The Journey Begins
April 30th, 2016 is the day I began the journey of a lifetime. My dream had finally come to fruition after what had seemed like an eternity of waiting and preparing. As I boarded my first flight to Juneau, Alaska I knew this was only the beginning of the fulfillment of my purpose.
From Juneau, I set off to Haines, a little town in Southeast Alaska, with a total population of about three thousand people. The trip getting there was quite extensive, it included three, very time consuming and exhausting, connecting flights and then finally a four hour long boat ride to what seemed to be the middle of nowhere!
From the moment I arrived, my breath was taken away. From the beautiful, mountainous scenery to the feeling of filling my lungs with such clean, crisp air left me awestruck. While on the boat ride to Haines, I met quite a few people who were taking on a similar journey like myself. Apparently, it is common practice for people from the Northern US to spend summers in Alaska to find work. Alaska’s economy relies heavily on tourism so the summer months provide a lot of job opportunities, especially for those looking to save up money for an even bigger adventure (like my self!)
Here is a picture of Haines, Alaska. Just a short walk from where I was staying.
Shortly after arriving, I was able to meet with a fellow humanitarian from the area, Aldeana Stout. She helps out the local hospice by setting up donation drives. Aldeana rents out a large space where she and her team sell all sorts of items and uses 100% of the profit to support the local charity. I volunteered for the cause by sorting through all the items and assigning them to different categories and prices.
Haines really gave me the opportunity to self reflect, meditate and spend time on my own! I was able to go camping and hiking and really explore this beautiful town.
I kept writing the word “Love” in the sand so I could trace my steps and never get lost. Just like in life, when you are lost just look for Love and she will always show you the way.
My view during my camping trip!
I stayed in the city of Haines for a little over a month and then decided to move over to the capital, Juneau to better accommodate my job and lifestyle. I must admit it was quite different from the quaint city of Haines that just had a certain charm to it, the city of Juneau is much bigger and more populated and I was able to experience more of what Alaska has to offer.
I even had a chance to meet the Governor’s wife, Donna Walker, while I was volunteering at the local church.
One of the most exciting parts of my journey was being able to experience "Celebration”.
Celebration is one of the largest gatherings of Southeast Alaska Native peoples and is the second-largest event sponsored by Alaska Natives in the State of Alaska. The event draws about 5,000 people, including more than 2,000 dancers. Thousands more watch the event online. A 2012 study showed each Celebration generates an estimated economic impact of $2,000,000.
The festival takes place for four days every other June, the streets of Juneau become flooded with Native people of all ages dressed in the signature regalia of clans from throughout Southeast Alaska and beyond. There are traditional songs and dance, arts and crafts, and cultural dishes.
This is Celebration, the biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures.
The elders all ask permission to come ashore, preaching a message of Love and One nation, One tribe under GOD.
With one of the natives after the parade; He is also one of the members of the board on the Native American Council.
My final volunteering event before I left Alaska was helping out at the local animal shelter. I organized the laundry and washed the food dishes for the animals.
Volunteering at the local Humane Society because man's best friend needs some love too!
Alaska was an experience I will never forget. It definitely taught me to appreciate the beauty bd wonder of nature that God has blessed us with but it also taught me to appreciate home! Compared to Miami, the summers in Alaska are extremely short, the sun was only out for a few weeks and after that it was gloomy and raining almost everyday. I will never take the sunshine and warmth for granted again. It also taught me that life is all about getting out of your comfort zone and fulfilling your heart’s desires.
Next stop …