June 19-20, 2018
Nearly two months and 16,000 miles on the road. A marathon of exploration through which I discovered a newfound respect for Alaska and gained a greater appreciation for the privilege of calling a country like the United States my birthplace. The trip took me to places I didn't know existed and allowed me to witness firsthand how social media can shape our perception of travel. Often, only the very best and brightest moments are shared through social media. There's something about us that's drawn to the almost fairy tale like stories told by those we see on social media. What you don't see are the arguments, long days of travel, and packed crowds that accompany living on the road.
Alaska has influenced my reality in a way I didn't fully prepare for. Up here, you'll be hard pressed to see more than a handful of people when you're out hiking or camping. Getting to those breathtaking and beautiful places is often more complicated than simply driving to a viewpoint. Throughout the trip I was confronted with the curse of accessibility. I love that so many people of all abilities can access locations America is known for. With that accessibility comes a downside, however. Locations packed with tourists, both foreign and domestic. Many of which appreciate and respect their ability to visit these locations, accompanied by so many more who don't. Trash cans overflowing, fragile vegetation stomped on, even when confronted with very clear signs. The ugly reality behind those "instagram famous" pictures.
It can be hard to truly appreciate your surroundings when you're faced with so many people pushing their way to the front of the crowd to get “the shot”. Throughout the entire trip, the locations I found myself drawn most strongly to were the ones I hadn't seen on social media. Far from the tourist mobs, passing moments I didn't dare pull my camera up, for fear I would disconnect.
The most profound was Hyder. Ironically the most inspiring place we visited on the trip, was still part of Alaska. To get there you must travel through some of the most monotonous landscapes I’ve ever seen. Endless miles of trees with the occasional inkling of civilization. A town of fewer than 100, Hyder reignited my love for the state of Alaska . At the small boat docks just outside of town, other than the three of us, not a single other person was present. As I walked along the wooden planks I was overwhelmed with a feeling of immense calm. I’ve felt that way only a few times in my life. As I reflect on the partial chaos of traveling 16,000 miles in a month and a half, I consistently look to Hyder and remember only peace. In a physical sense, Hyder is as strikingly beautiful as any other location made popular by social media. It’s inaccessibility and subsequent seclusion adds a spiritual and emotional impact unmatched by those other locations.