Do you ever dream of pulling up stakes and moving overseas? What if I told you that you don't have to? If you want adventure, moving to Alaska can give you that and more.
Best of all:
You won't have to worry about visas, citizenship, or learning a new language.
And they might even pay you to live there.
The Alaskan adventure isn't for everyone. But it might be right for you.
How can you tell?
Well, you've got to do your research. And that's why we're here.
5 Reasons for Moving to Alaska
For more than a century, people looking for adventure and escape have headed north to America's last frontier. That hasn't changed.
What has changed, though, is that today, it's a lot easier to make the move.
On top of that:
Opportunities are growing in many different fields.
What do you mean?
Alaska isn't just for miners, oil workers, and the fishing industry anymore.
Today, technology and health care are among the fastest growing fields. But they're far from the only opportunities.
Should you think about moving to Alaska?
If you like your space, Alaska is for you
If you're done with the city and ready for wide open spaces, Alaska might just be for you. With a population density of one person per square mile, if you want solitude, you've got it.
Alaska has only three cities with more than 10,000 people: Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks.
The largest of these, Anchorage, has just under 300,000 people.
That's not all:
And ladies? If you're looking for a man, you'll have a better chance of finding him in Alaska, where the ratio of men to women is higher than the national average.
If you love the great outdoors, check out Alaska
Ever wanted to run into a polar bear walking down the street?
Maybe not, but how about a moose in a hospital entryway?
Don't believe me?
Check out the video below:
If you like wildlife, Alaska has it, and at some point, you'll meet it face to face.
More to the point, though, do you like outdoor sports?
Then check this out:
Have you ever wanted to try:
You can do all these in Alaska and more. You can even do some of them year-round!
And what about the Northern Lights?
If you've ever wanted to witness the Aurora Borealis -- or even just look up and see an unobstructed sea of stars -- Alaska is the place.
You can make a decent living in Alaska
But that's not it:
Alaska has less income inequality than any other state.
What's more, if you're a woman, the gender-based wage gap is smaller in Alaska than in all but six other states.
And if that's not enough, the average median income in Alaska in 2017 was $73,181. Compare that with the national median of $60,336.
The message? If you're tough enough, you can make it work in Alaska, no matter who you are.
If you crave cultural diversity, Alaska has some for you
Alaskan natives make up a significant part of the Alaskan population: 15 percent. Compare this to the national average of around two percent. Another 30 percent of Alaskan residents come from one or more other non-European background.
What does this mean?
It means that if you enjoy living in a vibrant, diverse culture, Alaska has one.
It also means that if you're looking for people from your own background, whatever it might be, you're likely to find them.
Here's what else we found:
The Native Alaskan cultures are alive and well and part of everyday life. More than 20 native languages are spoken. These cultures continue to grow, develop and shape life in Alaska.
So if you crave diversity, moving to Alaska will put you right in the middle of it.
Take a look at the video below:
Continue a tradition of adventure in Alaska
What sorts of people settled in Alaska?
- Paleolithic settlers crossing the Bering land bridge
- Russian and Spanish explorers
- European trappers
- American gold-hunters
- Russian missionaries
- Oil, timber, and fishing industry workers
- And more
That's a long legacy of tough people -- rugged individualists carving out a place for themselves in inhospitable surroundings.
What brings people to Alaska today may have changed, but the spirit of adventure has not.
What does that mean for you?
Alaskan life still requires grit, ingenuity, and persistence.
Do you have it?
Then moving to Alaska might be the right move for you.
You could get paid to live there
Yes, you heard that right.
They pay you.
For living there.
How can they do this?
Well, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (or PFD as the cool kids call it) comes from oil revenues. Every year, the state of Alaska cuts a check to residents for their share of the state's oil profits. Wow!
The state issues a check to every man, woman, and child who qualifies. So if you're a family of four, that's $8,000 a year for the college fund. Or the vacation fund. Or for however you feel like using it.
It adds up.
On top of that, Alaska has no income tax, and no state sales tax, either.
There Are Some Downsides to Moving to Alaska
Are your bags packed? Are you ready to go?
