California vs. Alaska

I recently spent several weeks in California. My husband grew up there, and we went to visit friends and relatives and enjoy interesting parts of the state. I had a good time, but the contrasts led me to compare it to my home state of Alaska.


Both California and Alaska are very big. We only explored southern and central California in any detail, only spent a few days in Northern California if you count Fort Ross and Napa Valley. One of my goals is to go further north in California, although we didn’t make it on this trip. But we drove hundreds of miles in the state, and you can drive most places in California, if you have the time. You can’t do that in Alaska–the distances are too vast and there aren’t many roads. So Alaska wins that contest.


California has a more cosmopolitan feel to it. People dress nicely. And even in small towns, we often saw the latest trends, whether it was paddle boarding, or eating kale or quinoa in cafés . People try the new stuff, at least to the point it was obvious to us tourists. Back home in Alaska, we do have kale on a few menus, but don’t ask for it in other restaurants or you’ll be laughed out of the place. To our credit, we do have a lot of microbrews. So we do adopt some trends, over time. But California wins the most-likely-to-be-fashionable contest.


Californians are often in a hurry. To be fair, I only noticed this in the big cities. But there, the pace is fast and people are hurrying around (or driving fast) and thinking in terms of point A to point B. In Alaska, you might see this in an Anchorage office building, but even there it’s not absolute. Small towns in California and most of Alaska have a slower pace. I know that’s more my speed.


Californians, probably because of the fast pace, seem harder to get to know. I had more difficulty starting conversations with people there, although I had some success with the waitresses, hotel staff, and similar people if they had time to chat. And of course friends and family were easy to talk with. It seems easier to start conversations with Alaskans. But both places have great, interesting people. Which I guess is more important than all the differences I noticed.


Sure, I’d rather live in Alaska where the vast beauty and quirky people are all around me. But I found some of that in California too. It’s a great place to visit. And people are people, really the same in the most important ways. I’m glad I got to spend some time there.

I love to share my passion for Alaska and its history in my writing for young adults and their grown ups.

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