My wife and I have been plotting to get out of Texas as long as we’ve been married. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Texas, and on some level Texas will always be home to us. But Texas, and specifically the Dallas area, doesn’t offer much by way of natural beauty. People in Dallas mostly shop and eat for fun, and both of us desperately wanted to live somewhere with trees and mountains, real lakes and real streams. We wanted our daughter to have a reason to be outside, and not just when she was in the swimming pool or in a parking lot.
We discussed a number of places. Northern California and the Pacific Northwest seemed nice. But then the idea hit us: what about Alaska? They pay you to live there right? And it looks b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l on Animal Planet. Why not? We’re young. We’ve got our health! We huddled around our laptops and started researching our new adventure.
As our research intensified, we found there are a lot of considerations to take into account if you’re planning on moving to easily the most remote place in the United States. We ultimately found we didn’t have the grit for it, but I thought I’d share a digest of what we learned here on Hubpages for those of you that are contemplating an Alaskan move.
Perhaps some Alaskan hubbers here can provide some insight as well!
Here’s what we learned:
Cost of Living in Alaska: It Depends Where You’re Moving
Alaska is the largest state in the union. The weather, cost of living, employment opportunities, and other factors vary widely depending on where you want to move. Moving to a larger city such as Juneau or Anchorage is very different from moving to a remote city in the Alaskan bush. Because of this variability, it’s difficult to paint with a broad brush when talking about Alaska. Wherever you move, you will need to communicate with people local to the area to get a good feel for what living there really involves.
In our research, we found that Alaskans (and others who have lived there) frequently cite the high cost of housing as a con to moving to Alaska, even in comparatively metropolitan areas like Juneau. Produce, dairy, and other goods shipped into Alaska are also more expensive than they would be in the continental United States. The costs of gas and heating oil are also common complaints. Alaskan rural areas tend to suffer this price inflation more keenly than the major cities. A 20-25% increase in the cost of living is not uncommon, assuming you don’t already live in expensive areas such as San Francisco or Manhattan.
Employment is another recurring subject discussed when moving to Alaska. The general consensus online seems to be that employment is relatively scarce in Alaska, and that it is certainly better to obtain employment before moving your family and your household goods. Being prepared is essential.
But They Pay You To Live There, Right?
The state of Alaska has a fund called the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. The dividend is essentially a percentage of the revenue from oil and other natural resources in Alaska that is distributed to Alaskan citizens on an annual basis.
In 2008, the dividend hit a $2,000 plus record for Alaskan citizens. The dividend was coupled with a $1200 rebate to help Alaskans endure high fuel and heating costs.
It seems that for many Alaskans, the dividend serves as a cushion against the high cost of living in the state. So it’s not exactly ‘being paid to live there,’ though every little bit helps!
The Cost of Moving to Alaska
Whether you are shipping by barge or driving the ALCAN highway, moving to Alaska is not inexpensive. The cost of professional moving can range from $3-4 thousand at the low end on up. Many Alaskans recommend driving your goods yourself, and shedding any furniture or personal belongings that aren’t absolutely necessary.
Because of these costs, many Alaskans leave things behind. Some bloggers have even posted Craig’s List ads offering to drive possessions up to Alaska and have made money delivering them. Keep in mind that moving to Alaska is a big endeavor, and will require radical changes in your thinking and inventory if you want to pull it off cheaply.
The climate you will experience in Alaska will vary depending on where you are. High levels of precipitation and long cold winters are common. Juneau alone receives over 50 inches of precipitation a year!
But What About the Natural Beauty? The Adventure? There Must Be Good Reasons To Live There!
There are many good reasons to live in Alaska. Here are a couple of reasons that seem attractive to me:
- Alaska has no sales or income tax.This is a big boon to the residents of Alaska. It is one of the few states in America that levies neither of these taxes.
- Alaska is gorgeous. This was our initial draw to Alaska. It is an outdoorsman’s state with wonderful fishing, hiking, hunting, and other natural pursuits. Check out the photographs here for an idea of what I mean: alaskaphotographics.com
Alaska is sometimes marketed as “The Last Frontier