Not so fast:
Moving to Alaska isn't for everyone. If it's not right for you, you're going to want to know that before you spend the time and the money to get yourself there.
What's not to like?
There are a few things:
But they're important things.
So, let's ask someone who made the move.
The high cost of living is a problem
Blogger Michelle at The Runner's Plate moved to Alaska five-and-a-half years ago. One of the things she found shocking was how much everything cost.
A gallon of milk: $5 to $6.
A dozen eggs: $3 to $4. Ditto for a pound of apples.
In fact, when Michelle calculated the monthly food budget for her two-person family, it came in at between $400 and $500!
If that's not enough:
Alaskans also pay more for rent, health care, transportation, and housing than in most of the lower 48.
Why does it cost so much?
Well, the food you'll find in a grocery store comes a long way.
The same goes for other goods. That means you're paying for the gas, the vehicles, and the personnel to bring these things from somewhere else.
It's not like driving from Los Angeles to San Diego. It's 2,260 miles from Seattle to Anchorage -- almost 48 hours of driving -- and you have to go through Canada to get there.
But there's good news!
Local game, fish, and other goods are plentiful. If you're willing to put in a little work catching your own dinner, you can eat like royalty for just the cost of your time.
Alaska has a very high violent crime rate
Alaska has a low rate of poverty and a high rate of education. This usually translates to a lower crime rate.
Alaska has a frighteningly high rate of not just crime, but violent crime.
Here's what you should know:
The Huffington Post rated it the third most dangerous state in the nation.
This goes double if you're a woman. 247 Wall Street reports that Alaska has the nation's highest rate of forcible (as opposed to statutory) rape. On top of that, more than half the women interviewed in a 2010 survey by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center reported being victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.
Alaska is also second in the nation for aggravated assault.
So if you're considering moving to Alaska, give this sobering statistic some thought.
Don't forget the white nights and dark days
Do you like sunshine?
Do you like it all night long?
How about darkness from dawn to dusk?
When you're going as far north as Alaska, you're going to have both.
If you're not prepared for it, it can mess with you.
The Alaskan winter lasts from October through May, and in the thick of it, you might see a mere five hours of daylight per day.
Keep in mind:
That's if you're in Anchorage. Farther north, it will be even less than that.
What about that midnight summer sun?
It might not sound like a big deal, but it can severely disturb your sleep cycle. This can cause a number of health problems, including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and lower insulin levels.
So if you're moving to Alaska, have your sun lamp and blackout curtains ready.
Check out this video of an Alaskan night:
Alaska has a lack of modern conveniences
We're not talking about plumbing or, God forbid, heating.
This is Alaska, not a desert island.
But remember what we said about consumer goods having to come a long way? That means that a lot of the things that folks take for granted in the lower 48 are going to cost more and be harder to come by in Alaska.
That's not the only thing:
It also means you may have to travel a long distance yourself to get them.
And our point is?
Well, you're probably not going to find 20 different kinds of barbecue-flavored seitan at the Anchorage Whole Foods.
Think you'll find 15 different brands of plastic wrap at your local grocery store?
However, you will find local, wild-caught salmon and other things you can't get in the lower 48.
As for fashions, Blogger Michelle wasn't surprised that Anchorage was rated the least trendy city in the nation. Not only do consumer goods have to travel a long way, but the weather makes a lot of fashions just plain infeasible.
So if you're moving to Alaska, trade in your Jimmy Choos for a comfy pair of XtraTufs. They may not be the latest runway fashion, but they'll keep you warm and dry. In the end, that's what really counts.
Also...learn to love salmon.
It's not just good for you; it's good for your Alaskan friends and neighbors whose livelihoods depend on it.
Severe winters and bug-filled summers are a part of Alaska
If you're used to driving everywhere, the fact that you have to do that in Alaska won't come as a shock. But the winter road conditions might.
Blogger Michelle points out that Alaska doesn't salt the roads in the winter. This means that the ice and snow stay on the pavement. That can make for some hair-raising drives. They do, however, use gravel, which takes a toll on windshields and paint jobs.
