Guest contributor

Hi I’m Donna, Travel writer and photographer

I was raised in the far northern state of Alaska in a little town called Talkeetna. Talkeetna, originally settled by miners and trappers in the mid-1800s when Alaska was wilder than the wild west in its day, sits at the base of the magnificent Denali – Athabascan for “Great One”. 

When I was growing up, Talkeetna was shifting from a miners and trappers town to a mountain climbers haven, beckoning climbers from around the world to challenge their survival and climbing skills to reach Denali’s summit. Talkeetna is located, quite literally, at the end of the road – it is the last drivable point for climbers to ascend North America’s highest point, a formidable 20,310 feet. From Talkeetna, climbers are flown by small planes (lovingly called puddle jumpers in Alaska) to Kahlitna Glacier where they start the 13,000-foot climb in extreme weather conditions and high altitude to Denali’s summit. 

 I saw a lot in that little town of 500 residents, but I was also very grounded growing up on a small, self-sufficient farm with no running water, electricity, or phone. We lived off the land. We grew, raised, hunted or fished for everything on our table. Also, in that small town, I met and married my high school sweetheart. How we met, is a whole other story to be told at another time. His family was also very self-sufficient, they did not have electricity until he was 16. Looking back as an adult, those experiences planted a very deep seed for adventure in both my husband and me. 

 We knew the world was larger than our small corner. But, both of us were raised with monetary scarcity which prevented our individual families from traveling more than a couple of days drive from home. After we were married, we decided we wanted to see more and experience more than we had growing up. And, we wanted our children to experience adventure, and to show them the expansiveness of the world. Thirty years later, we have, we did, and we have never regretted it.

 Sometimes that adventure was with travel, and sometimes it meant a culinary adventure of recipes and ingredients that our mothers would never have used for one reason or another. We grew up on a regular diet of moose, caribou, salmon, trout, rabbit and from time to time, bear. These were our normal, much like beef and chicken were to people who lived in the big city of Anchorage. To us, a culinary adventure was sushi, Thai, or even a pizza made with real pepperoni. 

Since then we have had many adventures and remarkable experiences. We had high tea with little cucumber sandwiches in England. We washed escargot down with Moscow Mules in Seattle. We grilled stingray steaks on a self-captained catamaran and swam with sea lions in La Paz, Mexico. We had anchovy pizza (which surprisingly to me, was quite good) and got lost in Venice – to discover it. We had flaming bananas in a treehouse and snorkled with stingrays in Hawaii. We have sailed the coasts of Alaska and snow machined its backcountry.

I will admit, I have not been fond of all experiences. One particular memory that bursts to the forefront of my mind is when I tried taro root in Hawaii. Taro root is a purple starchy ground vegetable with little flavor on its own. Dried, it can resemble a non-salted potato chip. It can also be prepared as a “pudding-like” substance. Prepared in this manner, it is an acquired taste, one that I did not have. When I took a bite it was very gooey. It stuck to my teeth, tongue, and the roof of my mouth. I could hardly swallow it! Now I know, I do not appreciate taro pudding, but, hey, I tried it – and that is what exploring is all about!

Our children are now grown and flown, but true to our nature, my husband and I continue to explore and discover marveling at the wonders of this world and the diverse people we encounter. Where will we go next? Probably more tropical destinations or at least a place with a much smaller winter window. It is time to thaw out.

Our children are now grown and flown, but true to our nature, my husband and I continue to explore and discover marveling at the wonders of this world and the diverse people we encounter. 

We constantly have an eye out for new adventures. You never know where they may pop up. A recent adventure of ours has been moving from Alaska to Texas. We have never lived in the south so when an opportunity arose within my husband’s career, we said, “absolutely! Why not?”. My first trip -ever- to Texas was to buy our house (yet another story for next time).  

Yes, moving from Alaska to Texas has been like going from one extreme to another. Oh, but what an adventure Texas has been! We knew how to deal with extreme cold, we had to learn how to deal with extreme heat. We have explored small towns that we had only read about in Louis L’amour books. We have danced in the streets during festivals, hiked canyons, and sampled flavorful cuisine from numerous countries at food truck parks. 

Discovering our new corner of the world has been amazing and wonderous. There are new escapades in the works. Where will our next adventure take us? You will just have to follow us to see.

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