I live in the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.Nichole Smith

  • I moved from the Midwest to Alaska about seven years ago, but I still miss my home in the lower 48.

  • The cost of living is quite high, plus I often travel to Ohio to see accredited heart specialists.

  • I miss the energetic sports culture and delicious comfort food in the Midwest.

I moved from the Midwest to Alaska about seven years ago. My husband had always dreamed of living in here, and after a vacation to the last frontier in 2014, we decided to relocate to the Kenai Peninsula.

People say that living in Alaska is hard — and that’s been true, but not for the reasons I thought it would be.

I was born and raised in Ohio, which also has intense winter weather, wide-open spaces, and friendly people, but there are some things I miss no matter how long I live here or how often I visit home.

I miss Midwestern comfort food

Buckeyes are balls of peanut-butter fudge partially dipped in chocolate.Nichole Smith

The Midwest has my favorite comfort food, hands down.

Since there’s a large German population in the Midwest, delicious cultural staples like sauerkraut and bratwurst are easy to come by. Plus few things beat a good potluck dinner.

I don’t even want to talk about how much I miss corn on the cob, chocolate-topped doughnuts with cream filling, real Wisconsin cheese curds, and glorious buckeyes (balls of peanut-butter fudge partially dipped in chocolate).

Nothing beats falling asleep to the sounds of summer that I’m used to, like cicadas and rain

Even though much of Alaska has a summer, it’s not the same as the ones I’m used to.

Since there is more light at night, you can often hear the sound of cars driving down the road or kids and neighbors outside enjoying the midnight sun.

I’d gladly deal with the heat if I could listen to the sound of crickets, cicadas, and toads singing at night or get lulled to sleep by a nearby thunderstorm.

I often travel back to Ohio to see cardiologists

I was born with a congenital heart defect, which was easy to manage until a few years ago. Unfortunately, Alaska hasn’t been the best place for me to find the healthcare I need.

I require an accredited adult congenital cardiologist. Currently, only 28 states have accredited ACHD (Adult Congenital Heart Disease) centers, and Alaska is not one of them.

Because of this, I often find myself back in Ohio for my heart-health needs. Had I known I’d consistently travel across the country to see a cardiologist, I probably wouldn’t have moved in the first place.

The cost of living is very high in Alaska

nearly empty shelves at Alaskan grocery store

Gas prices and inclement weather can make shipping more difficult.Nichole Smith

Many things cost more here, and that’s if you can get them.

The rising cost of fuel and winter weather makes shipments trickier, so it’s not uncommon to visit our local Safeway and discover there’s no milk or bottled water on the shelves.

Plus when I factor in the price of healthcare, money can get tight. According to data by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, individuals in Alaska spend an average of $11,000 on healthcare or related expenses a year, the highest of any state as of 2014. As of 2021, it’s also one of the top 10 most expensive states for health insurance.

Midwestern sports culture is in a league of its own

Certain sports, like football, aren’t as popular or competitive in Alaska as they are in the lower 48.

Particularly, lots of people from Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois eat, sleep, and breathe sports. Football feels like a religion and baseball is a whole mood.

It can seem like there’s more love for sports teams in one Clevelander’s pinky finger than there is in the whole state of Alaska. I was sad when there wasn’t even a marching-band performance during the halftime show of my son’s high-school football game.

And even though several minor-league and semiprofessional teams play around the state, Alaska doesn’t have a professional sports team.

I’d like to take a leisurely walk without worrying about seeing a bear or moose

Moose outside in snowy yard with trees

Moose are common in Alaska.Nichole Smith

Every spring, I start checking online community groups for reports of bears in the area. The idea of meeting up with a black or — even worse — brown bear in my backyard or on the road terrifies me.

Moose are no better. During mating season, daredevil young bull moose are on the prowl and become a serious road hazard. The same goes for the rest of the year when moms and their littles are out and about.

Hitting a moose can be deadly. My son-in-law got very lucky after hitting a young one on the road, and I don’t ever want to get a phone call like that again.

It’s nice to dress for all of the seasons

Even though I’m not a huge fan of the Midwest’s summer heat and humidity, I do like wearing flip-flops, cutoff shorts, and tank tops.

Thanks to the midnight sun, the Kenai Peninsula can see summer temperatures in the low 70s, but I only get to sport my warm-weather outfits a few weeks a year, usually during July and August.

Light jackets, puffy coats, winter boots, and sweaters all have a time and season, but I miss packing them away.

Leaving Alaska can be a hassle 

A small white plane outside airport window in Alaska

Travelers sometimes have to connect to a larger airport via a commuter plane.Nichole Smith

Alaska’s wilderness, mountains, and bodies of water make traveling the state a breathtaking experience. You can explore by plane, car, or boat depending on where you want to go.

However, getting out of Alaska can be an all-day process, and I don’t want to fly for 18 hours before touching down in the Midwest.

Some communities only have smaller airports, where a commuter plane will connect you to a major city like Anchorage. Usually, I change aircrafts four to five times before landing in Ohio.

Many of my core people aren’t here

I don’t think I need a better reason to return to the Midwest other than missing my daughter, brothers, parents, friends, and sister. All of them — except for one brother in Texas — live less than an hour away from each other in Ohio.

I could tell you how I miss the corn fields, massive number of festivals, Fourth of July fireworks, and county fairs, but I can’t adequately explain the feeling of simply knowing where I belong.

Although I love Alaska and all of the wonderful things it has to offer, my heart belongs to the Midwest.

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