How cold does it get?
Cold as heck.
In many parts of Alaska, temps of -20, -30 and even -50 are typical in January. One college roommate of mine told me that if she went outside in winter after a shower, her hair would freeze and break off.
So summer's got to be better, right?
Many consider June 15 to July 15 to be the best time of year. Before that, it's still winter, and after that, well, frost may set in again.
But during that brief, gorgeous time, you'll have to deal with peak mosquito season.
So what? You might ask.
Alaska has 35 different species of mosquitoes. What's more, the record for the number killed in a single swat is 78!
But don't worry. By August, frost will start killing them off.
So, which is worse, the bugs or the cold?
If you're moving to Alaska, you'll have to give this question some serious thought.
Are you tough enough?
Alaskan life is adventure-filled and rewarding. But for some, the downsides may be a dealbreaker.
Is that the case for you?
You need to know before you go.
Before You Go, Pick Your New Home
As we've said, the cost of living is high in Alaska, especially in the three major cities. However, there are other places to live where you might find a better deal.
We're glad you asked:
It is one of Alaska's safest towns and has excellent schools.
On the Kenai peninsula, is one of the best places to get a great deal on housing. It's beautiful, too. It is small, though -- just under 2,200 people. That said, it does have great schools.
It has a lot going for it, including great diversity, schools, job opportunities, and low crime rates. It's also a fabulous place for bird watching. If you're looking to rent, then Kodiak might be the place. In addition to stunning natural beauty, this town of around 6,000 boasts rents well below the state average.
Get to know Alaska's five regions
Alaska has five distinct regions.
North Slope (Far North)
Do you like the ideas of white nights and dark days? This far north, you'll get 24 hours of light at the high points of summer, and 24 hours of darkness in the dead of winter.
The geography is diverse: tundra, rivers, mountains, and coast.
And caribou. Don't forget the caribou.
Oil is the main thing up here.
And, again, caribou.
And if you like your solitude, you'll have it.
The entire area has about 10,000 residents, about half of whom are Alaskan native.
The Interior (Fairbanks)
Fairbanks is one of the three major population centers (the others are Juneau and Anchorage). If you like outdoor sports, this is the place.
The gorgeous Denali mountains are here, as well as the Yukon River.
It gets better:
And if you want to see the Northern Lights, this is where you come.
You'll pay for it, though, with the coldest winters in the state. Temps of -40 aren't uncommon.
The Southwest (Aleutian Islands)
Got bears? They do here.
This part of Alaska is home to the famous Kodiak bear, which size-wise makes the Polar Bear look like a teddy bear. (Though a Polar Bear is more likely to eat you.) If you're moving to Alaska, you can't get much more Alaskan than that.
But, wait, there's more:
They also have volcanoes and earthquakes.
This is a remote and sparsely populated region, so if you want your space, you'll find it here.
Also, it would be helpful to learn how to fish. And to captain a boat or plane. Much of the area is, after all, inaccessible by either road or ferry.
Anchorage and South Central Alaska
The climate in this area is a lot less hostile, which is probably why it's the most densely populated part of the state. The capitol, Anchorage, has around 300,000 people, and if you think you might miss city life moving to Alaska, this might be a good place to settle.
Like all of Alaska, though, it's a great place for outdoor sports.
Want to hike a glacier? Or do some mountain biking? Camping?
You can do all that, here, then go into town for dinner and a movie when you're done.
Juneau and the Southeast (Alaskan Panhandle)
Juneau is a friendly-sized city: about 10,000 people. Canada borders this area to the east, and to the west is a chain of stunning islands. If you're taking an Alaskan cruise, you'll be heading here.
You'll also find forests, rainforests, glaciers, and lots and lots of animals.
Like eagles? They have them there. Orcas? You'll see them.
And the weather's pretty nice, too.
If you're moving to Alaska, this area will give you a smooth transition.
Physically Moving to Alaska is Fun
So you've made the decision.
You're moving to Alaska, and no one can stop you.
Good for you!
The question is:
How do you get there?
