This book takes you back to a simpler time in America when living simply brought great satisfaction, and when being happy was the result, not the goal, of living a good life. The harsh Alaskan wilderness taught me extraordinary lessons that transcend time, and while it has taken me a lifetime to share these lessons, I’m finally ready.
I never imagined that growing up in a cabin in the remote wilderness would prepare me for success anywhere in the world, even in the concrete jungles of the metropolis. I had no idea at the time that I was being prepared to experience life to the fullest.
I learned more about how to live a good life growing up in the harsh Alaskan wilderness in abject poverty than I learned in College, in law school, and in the thousands of hours of studying and reading combined. The stories in this book share profound lessons from the wilderness you won’t learn in a classroom, and if you learn these lessons well, they will enrich your life immeasurably. There are no motivational gimmicks in this book, because the wilderness didn’t teach me any gimmicks.
I grew up in a remote area of Alaska with my parents, two sisters, and two brothers in a 900 square foot cabin without electricity or plumbing. Our bathroom was an outhouse in the largest forest in America. We heated the cabin with a 55-gallon barrel wood stove my father welded together. Our only light was a Coleman lantern hanging on a bent-over 16-penny nail in a plywood ceiling. We lived on Moose, Caribou, Dall Sheep, and Salmon.
It was the 1960s, and interior Alaska was still primitive by modern standards. Our local grocery store, which could easily have been converted into a three bedroom house, did not get fresh milk, vegetables, or fruit on a regular schedule. All our supplies came on 18-wheelers up the Alaska Highway, and because of the primitive condition of the highway, that was often a five day trip.
By any government standard we were very poor, but my father made a conscious decision to live this way. My father was an educated man, but like so many of the escapees from society who live in remote Alaska, my father sought to live an independent life far from a crowded metropolis. He homesteaded 30 acres when that was still possible, built a cabin with his hands, and created a wholesome lifestyle for us.
I learned how to hunt and fish, live off the land, and survive in the wilds where we had no emergency medical services, no modern transportation, and no telephones. Life in those days was primitive compared to how most of us live now, but it was also much simpler. There was less chaos, less frustration, and much more satisfaction and contentment. Perhaps there were fewer reasons to be discontent. We appreciated the simple things in life, like heat, food, and hand-me-downs.
I’ve had a full life since I ran in those woods. I got an Economics Degree, a teaching certificate and taught high school for two years, got a law degree, was a JAG in the USAF, an Area Director of Prison Fellowship Ministries for Chuck Colson, had a private law practice, authored a dozen books, and built the largest individual virtual real estate brokerage in the Northwest. But none of my adult ventures hold a candle to what it was like growing up in Alaska. I would trade it all to live like that again.
I loved the majesty and solitude of Alaska. The soft moss under my feet, the fresh scent of pine trees, and the pure crisp air nurtured my body and soul. I loved the daily adventures. Growing up in a cabin in Alaska was the greatest gift my parents could have given me. It was full of exciting times, dangerous times, and along the way there were extraordinary lessons.
Then I grew up, left Alaska and did what was expected of me: worked hard, climbed the career ladder, and raised a family. I got an education, got a good job, and plugged into the system, like a robot. I was a good boy who followed the template society gave me, just like all my friends. In the process, I unknowingly discarded the lessons of my youth, and chased success and happiness. I was so busy going about the business of “life as usual,” I left much of what had I learned growing up in Alaska behind.
I chased the Rainbow for nearly half a century, seeking to find the pot of gold that would ultimately make me happy, and after a measure of success, I also found out what it is like to lose everything and start all over late in life. I know what it feels like to achieve success again, but this time with a peace and fulfillment that I never had before.
What is so astonishing is that I knew 50 years ago how to be happy and successful. And then I forgot for five decades, until I revisited how I grew up. What incredible memories I have from my childhood, but even more delightful are the extraordinary lessons I learned living in the wilderness of remote Alaska.
This book tells stories of what it was like growing up in Alaska and what I learned surviving in one of the harshest climates in the world.