Thursday, November 5, 2015

To Alaska with no luggage

It has been a childhood dream of mine to visit Alaska and recently an opportunity came for a free ticket to Portland, OR on air miles so I thought I head off and check it out.  I researched a few options but cruise seemed the easiest and fastest way to see a lot, so I opted for that. The little that I knew about cruising....

My flight involved a stop over in New York for a night and that was hardly a punishment despite the fact that I arrived in the city sweaty, sticky and with no luggage (!). They misplaced my carry-on suitcase at Amsterdam airport so I basically was heading to Alaska with only the cloths on my back, my laptop, phone and camera.
New York... I am in love with big cities and this is one of the most happening exciting ones of all. So was my might there, however short. I really liked being back in the USA. Ever since we moved out of the States I have been going every year and every time I go I sense this familiar feeling that I belong. I like how people chat you up on the street, how everyone smiles with their big white teeth, how big things are, how much energy there is and cheerful consumerism. USA is great, and New York is epitome of that greatness. You got the point, I am so cliché, I just love New York :)

Next day, tired, little hungover and still with nothing but my sweaty cloths from the night before (I arrived too late to shop) I headed back to JFK to fly via Portland and Seattle to Anchorage. At the airport I purchased from a gift shop: a tank top with NYPD logo and a t-shirt saying "property of New York", so long to good taste. Luckily I had a lounge access and could take a shower and change into my newly acquired "fashionable" attire. And so ridiculously dressed I started making a plan how to attack my problem of not having even a jacket.

In Portland I headed straight to Columbia store at the airpot and bought entire hiking gear for only 250 bucks. My knowledge of of PDX made me take the Max, light train, and head two stops away to Target. In literally 20 min there I got a lot: basic underwear, shoes, 2 skirts, 4 t-shirts, a dress, a coat to match all, 150$ total, gotta love the USA. And of to Anchorage.

That entire episode with the lost luggage made me realize several things:
1) you can get all you need in total of 2 hours visiting couple of stores so the amount of time I have spent to buy the items in my lost bag which I estimated is about 20-25 hours is absolutely waste of time
2) you can buy all you need in about the quarter of the price simply by asking yourself do I really need this or just because of lack of time to buy it
3) you can fit a week of luggage in a small sports bag and there will even be space left
4) we are too attached to material stuff, favorite t-shirt, sweater, jeans. At the end these are all things. Should not matter if you lose the, Crying over it is a waste of time.


The cruise ship name is Norwegian Sun, part of the Norwegian cruise line. As it was my first experience I could not compare it with anything. Food options were pretty good, only the intense hikes during the day kept me from getting some brand new good american body fat.

The Trip
As a child I was fascinated by the Klondike Gold Rush and I read everything I could find about it. I have spent months dreaming about the beauty of the Last Frontier, about the cold, short sunny summers, frost-biting winters, it's rugged coast line, bears and glaciers, dog-sledding, tiny wooden towns. I never stopped thinking of Alaska as this dream world coming from my childhood and in a way I thought it was all imaginary. But it was actually all true.
One just need to look at this and say no word more. I was lucky to have seen many beautiful things in my life but this one certainly ranks in the top of the top of the list:
Hubbard glacier seen from Norwegian Sun, September 2015

Valerie Glacier, September 2015

Alaska was more I have expected it to be. There was more to see, and whatever it was there was was far prettier than I thought. It helped a lot that the weather was great at least at the start of the trip.
The moment I could have embarked straight to the nature trails the moment I could and what I saw there was just repletion of the same story line, no, it's not a dream, Alaska is really That pretty.

I was looking for a history book to buy in pretty much every town we stopped but all the ones I found seemed to me too dry so I ended up with this, a historical research of prostitution during the Gold Rush era. Since most women in Alaska were actually involved with some sort of prostitution and most men sooner or later were customers it actually was a very good book to learn how society worked. Was good way to learn and pass time also.
One significant down side on that trip was the fact that the majority of alaska cruise goers are well into retirement age. That fact and also the fact that every night you are forced to spend on the boat as we did not stay overnight anywhere just made me feel a bit like in prison and I don't think I will repeat the cruising experience. What I like the most about traveling is the unknown, the discovery all by yourself. There is really no sense of adventure or discovery when you dine surrounded by the same gray-haired ladies and gents night after night. But hey, everything is a learning experience I certainty was well rested when arriving in Vancouver to spend 2 glorious days with one of my besties.