This is where it starts to look less like a move across town and more like an overseas schlep.
But you can do it.
Follow these important steps:
Chuck your stuff
Moving is expensive.
Moving more than 2,000 miles outside of the continental U.S. can be super expensive.
So your first step is to get rid of as much of your stuff as you can bear to part with.
When my family and I made our big move (to Scotland, which is surprisingly similar in many ways), we jettisoned three-quarters of our possessions. And that included 400 square feet of books.
You know what?
We don't miss it.
What's more, if you start early, you can find good homes for just about everything. We took six months to pare down.
What do you do with it all?
What about toys, dolls, and stuffed animals? For me, those were the hardest to tell goodbye.
But guess what?
There are organizations who will make sure your toys will be loved again and again.
So if you're moving to Alaska, make it easy on yourself and travel light.
Buy the necessary items to live in Alaska
The best part about getting rid of things you don't need is that it frees you up to buy things you do need. And if you're moving to Alaska, you'll need a few very specific things.
Things cost more in Alaska than in the lower 48.
So even if it means shipping it, buy your essentials before you go.
You will need the following items:
How to actually move your things
Depending on where you're headed, you'll be moving your stuff over land, by air, or by water. You might even be doing a combination.
Many places in Alaska are inaccessible by highway, so if you're moving to somewhere outside the three main population centers, you may have to think about sending your stuff by plane for part of the way.
GoodCall recommends planning your move for between May and October. Spring and autumn are rainy, and the winter? Well, it's hard enough as it is. You don't want to be trying to move as well.
Also, if you're bringing your pets, you'll need to get a health certificate (CVI) from your veterinarian. It's state law.
Some report that it can be very, very difficult to find rentals that accept pets.
Whatever you do, look for an Alaska-experienced moving company. The trouble you save yourself will be worth the money.
Putting Up Your Shingle
So you're moving to Alaska. You've figured out where you're going, and how to get there.
Now what? Well, you're going to need to support yourself.
Here's the good part:
If you have a job waiting in the oil, timber, or fishing industry, you're set.
If you don't, there are still plenty of opportunities.
And they might surprise you.
If you're moving to Alaska, you already know to plan your move for the summer, to avoid icy roads and hazardous conditions.
Another reason is employment.
We learned this:
According to AlaskaNet, it's pretty easy to pick up seasonal summer work.
A lot of this work is in service and hospitality, including:
- hotel workers
- restaurant workers
- bus drivers
- airport workers (especially in Anchorage)
They do advise, though, that if you're looking for year-round employment, to try to find a job before you go.
Alaska is a fast-growing economy, and it fared pretty well during the last economic downturn.
So what are the best industries for people looking for work?
Look at these industries:
If you're a health care professional thinking about moving to Alaska, you're in luck. Alaska needs health care workers at every level. Even better, they have an incentive program for certain kinds of health care professionals.
That's not all:
Just like everywhere else, Alaska is going high tech. Many firms are looking for web developers, software engineers, and more.
Oil and gas
If you're interested in living in the North Slope region, you might consider working in Alaska's number one industry, oil, and gas.
Many different kinds of workers are needed, and training opportunities are available.
Seafood and fishing
It's hard work and fast-paced, but it's also exciting and can pay well. If you think working in the seafood industry may be for you, check out the Alaskan government's resource page.
Show me the money
Just how much do people make in Alaska? And how much do you need? Check it out.
Average salaries (2019)
$16.84 per hour
$19.95 per hour
Roustabout (oil and gas)
What does that actually mean?
Those salaries look good, and they are. But remember, the cost of living in Alaska can be a lot higher than in many places in the lower 48.
How much will you need to make to maintain your current lifestyle?
You can calculate that right here. And here are some other facts and figures to take into account.
Anchorage Cost of Living
900-square-foot apartment in an expensive area
Utilities for two people in a 900-square-foot apartment
$63/month (average cost)
a little less than $5
What you should do if you don't have a job waiting
Many sources recommend having a job lined up before moving to Alaska.
But what if you don't?
You're still going to need to support yourself.
