Alaska, in my opinion, is one of the most precious assets of the USA. The beauty of this land is well-known and if you’ve ever been to Alaska you know that no words can do justice to the beautiful mountains, trees, river, glaciers, and views that cannot be seen anywhere else on the planet but, these are not the only things that make this place different than anywhere else, in fact, it has a lot more to it. I consider myself lucky that I got to experience the beauty of this place firsthand. I spent my last year in Sitka, Alaska. It is an island with a small community of around 9000 people. It’s a place that will surely surprise you and you have to visit it in order to experience a different side of America. Here is a list of a few things that make Sitka different than the lower 48:
Nature: A lot of beautiful views.
Sitka without any debate has the most beautiful nature I have ever witnessed. It is so effortlessly mesmerizing that you don’t even have to go to a particular place for sightseeing. A simple walk on the road or a trip to a grocery store, every place has the most beautiful view you have ever seen. Sitka also has a lot of hiking trails, if you want to experience nature at its finest. I wasn’t very fond of any kind of exercise, but I still couldn’t resist going hiking in Sitka. Every trail has such a calm environment with hundreds of trees in the surrounding that are even 1000s of years old and then different lakes or rivers in every trail. I swear there is nothing more peaceful than sitting on the edge of a river and just listening to the peaceful noise in the surrounding.
The Culture: Natives
Sitka is a place that has been home to many different cultures including the native Alaskans, Russians and now Americans but what surprises me the most is how preserved that culture still is. This is something that I didn’t see in the rest of the US. People of Sitka are also aware of the importance of the native culture and treat it like one of the most precious assets of Sitka. They even teach a native language called “Tlingit” at schools. There are a huge number of native people in Sitka making up to 45% of the total population and you can see their influence in the city. There are also many different festivals that you can go to in order to experience this beautiful and rich culture but one of the best experience that I had was talking with natives and getting to know more about the culture. You can also find jewelry and other stuff that represents native culture in the local shops.
The Community: Extremely friendly nature.
The people of Sitka are one of the nicest and welcoming people I’ve met. Unlike the rest of the US, they prefer a more technology-free lifestyle and are more traditional and family-centered. They welcomed me wholeheartedly in their community and also were extremely patient with me whenever I had a problem adjusting. The people were so friendly and accepting that I knew more than half of the community. Everyone was not just interested in learning about Pakistan but I even had someone come over almost twice a week to try the food and also learn about the culture of Pakistan. Another thing that I loved about Sitka was that most of the people in the community were the ones who first came to visit Sitka and fell in love with the place.
Seafood and Venison
I found the food of Sitka to be different than the rest of the US. There was more use of seafood and venison. A lot of people also grew vegetables in their gardens. The quality of fish there was also really good and it had the best salmon I’ve ever tried. I also noticed that people rarely ever bought fish. Almost everyone in Sitka used self-caught fish. If you ever go to Sitka, I suggest that you catch your own fish or venison. People of Sitka also have a pretty healthy diet. Even though there is a lot of stuff that is not fresh because it is shipped from the lower 48, people still try to eat local food. Another thing that I thought was different than the rest of the United States was that people in Sitka usually had a proper meal. There wasn’t much use of frozen food or fast food.
Another unique thing about Sitka is the lifestyle of the people. Imagine waking up to the sun shining at the ocean surrounded by rocks and old trees with sometimes whales in the sight. People in Sitka definitely have a more nature-friendly lifestyle. They usually tend to eat healthy food, go on hikes and walks. I also felt that there is a stronger sense of community in Sitka. Everyone cares about other people and the community. There are many successful community events every day. It wasn’t hard for me to find an opportunity for community service and I also met a lot of people through that. Also unlike the rest of the US, I felt that the people of Sitka have more time for themselves and they spend more time on hiking, kayaking, camping or anything that makes them happy rather than just working. I think that is also the reason why ferries and other forms of water transport are also pretty popular in Sitka. And maybe this isn’t that unique but people of Sitka care a lot about their wildlife and nature. I remember I once threw a spoon out of a car window and I got into a bit of trouble for that.
In the end, Sitka is definitely a place worth visiting, with its breathtaking scenic beauty refreshing your eyes and mind, the most hospitable people you’ll ever meet, beautiful culture and freshest food. Sitka has it all!