As many of you probably did, we started prepping before we really thought about moving. In the process we procured a lot of provisions that we felt would serve us well in some sort of catastrophe. It’s certainly true that skills are important but so too are food, medical supplies, guns, and a myriad of other necessities– necessities that take up space and are heavy, if not individually then certainly in aggregate.
A number of years back I came to the conclusion that God was leading me to serve as a pastor. A couple years passed before I was in a place to actively start pursuing this, and in January of 2013 I started seminary. By the following year, through a series of experiences, we decided it was time to start looking for a place to serve. Without any specific direction we concluded that if possible, we would look for a church to serve at in Alaska. We were honest with ourselves and understood that the move from a larger suburb in Colorado to a small town on the road network in Alaska would be about the biggest move we could make successfully. Our family was not prepared to move to an off the grid bush community. In the summer of 2014 we were invited to preach and subsequently offered a position at a small church in Alaska. And then the fun started.
We had two primary considerations or restraints that needed to be resolved in order to effect our move. First, we had to sell our home, and second we had to figure out the work situation. The second dragged out for almost nine months, but God intervened at the right moment to provide the kind of work I needed. The first went more rapidly, but this was not necessarily a good thing. After we listed our home, it took about two months to actually sign a deal to sell the home; the challenge with this was that the new owners wanted to move in within six weeks during half of which time my wife and kids would be gone on a family visit. While we had purged a lot of our stuff in this short period of time (particularly books), we could have done a lot better in paring down our things and only taking what was necessary if we had had more time. As a result we ended up having to rent two storage units for about seven months, while we waited for the job to align. Relationally, it also put a lot of stress on the family, which we really didn’t need. If at all possible when moving, give yourself time to think through the various aspects of the move and start purging before you are ready to actually move.
As alluded to above, we moved in phases. After we sold our house, it was another seven months before we actually left Colorado for Alaska. When it was finally time to leave, we were confronted with the issue of how to move our remaining goods. We had sold most of our furniture, so what remained was pretty concentrated. While we were given a generous allowance from the church, it was not nearly enough to cover the normal costs of a commercial move, which would have been around $15k to $20k, so we opted for a two pronged approach. We would load as much as we could in a you-pack ABF trailer (PODS are not available for a move to Alaska but would be a great way to go in the lower 48) and packed the rest of our stuff in a 12-foot, enclosed trailer to be pulled behind our Suburban. We bought the trailer in part because we would be able to sell it in AK for at least as much as we paid for it or could keep it to use later on.
ABF trailers rent/sell space by the linear foot with a minimum length (I think 13 feet at the time), which we knew we would fill (based on how much stuff was in our storage units). We then had to decided what was going ABF and what would go on the pull behind trailer. Our first two considerations were externally imposed. There were certain items, like firearms, ammunition, and liquids, that ABF would not move, and items like our handguns that we could not bring into Canada without a lot of red tape. We ended up having to ship our handguns but because we had less than 5,000 rounds of ammo, we could bring that on the pull behind trailer along with our long guns (no assault/black rifles). As for the rest, if we didn’t need it right away in Alaska and if it was heavy, it went on the ABF to ensure that the pull behind trailer was not too weighted down. On ABF packing day, we were blessed with a relative who had worked in the moving industry for a while and maximized the use of the ABF, leaving us with a pull behind trailer that was full but not overloaded.
The drive itself at the end of March was by in large uneventful. God blessed us with perfect weather and no breakdowns. We were prepared with extra tires and gas, but certainly if we had had a catastrophic failure on the AlCan we would have been in trouble at that time of year. We planned out our route to ensure that we always had a place to stay, never overreaching in a day’s drive, and broke the drive up a bit for our four kids. It was long but otherwise uneventful. For us, the border crossing in Montana was also uneventful. We arrived mid-afternoon and checked in on the U.S. side before heading to Canada. I had all my paperwork in order, particularly with regards to my long guns, and laid it all out for the agents. This facilitated our crossing on the Canadian side, which took about 10 minutes with only a cursory review of our documentation. But, while waiting on the U.S. side, there was a guy trying to cross who seemed to have a less than honest story he was trying to feed the agent. I’m not sure they ever let him cross.
When we arrived in Alaska one thing we had not procured was a place to stay. Ultimately, we had to live in vacation and other rental places for about a month until we found a permanent place. If at all possible, I would recommend having some sort of lodging in place before arriving at your new location. This caused a lot of stress for the family, again, was not what was needed. But here as well, God provided when we needed it with a great place to live.
Overall, our experience moving to Alaska has been a positive one. There has definitely been some culture shock, and we have had to make adjustments along the way. We have had to make changes to our lives and in some cases compromise on trivial values while sticking to our core principles. Moving is definitely not something to take lightly and prepping adds a number of considerations, which have to be taken into account. Overall, I believe the best policy is to address every situation your move presents with honesty and wisdom.