A moment lived in USA by Charlie Bear, a traveller from France
I have always been dreaming to go to Alaska. I have been attracted by its climate (the cold does not impress me much), its mountains, forests and lakes and mostly its wilderness since I was a child. My mother used to say that I was quite a wild kid, maybe that’s why Alaska seemed so much like the perfect place to go…
So when I realised that my business school offered an exchange program in the 49th USA state, I did not hesitate a second. Nine months later I arrived in Fairbanks, in the middle of the borealis forest. I did not know by then that I was about to live the best year of my life.. Here are a few of my adventures!
The dancing Northern Lights
Extraordinary or magnificent are not enough. There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing the northern lights dancing in the sky! They smoothly undulate in the darkness, like the flow of a quiet river, until they literally explode and invade the entire sky, waving faster and stronger, and changing colours. Forming cones they even go down to the earth, and it feels like you could even touch them.
The experience was completely magical, and left me speechless. It made me realise the force of Nature, and gave a whole new understanding of this mystical event.
The camping by minus 30°C
My French friends gave me the nickname of “Bear” in comparison to Bear Grylls (I guess I am a bit wild after all!). But in Alaska, everyone (or almost) is a bit wild. So when I submitted the idea of going camping in the middle of the winter to my friends, they instantly agreed (what a bunch of fools, myself included!). Three days later, we rented a tent, special arctic sleeping bags and we went hitch-hiking on the road to go the a forest we previously picked. It was already minus 20*C and freezing. A nice man took us on his pick-up, and stopped us half-way in his cabin so that we could warm up as we were already freezing. He offered us food, drinks, took and guitar and starting playing. This guys was absolutely amazing, and we did not want to leave anymore! But one hour later, he took us to a shop to buy food/wood, and then took us to the forest. I was already really cold, and was secretly drinking his whisky in the car to get a bit warmer…what did not work at all. Our plan was to walk for a couple of hours, set up the tent, have a fire, diner, and then watch the Northern Lights. It did not really go as expected: First, the snow was fresh and deep, and it was really hard to walk into the woods, we had snow until our knees. So after 30 minutes, we decided to stop. We set up the tent, and realised that we did not have…sleeping bags (what a band of amateurs). It then took us a long time to start the fire on the snow. I created wood shavings to start it, it was not enough. We tried to add vodka, but it was not really working either. After a while, we finally managed to start it! And we were absolutely freezing cold. We decided to have diner, but both the wood and our water froze, so we were left with chips. We staid around the fire until our wood stock was over, and all went straight to the tent huddling together, stuck like penguins. It was the coldest night of my life, so cold that I could not find the strength to go outside to watch the dancing lights. When we woke up in the morning, around 6:30, it was snowing in the tent. It took us 15 minutes to disassemble everything, and get the hell out of there! We hitch-hiked back to campus, happy that we were still alive and well, and happy to be back inside..
But what I value the most from my year in Alaska is the people I met and their kindness. The conditions here are so extreme, that I guess people have to come together and help. As a French girl, I was absolutely not used to that, and I even remember finding it really weird when I arrived. But I soon realised that people were just really genuinely nice, and wanted to help as much as they could. Alaska is nothing but a big family, where people welcome you with a giant heart wherever you go. I made amazing friendships, opened my eyes, and found a whole new meaning of life.