Everything is elegiac.

1918 Republic Trucks Moving Van © by aldenjewell

Yesterday I did my last real shopping trip at the nearby ethnic market: milk, yogurt starter, carrots, eggs, bananas, garlic, onion, a couple of oranges and some extra 99-cent spices to take up to Alaska. For example, I rarely see celery seed in most grocery stores — and when I do, it’s a teeny-tiny bottle for $5 or $6.

Rolling the shopping cart over there to stock up has become a pleasant little ritual for me. I’m really going to miss that store, especially as regards cheap produce. Fruits and vegetables are never cheap in Alaska.

Lately everything I do have been imbued with a ridiculous poignancy:

The last time I’ll pick blackberries to make jam…

The last time I’ll walk to the hairdresser’s…

I’ll never find tomatoes this nice in Anchorage.

Will I have time for another meet-up with the Dogs or Dollars blogger?

It’s not that I don’t want to move. But I’ve become accustomed to coming and going – mostly going — as I please for the past three years. Cheap airfares will be a thing of the past, so I’ll likely be traveling less. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I sure will miss tickets like last summer’s Seattle-to-Philly $264 (round-trip). With prices like that I could afford to say, “Hey, Dad, got room for me for a month? Save up some farm chores and I promise to earn my keep.”

Is this the right move?

I don’t plan to get a car right away, so I’ll be walking, maybe bicycling and certainly relying on the kindness of friends. Anchorage has public transit of a sort – the People Mover, aka “the People Ager” – but the closest transit stop is about a mile and a half from my friend’s house. Not impossible, obviously, but not much fun in the winter, when footpaths will be iced-over and sometimes shared with moose.

Here in Seattle the public transit is so good that I gave my car to my daughter and son-in-law when they moved to Phoenix (asking only that they remember this when they’re picking out my nursing home).

Last week I decided that I wanted a massage, so I made the appointment, picked up my backpack and headed out. It was one of those warm, sunny days that makes you feel privileged to be alive (and that keeps you in Seattle during the raw, cloudy winters). As I walked toward the bus stop I realized how much I would miss the ability to say, “You know what? I’m going to New Seattle Massage. Right now.”

Clearly this is what the kids call a First World Problem. And no doubt some of this self-imposed sadness is a result of general anxiety: Is this move really the right thing?

Well, yes, it is. Change is good. Change is growth.

But change is also a series of elegies. While I’m looking forward to this new stage of my life, I’m also acutely conscious of what I’m giving up in order to achieve it.

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  1. Ah, Donna — I’m watching your move with intense interest as I have just moved from CO to CA — it’s a big change, even though I used to live here in the Bay Area. And while I agree that change is good, I’m finding that it’s the stupid little things that drive me crazy: what do you mean, the Kleenix is not on the same aisle as the toilet paper? And the bakery is to the left and not the right. Things like that are keeping me off balance right now. But I am loving your big change to Alaska; good for you! Have a great time!

    • Sabrina, your post made me laugh! I’ve felt the same way many times since we moved a thousand miles in May (my comment to Donna is below). It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one…

  2. I can completely empathize with the anxiety and the self-questioning. I have moved in the lower 48 from coast to coast and in between many times. I once moved to S. Korea for 2 years. Change certainly taught me to appreciate where I had been and to appreciate where my two feet were planted and to grow there.

    I cannot say I ever did without a car. I even shipped my car to S. Korea. I’m not much on walking and darn sure not in the snow. I can’t ever see myself moving to any colder climate than N. Alabama. It is 53 degrees outside right now and we call that nippy here. LOL

    I wish you well. I hope all of your Adventures In Alaska are great ones. Don’t forget you have friends in the lower 48 that would be willing to snail mail you spices. We have dollar stores in these parts! 🙂

    Good luck and Godspeed!

  3. You can always move back! Have lots of fun!

  4. But think of all the things that will become your new rituals. I bet you can get salmon really cheap in Alaska, and you won’t have to worry about doing your hair because you will probably need a hat or hood most of the time!

  5. Change can be kind of intimidating, especially when you’ve grown accustomed to a rotine or a lifestyle. I think it’s one of the reasons I always order the same food when I treat myself to a restaurant meal (and I always go to the same restaurants).
    But what matters is that this is a move that you want to make and that you’ve thought seriously about, which you obviously have. So I hope that everything works out well in your new life up there in Alaska.

  6. Oops, I mean “routine”, not “rotine”.

  7. Hmmmm…. My thought is what affect will this have on your writing…and it’s contents. Thinking there is plenty to write about in Seattle a pretty vibrant city versus parts of Alaska that can be pretty ….well quiet. It will be interesting to hear what you pay for food and every day needs compared to what we pay in the lower 48. My understanding is fresh eggs and fresh produce can cost a prety penny at times in Alaska. Good Luck on your latest adventure!

  8. Donna, Alaska is a beautiful place to be sure. And having so much support from your readers, and your family too I suppose, can certainly be reassuring. But it would be nice to know why you believe moving is a good thing at this time, when it certainly seems like you have a great life which you enjoy in Seattle. It seems that change can often be good, but also extremely stressful. Hope I’m not being too nosy! In any case, I always wish you the best.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Sylvia: I’ve been paying $700 a month for an apartment I rarely use, vs. whatever I can get my friend to accept for the room in her house. I’ll also be closer to family (niece and great-nephews) and to my best friends.
      I got turned down for health insurance on my first try but just learned that another group has accepted my application. That means health care costs will also go down, by $163 per month. That’s a savings of $1,956 per year.
      Time seems more finite now that I’m in my mid-50s. I want to be close to people I love. The only fly in the ointment is that my daughter and other family members will be that much further away; I will have to budget for some trips, the way I already do. It will cost more, so now I know where the money I’ll be saving will go. 😉

  9. Im watching this with interest. while myu differences will not be so huge, I’ll be moving to Denver in about six months and leaving the warmth of texas. My primary reasoning is to be close to family and there will adjustments. its always a choice……..but is it the right one.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Barb: I’m pretty sure it’s the right one for me. For now, anyway.
      I just got back from a conference in Denver and would like a return visit. Loved the free hybrid bus on 16th Street Mall and the light rail on at least two nearby streets. I saw buses, too. It’s much better appointed transit-wise than Anchorage.

