I fall in love with places really easily. I can’t think of a destination I didn’t love (well, Brussels, but that was the strong beer and my weak toleration’s fault, not the city’s). However, there have only been two destinations that really struck me with something special. Something powerful. Something I can’t get out of my head… Like a really severe case of reverse homesickness.
When I visited Spain for the first time, I knew I had to find a way back, quick. And I did! Here I am working on my second year as a Madrileña. But I think Alaska hit me even harder than Spain did–something I never thought was possible.
Alaska has this unbelievable, indescribable authenticity. It’s still so wild, so beautiful and so untouched and I think that’s why I loved it so much. It had this way of knocking reality into me and knocking the breath right out of me… It reminded me of how precious our world is. How small we are. How much we have to lose.
One day, we spent eight hours sailing through the Kenai Fjords and this was easily the best day of my entire life. This national park, just outside of Seward, is so diverse and dynamic and it left me speechless, wishing I could spend the rest of my life exploring its every corner.
The tour included breakfast and lunch, the friendliest crew around, and a sarcastic, worldly captain whom I adored.
It didn’t take long for us to encounter wildlife. Before we had even left the harbor, we spotted some shy sea otters floating around on their backs. I liked where this was going…
We drifted past glacier after glacier and waterfall after waterfall while countless American Bald Eagles soared over head.
Porpoises danced and dove in and out of the wake, as if they were racing the boat.
I’ve always daydreamed about seeing puffins in the wild… And what a dream come true–we probably saw a thousand in just one day.
Every now and then we would spot a feeding frenzy… and you know what that means. Whales.
Witnessing animals in their wild, natural habitats is one of the most spectacular and majestic sights to see. It’s such a gift– something that warms me to my core. But you guys, seeing whales in their natural habitat… nothing in this world brings me more joy. I become this giddy, awestricken, starry-eyed version of myself… like a crazy whale fangirl or something.
I was loving every second of this wild adventure, however the seas were a bit rough and handfuls of people were suddenly plagued by seasickness, some of my family included.
“Everyone on our boat was seasick when we whale watched in Tenerife, but that never happens to me!” I arrogantly boasted. “I’m perfect!” (gag me!)
Just as I had finished bragging about my flawless record, I started to feel a bit woozy. I booked it to the stern of the boat and emptied my stomach into the ocean. I was mortified. Especially since I was the only person who was actually so sick that she vomited. Nothing like a little karma to bring you back down to Earth. Thankfully, I made a quick recovery.
Eventually, we pulled into a cove and found ourselves surrounded by glaciers on every side. The captain turned off the boat for about an hour and allowed us to simply admire the power and majesty of these fading landforms.
We listened to the ice crack and crash into the ocean while hundreds of harbor seals played in the foreground.
It was eerily silent and absolutely magical, as every passenger was wholly captivated by the scene around us. It was such a surreal experience, feeling so incredibly tiny, yet so connected to and aware of our Earth and its nature.
Unfortunately, it was time to move on and make our way back towards the harbor. But one more species awaited us… Steller sea lions!
I loved watching these lackadaisical creatures lounge around on the rocks, occasionally raising a flipper if another moved too close.
Eight hours may seem like a long day on a boat, but I couldn’t get enough. Quite frankly, I was devastated when we finally docked back in the harbor.
I expected this to be a nice, chilly day, with a dolphin here and a whale there, but I had no idea that such a magical experience awaited us. I had no idea the diversity that nature would show us–I mean, in eight hours we saw gray whales, puffins, eagles, porpoises, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, jelly fish, salmon, sea otters, and countless other species all in their natural environments. I had no idea how my perspective would be altered, how my eyes would be opened, and how my love for all things wild would essentially explode.
I knew Alaska was nicknamed “the last frontier” and maybe I had my doubts, but it has absolutely earned the title and proven its point in my book. It truly is the last frontier and we need to do everything in our power to protect it.
I’ll be seeing you again, Alaska. Just you wait.