Our Moving to Alaska Story

You're Moving to Alaska?! Are You Crazy?

Why on earth would we consider moving to Alaska of all the places we could go? Well, here's our story…

When our friends finally convinced us to check out Alaska, we were already looking for more simplicity in our lives and a change in scenery. We had a big, beautiful home that we had worked hard for after a short stint of prioritizing the bills – which ones would we pay this month – and four years of living on family land that we were itching to leave. We had the perfect kitchen, granite countertops (not just in the kitchen but in the bathrooms as well), extra bedrooms, more bathrooms than we could want, a TV room in our finished basement, beautiful hand rails with decorative metal rods, a nice (though small) backyard, a four-car garage. It was everything we wanted.

Until…

The oil prices started taking a down swing and then the company I worked for shut down for two weeks over the Christmas holiday due to lack of field work. Harold's job was still steady at that time but mine was showing signs of a faltering company. They made the first lay-off right after the Christmas break.

We didn't need both jobs to pay the bills. If I lost mine, we'd still be ok. And we had stashed money into savings so we'd be set in case something big happened.

But then, when oil prices showed no signs of improvement, Harold was laid off the end of February. And about two weeks later, the company I worked for laid off everyone in the office. Thankfully, Harold found another job as a safety consultant and started the following Monday. But that really sealed the deal for us. We were ready for something different.

Even though Harold got a new job right away, all of the uncertainty got me thinking. What did we really need? How could we reduce our outgo, take some stress off, and be able to relax a little?

After living in a 700 square foot house with leaky windows for four years, I thoroughly enjoyed the amount of space our new 2,700 square foot house provided. I loved that house. It was energy-efficient, beautiful, comfortable, and had plenty of storage space. But we didn't need it and we didn't need everything we had in it (which, for the record, wasn't really that much – not enough years to accumulate "stuff"). It's just the two of us, along with one dog and two cats. We don't need a house that big and we now certainly didn't want it for the amount we were paying.

Then the question became, where can we go to downsize but still get the land we want?

Having grown up in Minnesota on 25 acres in the woods, I was eager to get back in the trees. The Colorado plains is its own version of beauty. Waking up in the morning to beautiful sunrises, enjoying the colorful sunsets out on the porch in the evenings, and being able to see the Rocky Mountains and their snow peaks is so worth it. And I thought we were in the right place. But the longer we were there, the more we longed for trees, green grass, and a simpler life.

We had spent some time in northern Virginia back in 2007 and 2008, and the land is to die for. Tall trees everywhere, vibrant green meadows and pastures. I would move back in a heartbeat, but the catch…in case you didn't know, Virginia is a very expensive place to live. And the place has poisonous snakes!

Living in Virginia really ruined Colorado for us. Harold grew up in Colorado and when we got to Virginia, we fell in love with the land. No longer were we satisfied with the desert land.

Right after I lost my job in March, we met with our friends who had grown up in Alaska and they convinced us to check it out. So, we booked our summer vacation on the Kenai. It cost us a small fortune, but when we got here, we loved the place. It was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and it was quiet. Even the summer tourism didn't compare to the traffic and chaos we had in Colorado.

We looked for work while we were here over the summer. Harold was offered a job, but I couldn't find one, and since we couldn't get approved for a home loan with just Harold working one week on, one week off, we thought it wasn't going to work out. So, with the intention of staying in Colorado, I started a job working with a former boss and a former colleague, both from the same company.

But we couldn't shake the desire for a change, and when friends suggested finding a rental instead and trying it out, we decided to take the plunge. So, in mid-September 2015, we gave our two-weeks' notice and met with a realtor to list our home.

Colorado is an expensive place to live. In 2012, you couldn't touch a decent home in our area for less than $250,000 (it's worse in Denver). We looked at many homes before making our purchase and ours was the best deal.

Now, while our area was seeing significant growth, housing prices were going through the roof. It was the perfect time for us to sell. The night we met with the realtor, we put up a "coming soon" sign in our front yard. Our intention was to wait for the weekend to put our house on the market. The next afternoon, we had an interested buyer, and that night, we had an offer…

…for the exact amount that would give us the profit we needed to pay off the rest of our student loan debt and make a down payment on our next house!

This offer was a BIG deal for us. It meant that for the first time in our marriage, we could finally pay off the remainder of our $150,000 worth of student loan debt, the mounting debt that had caused so many problems in our marriage over the last seven years.

At the time, my boss had offered me my job as a work-from-home position and he needed me to be up and running by mid-October, so we sold everything we could, donated stuff we didn't want to keep, packed up the rest, and hit the road. We made it to the Kenai in 96 hours without any incident.

Now, while we look for a home to call our own (with a much lower budget this time), we are taking advantage of a great cabin rental by the river where we've seen ducks, swans, bald eagles, seals, and an amazing view. We see the snow-capped mountains whenever we drive into town, the traffic is next to nothing, and we've met some great friends. This place feels like home to us.

The remote position didn't work out since the internet speeds in the area are too slow for what was needed. But things always have a way of working themselves out. Harold started a new job last week, so things are falling into place. We feel incredibly blessed to be where we are today, living nearly debt-free in this beautiful state surrounded by green grass, trees, and wildlife. Just the other day we saw a lynx for the first time!

I don't feel like I'm on that hamster wheel anymore. Constantly moving but not getting anywhere, or falling into the monotony of a busy daily routine only to get up the next morning and start all over again. I can work toward things that really matter to me instead of just going to work, collecting a paycheck, and paying for that big house.

The funny thing is, we didn't have a lavish lifestyle. We didn't go out to the movies, we didn't go out to eat at fancy restaurants, we didn't go out for martinis or cosmos at the bar. Most of the time, we hung out at the house, ate at home, and watched movies on Netflix. And our mortgage payment was lower than some of the rent prices I've seen for small apartments in Denver.

Now that our financial obligation has been dramatically reduced, we can start taking advantage of the simpler things in life. And I hope our experience inspires others to take that first step in faith and pursue the life they want to live. 

So, what's your story? I'd love to hear how your path has changed or what goals you are striving to achieve!

Jody Calkins
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Jody Calkins

MG/YA Author & Book Editor at Emery Road Writing Services, LLC
Jody Calkins is a MG/YA Author & Book Editor, Writer's Coach, Content Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Pilot's Wife. Author of SHATTERED, a YA speculative thriller. Her editing services and training programs help novelists improve their writing skills, get motivated to write, improve productivity and time management, and battle self-doubt and other roadblocks. She works with middle-grade, young adult, and adult books in a variety of genres including Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller, and Self-Help.
Jody Calkins
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