“Subarctic” is how they describe the weather in Fairbanks, Alaska. Average winter lows range from -15°F to -25 F. At the winter solstice, there are 3 hours and 43 minutes of direct sunlight. Thankfully, at the summer solstice, there are 21 hours and 49 minutes of direct sun. The second largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks is up north – way up north. It’s located in the “interior” of Alaska — some 260 miles north of Anchorage and 523 miles east of Nome. From here, you can see the aurora borealis in grand splendor 200 nights per year. But who retires to Fairbanks, Alaska?
More highlights of Fairbanks, Alaska
The population of 32,000 is mostly young, but 16% are Boomers (ages 45 – 64). Sports are popular – ice hockey, arena football, Olympic cross-country skiing, girl’s roller derby. Maybe most interesting is that Fairbanks is home to the Yukon Quest, an international 1,000 mile sled dog race that is considered one of the toughest in the world. There is the University of Alaska Fairbanks (the oldest of Alaska’s current colleges), extensive road and rail infrastructure and a hospital that supports medevac needs. Housing costs range from $175,000 to $210,000. Again, I must ask, who retires to a place like Fairbanks, Alaska?
Does retiring to Fairbanks, Alaska sound like your ideal retirement destination? Well, it is for one adventurous couple.
You Meet Such Interesting People on a Plane
The woman I sat next to on a recent flight was connecting from Anchorage, Alaska. Well, not the usual destination! So we started chatting about her trip and the 10 days she just spent in Fairbanks visiting friends.
About 10 years ago, the couple retired, as planned at age 55. For 30 years they made calculated, definitive lifestyle choices to meet that goal. They bought smaller, more affordable homes in southern California, made improvements to them, and then traded up when big profits could be made. By banking much of their profits, they could buy another small home. They used everything to completion – – from sticking those little scraps of soap onto a new bar of soap to drinking reheated, leftover coffee from yesterday morning. “Waste not, want not” must have been their personal motto.
They were not power brokers or movie stars. One was a part-time attorney; the other worked in lower-level administrative jobs. They were smart and focused and determined to retire at 55. When they did retire, they were ready for adventure.
Now, Hawaii Is More Like It!
First stop, Hilo, Hawaii. They moved to Hawaii, bought a small condo, helped with aging parents, but kept their home in California. Next stop – there were lots of choices. They wanted more adventure, but being frugal and very budget conscious, they needed a creative way to travel. House- swapping became the solution. They could offer their California house for another person’s home for a period of time. That’s how they found Fairbanks. A couple of university professors from Fairbanks wanted to try out southern California, without making a radical move. The adventurous couple wanted to see what it was like to live in Alaska for a winter season.
Today, they are hunkered down in a lovely, warm house getting first-hand knowledge of winter in Alaska! They cheered the sled dog teams when they come through the center of town last weekend. And, the aurora borealis is breathtaking – – the night sky in bright greens and reds and pink.
You might not be ready or willing to experience the impact of chinook winds or try to drive through ice fog. But the idea of house swapping to try out a new and different place for an extended time seems like a pretty creative (and affordable) way to explore retirement living areas. So, the next time you wonder who retires to Fairbanks, Alaska, or any other more unusual place, you can think of my plane buddy.
Where is your retirement adventure taking you?