Vlogmas 2021: Alaska vs Hawaii

Whale watching in Sitka
Watching the waves in Honolulu

In 2020, I spent the first three months of the year in Ethiopia, followed by three months in Hawaii, one month in Utah, and the final five months in Alaska. Sounds pretty crazy until I give you my 2021 locations, the first five months in Alaska, then Las Vegas, on to El Segundo, back to Las Vegas, then Venice Beach, and final North Hollywood (that’s just May and June), before heading to Dayton, Ohio, Durham, North Carolina, Charlottesville, Virginia, and then back to Alaska.

That unreal beautiful sky in Sitka
No words in Honolulu

It’s been said that if you want to improve your sense of self being, leave the lower 48. It’s hard to argue, when you can spend your days viewing Ala Moana Beach Park, in Honolulu, or living next door to living next to a national park, in Sitka. For me, Alaska is cozy. Last year, I knitted a coat! OK, it started out as one of those JW Anderson patchwork sweaters that Harry Styles wore. On the other hand, in Hawaii, I walked everywhere. I would do 5k one day, followed by a 10k the next. On the weekends, I’d do a long 13k. There has to be a way to split my time, between the two states. I’m going to work on that. Watch this space.

View in Sitka
Had to go here, Dano

It could be the long winters, but there’s a high number of Alaska adults reporting that they’ve been diagnosed with depression. It’s not something that you can see. You just hear rumors about drugs and drinking. I take Vitamin D pills (when I remember) and I have one of those SAD lamps that simulates sunlight. These days, sunrise is around 8:00 am and sunset is 3:10 pm. In Honolulu, the homeless population was very visible, day and night. Hawaii is currently facing one of the worst homeless epidemics in the country. During the COVID-19 shutdown, the state allowed homeless campers to create semi-permanent living quarters, complete with furniture, electric stoves and solar panels. Now that Hawaii is reopening, it will be interesting to see what happens to that population.

A short walk from my house
A 13k day in Honolulu

I’ve lived in island bliss since the COVID-19 shutdown. The numbers were low, when I arrived in Hawaii. They were also low, when I relocated to Baranof Island, in Alaska. I received my first vaccine shot, late December of 2020. My second shot was later the following January and my booster shot was last September. I’ve been incredibly lucky. When traveling, I’ve been fortunate enough to go first class. With the exception of my 3 months in Honolulu (and the following month in Utah) I was able to work (volunteering with Americorps) during the entire pandemic. I make $1,200 a month. I live in a dormitory, with a shared bathroom and kitchen. The COVID numbers are still low, in this small town of just under 8,000 residents. I can’t really see moving to a place with more people. I want to go smaller, like Peace Corps Ethiopia smaller. My village had around two thousand people. There are days that I really want to get back to that.

Catching dinner in Sitka
Neighborhood takeout in Honolulu

After spending 2020 in the Covid bubble of keeping socially distanced, masked up, and clinging to the promise of vaccines, very little really changed for me in 2021. It’s hard to believe that we’re heading into a third year of a pandemic. The difference for me is that next year I get to cut the “work” cord for good. As I write that, we all know how difficult it’s going to be for me. I mean, five years ago, this February, I retired. What did I do afterwards, I volunteered to do back-to-back assignments with the Peace Corps. Then, after being evacuated, March 2020, due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, I signed up for back-to-back assignments with Americorps. I guess I’m still figuring out this whole retirement thing. At least, I’m starting to narrow down some good locations.

It keeps you running, Sitka 2021
Honolulu 2020

I need noodles and some really good red curry. In 2008, I was accepted to serve in Peace Corps Thailand. I thought about it and decided to stay in my position as an academic librarian, at Duke University. Now, I’m getting this crazy idea. What if I retire-retire and visit all the places that I’ve missed? What if I leave Alaska and make my way to Bangkok? When I’m done, head back to Alaska or Hawaii, then plot my next adventure. Remember that research travel grant, to Italy, that I turned down? Why shouldn’t I just go do that? What about Mississippi and South Dakota, let’s get those two done and wrap up visiting all 50 states. Remember when Peace Corps Responds Jamaica fell through, in 2020, well … let’s go see what I missed. The possibilities are endless. I have all the time in the world.

At some point, I’ll have done everything I could to keep myself safe. I’m getting bored with safe. I’m from Detroit. I’m not even sure that I know what safe is. Bring on 2022. —GGT

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