Leaving the continental United States

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The logistics of moving to Alaska are very much like moving to a foreign country. Some people actually refer to Alaska as a foreign country.

My conversation with several shippers yesterday went like this:

“I need to ship the contents of a small three-bedroom house to Alaska. Can you accommodate that?”

“Are you sure you need to move to Alaska?”

“… Yes, it’s where my job is at.”

“Well, we only ship within the continental United States now sir. We no longer have shipping to Alaska.”

“Alaska is part of the North American continent. It’s attached to Canada, which was still part of the North American Continent the last time I checked. You can drive there from here.”

“That’s contiguous United States sir.”

“I know, I can access Wikipedia too.”

“Well, if you want to move somewhere else, let me know, I think I can help you get a a discount.”

And so on and so forth. I actually had several conversations like this. Turns out there are only a handful of people who ship to Alaska any more.

Another conversation:

“Can you describe the contents of your house.”

“I’ve got a dark brown L-shaped couch, a lightly stained bookshelf…”

“No, sir, I meant an inventory of items you’d like to ship to Alaska.”

“Oh, well, yes, we have a couch, a book shelf, five mattresses, a futon, two televisions, a lamp and maybe 20 boxes of belongings we’d like to bring.”

“Wow, you guys travel light.”

“That’s the dream. The reality is we’ll have twice that.”

“Oh, ok, let me give you a dream price and a real price then.”

Alaska is so near and yet so far away. It’s a short three-hour hop from Seattle by air, a three-day journey by inland passageway via a ferry boat or a five-day drive from Seattle.

There is no cheap way of getting in or out.

I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am for our friends both in Alaska and in Missoula (former Alaskans) who have offered to help us navigate this move. You are all amazing people.

It’s 2010. Why don’t we have a teleportation device that could work for this kind of move yet? The concept existed when I was a little kid watching Star Trek.

As I type, my wife is packing the house and secretly jabbing daggers in my spine. I hate packing up a house. I like the heavy lifting and putting boxes in the back of a truck. Putting stuff in boxes is so not my forte. I think when I was young I never got one of those balls with squares, triangles and circles cut out and into which you’d try to fit the cut out pieces. I just don’t have a good sense of fit.


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