but there is still traffic, lights, honking and general madness. Sideways sleet is pretty awful, but it doesn’t happen every day. Some level of traffic is in the forecast. Every. Single. Day.
I have a couple buddies who live or have lived in Los Angeles. There’s a ton to do. Most of the time, they don’t. It takes too long, costs too much and is too stressful to make a habit of the best LA has to offer.
You will find people you don’t agree with anywhere, but in many places, people don’t make a point to engage each other in an argument over how the other should legally exercise freedom and individualize the pursuit of happiness. In some places, people are looking for a fight and don’t care to discuss different lifestyles. They want video footage of outrage. I wouldn’t like living in places like this because I don’t have the energy, or any interest, in being a martyr.
When the plane picks its way through the clouds — I am assuming will greet me when I return — it will feel good to be home. I love to travel, but I’m pretty happy with the home base. It affords me an existence I rarely feel I need a vacation from.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.