If you're planning to come to Alaska without a job, Investopedia recommends having a minimum of $7,500 on hand to get yourself started.
Getting Around Alaska is Necessary
Yes, you'll need your own vehicle.
No, it's not negotiable.
The question is:
What kind of vehicle will you need?
You might need a plane
Have you ever thought about learning to fly a plane?
Alaska has a huge number of licensed private pilots because sometimes that's the only way to get where you're going.
Also, as a licensed bush pilot, you can pick up extra money here and there doing deliveries and hauling passengers.
Every little bit helps.
Even if you don't learn to fly your own plane, though, you can take advantage of air taxis and bush planes to get where the roads can't take you.
Buying a boat may be the way to go
Alaska has over 650,000 miles of territory, and much of that is inaccessible by land.
The roads just don't go there.
The secret to getting around is simple:
You will, at some point, avail yourself of the Alaska Marine Highway. This unique water-highway is 3,500 miles long and stretches from Bellingham, WA to Dutch Harbor, AK.
You don't need any sort of training to use a boat in Alaska. But I think we can all agree that it's a good idea to know what you're doing.
If you want to work commercially, you will be required to show proof of boating education.
If you're interested, the State of Alaska offers a boating license and safety course. This is a very good idea if you're moving to Alaska to live in the Aleutian Islands area.
You can take the course online, as well.
Travel may be as simple as owning a good vehicle
According to Alaska Outdoors, Alaska has a little over 15,000 miles of public roads. Most of them are paved, but not all.
Keep in mind:
From April to October, pretty much any highway-ready vehicle can travel the paved roads. But outside of these times, you'll need either a front-wheel-drive vehicle with studded tires or a four-wheel-drive with all-season or mud-and-snow tires.
If you're the daring type and planning to drive on unpaved roads, you'll for sure need a four-wheel-drive.
Land travel emergency kit
What about public transportation?
The Alaska Railroad is a great way of seeing the state without having to worry about driving. You can hit all the major cities, as well as a number of remote stops where you can continue your journey by other means.
You may be surprised:
Still, if you're going to be in Alaska for the long haul, it's best to have your own vehicle.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Moving to Alaska is a huge, complicated undertaking. And with anything huge and complicated, you have to expect a few bumps along the way.
The important thing is how you handle them.
What sort of problems might you expect?
Well, think about this:
Seasonal Affective Disorder
The white nights and dark days are no joke, and they affect some people more than others.
Even if you think you'll be fine, it's best to be prepared.
Here's what we found:
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are similar to those for other kinds of depression. The difference is, SADD strikes during the autumn and winter and abates during the spring and summer.
What to do about it
First and most importantly, if you're experiencing symptoms of depression or any other emotional disturbance, it's important to speak to your physician.
If your physician diagnoses S.A.D.D., the most common treatment is light therapy. This involves sitting in front of a light box for a period of time each day, to replace the sunlight you're missing.
Other treatments may work better:
Your physician might also recommend talk therapy and/or medication.
If you're having a hard time sleeping during the white nights, blackout curtains can work miracles. This is something I can tell you from personal experience.
Navigating the weather
Alaskan weather is serious business, and the best way to handle it is to be prepared.
How? Here's how:
- Learn how to dress for the seasons
- Practice driving in different conditions, so you're not caught by surprise
- Make sure your vehicle is winterized and in good repair
- Have two emergency kits: one at home and one in your vehicle
- Make sure your phone is charged and you have a charger in your vehicle.
- If you're traveling outside a city, bring a satellite phone in case you're out of cell phone range
- When in doubt, don't go out!
Is Moving to Alaska Right for You?
Alaskan life can be tough and demanding. At the same time, it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life. Is it right for you?
- Do you love the great outdoors?
- Do you enjoy winter weather?
- Are you in reasonably good physical condition?
- Do you consider yourself resilient and independent-minded?
- Are you more a "country mouse" than a "city mouse"?
- Do you have in-demand job skills and a solid work ethic?
If you've answered "yes" to these questions, then moving to Alaska may be worth considering.
Are you ready?