6 Things I Learned Driving the Alaska Highway
The drive to and from Alaska can teach you a lot of things about life and travel. Here are 6 things The Weekend Warrior learned while driving the Alaska Highway this summer.
In July and August I was fortunate enough to drive the Alaska Highway to and from Alaska. Road trips are something I love. There's nothing like driving down the open road, dodging obstacles and seeing the scenery change over the course of 1,382 miles plus getting to the highway via Canada's road systems. There's a lot of time to contemplate different things between audiobooks: relationships, work, outlooks on life, et cetera.
Here are 6 things I learned on what seemed like an endless drive on the Alaska Highway:
1. Embrace the Potholes and Rough Roads
The frigid winter takes its toll on the highway. As you drive further north you see the road take on various shapes. Potholes litter the road, ice heaves threaten to launch your car into the air as if you hit the wrong button in Inspector Gadget’s car, and the change between pavement and gravel will give your back an adjustment without a visit to the chiropractor. All that being said, it’s fun. The Alaska Highway wouldn’t be the Alaska Highway without all these challenges. It’d be just another highway.
There’s this quote from Stephen Colbert in a GQ interview that’s stuck with me the past couple of years.
“’What punishments of God are not gifts?’ So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”
All the rough spots in the road teach you to embrace and be grateful for them all. They’re a total inconvenience and make the ride a little rough, but it’s the rough ride that makes the smooth road up ahead that much more enjoyable.
2. Go at Your Own Speed
A lady at the Visit Center in Watson Lake in Canada’s Yukon Territory told me I was at least a 4 day’s drive from the nearest, legitimate, town in Alaska. I was only 3 days into the long drive and was ready to be in Alaska. It only took another 2 days.
Just because someone did something faster or slower makes you or them no less or more. We were all created differently and go at different speeds. It makes no sense to make comparisons with others, only yourself. Go at your own speed; and you get decide how heavy your foot weighs down on the gas pedal.
3. Enjoy the In-Between Moments
In his book The In-Between Jeff Goins breaks down that we define life by moments. Big moments are what we remember, but most of our life is made of little tiny moments. And when we get caught up waiting and looking ahead to the next big thing, we take for granted to little things that give life its flavor.
While Alaska or somewhere in Canada might be the end goal, there’s so much more to love and experience on the Alaska Highway. I don’t many places where you’ll willingly stop to get mediocre ice cream in a picturesque setting, skate on asphalt that’s covered by snow and ice most of the year, see 7 black bears along the highway within an hour, take pictures of 3 bison at sunset and then get surrounded by a herd of 50 bison 2 miles down the road, or take a swim in a turquoise lake to stretch out your legs.
4. Take Your Eyes Off the Road
Someone gave me a map of all the campsites along the Alaska Highway. They all looked great and well maintained, but that meant I had to pay to sleep in my van on a patch of dirt for the night.
A friend of mine told me to keep an eye out for free sites near bridges and river banks. Sure enough, some of my favorite spots to call home for the night have been on the Alaska Highway. They weren’t always easy to find, but they required me to look a little off to the side of the road to find these hidden gems. Opportunity won’t always present itself in the middle of the road. Sometimes you might find them hiding off the side of the road. Unless it’s a bison crossing the road.
5. Heed the Advice of Others that Have Gone Before You
The drive gets boring and I listened to the Ask Gary Vee audiobook. It’s an awesome listen and not just for entrepreneurs. But in the book, Gary was asked a question about who to listen to for business advice and if info programs that are sold are even worth buying. His response was incredible.
Listen to people who have done and been successful at what they’re talking about. Heeding the marketing advice of someone that’s never led a marketing campaign or the leadership advice of someone who’s never owned a business, let alone been in a leadership or even a managerial role, is good time wasted. So many people are willing to lend you their advice because they want to feel important. That advice is rubbish unless they’ve actually done it. Same goes for people telling you how rough and terrible the Alaska Highway is, only because that’s what their friends have said.
6. Enjoy the Ride
I can’t describe what makes 1,000 miles of driving over a highway that’s frozen most of the year so great. But if you love road trips like I do, this one that has to be on the top of your list. All the naysayers are going to say it sucks and that the road’s too rough and you need to carry extra fuel with you. Don’t listen to them. Use your common sense and enjoy the ride.
This story originally appeared on The Weekend Warrior.
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.