  10. I am making a move myself after living in a small town for nearly 20 years. This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere… Many changes on the horizon, the excitement of a bigger town (only a town, not a city) and the sadness of not being 2 blocks from downtown. Many small losses for one big gain.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Lyda: I’m going to miss that walkability factor myself. In my current apartment I can walk to a convenience store in 60 seconds and to the ethnic market in 2 minutes. A library, post office, and many shops and restaurants are all within a 12-minute stroll. Sigh.

  11. Even if we don’t have time to meet again, I’ll still send you some blackberry jam next year. Don’t worry. 😉

  12. Alaska sounds like an adventure. I was just thinking yesterday that I look forward to the opportunity of experiencing the place soon. You’re right ~ change is growth. And if it doesn’t work out, you can always move again 🙂

  13. Donna, I wish you the best in your move. Sometmes we have to listen to our gut. Sounds like you’re doing it.

    I hope the Alaskan winter this year is 60 degrees and if you ever need some celery seed or some Boston baked beans, give me a holler.

  14. How ironic this post is! My husband and I moved from Wyoming to Phoenix in May. It was a move we happily chose to make, just like you. But the poignancy of EVERYTHING the last few days before we left was so bittersweet: monthly breakfast dates with a friend, Sunday night suppers for family and whomever else wanted to come, cool summer nights, the first snow of the season (hopefully without blizzard conditions because my husband was out working in it!), regular outings with my elderly mom. The list goes on and on. In my case, nothing made me finally appreciate our Wyoming home until we moved a thousand miles away. Best of luck to you Donna, I’ll be thinking of you the next several weeks!

  15. Donna, welcome back to Alaska. I’m looking forward to your frugal tips that can be applied up here. It’s expensive (as you know). For travel, Alaska Airlines has a club for Alaska residents for savings on last minute flights. You should look into signing up, it’s called Club 49.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Jennifer: Where in Alaska do you live?

      • Anchorage

        • Donna Freedman

          @Jennifer: Once I’m settled, perhaps we should do a frugalist/intentional living/life itsownself meet-up. I know that at least a couple of other commenters live in the Anchorage/Valley area, and maybe some lurkers do as well.

  16. Well, Dogs Or Dollars beat me to it, unless you’d like jam from two PNW sources?

  17. About every third time I read this blog, I’m amazed. This is an exciting move. You have such a wonderful capacity for engaging adventure (and writing about it!) that you’ll surely find much to enrich your life there.

    Looking forward to reading all about it…

  18. Catfight1

    Go for it, Donna. Your posts have kept me the right financial path more time than you know, so I will be happy to USPS you anything you need from the Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX area.

  19. Last bittersweet days, I’m glad you’re seeing them with clear eyes. I last did this like a shellshock victim. Not quality blogging material 🙂 hoping it all goes as smoothly as possible!

  20. I have moved twice – a continent away each time. I can relate to your experience. It’s always bittersweet. Good luck Donna!

  21. Donna, your living in Anchorage may finally be the reason for a visit! Had no idea you were planning it until I saw the post on my blog. Best of everything, and I hope the move is everything you want it to be. I have very few heroes and you are one of them.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Nancy: You can’t see me, but I’m blushing. Thanks for your kind words.

  22. Hope you’re enjoying the fresh air up there Donna! It was good to meet up, and hope you and Kim can get together next summer.

    Best, Sam

  23. I can identify with the move, having moved from US to Europe before the days of cel phones and email. You have to know up front that you are leaving some things behind, and gaining other new things.

    Years ago, we had two families move from Switzerland to our part of NC. Both were in the same apartment complex, both had mom, dad, and two small kids. You ask the first family how they liked life in the US, and you heard, “This place is great! The apartment is huge, gas is cheap like dirt, and we can eat steak every night!”

    Ask the family next door the same question, and you hear: “This place could not be any worse! The washing machine is so bad, we have to boil our clothes on the rangetop, the bread is inedible, and the cheese in horribly expensive!”

    Moral of the story, if you are looking for new and exciting, you will find it. If you are intent on misery, you can find that also. Depends more on YOU than your environment.

  24. Elegiac? Mournful? Plaintive? If you are moving to save a few hundred dollars on your apartment, you should read your last column and stay home.

    Better yet, choose a more appropriate title for you post.

    Whichever you do, just keep writing….

    • Donna Freedman

      @Pat: Oh, I don’t know — I think “elegiac” is a good title. That’s because in order to get what I want (to move to Anchorage) I have to give something up (living in Seattle). I’m giving up all sorts of things I can get down south that I can’t get — or get nearly as easily — in Alaska.
      Worth it, certainly.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  25. I’m only moving 5 miles down the street and I am right there with you. Change is scary. And you are actually “really” moving! Just take deep breaths and hopefully you will find new favorite places. Good luck!!!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Crystal: Will you be posting “after” pictures of the new digs? Hope so.


  1. Links to ponder and share | A Gai Shan Life - [...] really is moving to Alaska. I know it’s ridiculous, we’re online and “location-independent” in our [...]

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