Living on peninsula offers new adventure every day

Posted: Sunday, March 10, 2002

I love an adventure. I'm not talking about the bungee jumping off bridges or leaping out of airplanes sort of thing. I like the kind of adventure that lasts, that challenges not only momentary guts, but stamina and lasting courage.

It is the thrill of a challenge that led me to journalism. It is the glory of independence that took my younger sister and me on a nine-state road trip last summer. And it is the call to test myself that brought me to Alaska, 3,000 miles from my family and friends, last month.

After two years of telling my skeptical parents that I planned to move to Alaska after college, I broke their hearts (and probably strained their bank accounts) by actually following through with it. Now that I am here, I am thrilled -- if for no other reason than that I look forward to staying in one place for more than six months.

In the past year and a half, I have moved six times. Seven months ago I was living in Phoenix, Ariz. -- and let me tell you, July in Arizona is a far cry from February in Alaska. Four months ago, I was in Tacoma, Wash., finishing college. Two months ago, I could be found at my parents' house in Canby, Ore.

So the idea of a permanent job, a lease and the threat of tremendous moving expenses back to the Lower 48, provides a welcome taste of stability -- and only a little apprehension for this commitment-phobe.

I must admit, though, that Kenai is a little daunting.

Canby may have been small at 10,000 people, but at least it was only 20 minutes from the lights and sounds of Portland.

I was spoiled by instant gratification in Phoenix and Tacoma -- masses of people my age, 16 choices for Internet and cellular service, 13 Yellow Pages worth of restaurants within a five-mile radius, a dozen options for pizza delivery, dance clubs and bars every few blocks.

Granted, I didn't take advantage of these offerings all that often, but it was a comfort to know they were available.

When I moved into my apartment here, I was a bit troubled to find that the nearest Fred Meyer is 15 miles away, that fast food costs are outrageous, that I didn't know how to walk -- let alone drive -- in the snow (though it's easier than 40 miles of dirt road in Montana), and that the vast majority of my shoes simply are not waterproof.

But the adjustments are turning out to be well-worth the rewards. For one thing, my last apartment manager couldn't even remember how much to charge me for rent. Here, my on-site manager knows my name and inquires about my mother.

I wake up every morning looking at more snow than falls on Portland or Tacoma in a decade. I feel like I'm frozen in a Christmas card picture. On many days, there are moose standing in the parking lot, a fact that my family still cannot quite believe.

As I drive around the peninsula -- slowly, mind you -- I am blessed with a new surprise each day. Rather than being confronted with a single majestic landscape, I find new views as the clouds lift at different points on the horizon.

I will never be able to describe the full extent of this place to my friends who haven't seen it. Some will never understand. They are too busy clinging to their preconceived notions to venture up here -- yes, I too have already been asked if I live in an igloo. Hopefully, some will come and visit with time.

But for now, I am happy living my own little adventure, in a place that I may actually get a chance to call home.

Jenni Dillon is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion

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