How Alaska Led Me to Realizing My "Great Perhaps"

Author: Carissa Atallah

Tags: Vacations

 Being a California native, there are certain aspects of life that I have naturally become accustomed to warm air, crowded roads, and the undeniable urge to sing “California Gurls” in the car with the windows rolled down. While these sensations are familiar and welcomed, I am still entirely thankful for the eye-opening experience of traveling to Alaska.

My family and I boarded Princess Cruise lines last July, prepared to visit Alaska and Canada. I was, unsurprisingly, giddy with excitement as I stepped foot on the plane that would lead to our port in Seattle.  As I gazed out the window, subduing my senses to avoid reaching utterly ridicules levels of eagerness, I contemplated the trip. I knew that it would be unlike any sun-filled, beach vacation in Mexico or quick spree to Vegas.  This was different. This was my chance at exposing myself to something entirely new.

Now it is important for me to note that the book I read throughout this trip is one of my favorites, a novel (ironically) titled Looking for Alaska by John Green. The protagonist of this story has one endeavor, to leave his minor life behind in hopes of discovering what he calls his “Great Perhaps,” the occurrence that makes life livelier and meaningful.

Soon I stood before the massive ship, hoping maybe it would carry me to my “Great Perhaps." I had been on cruises before, but that wonderful feeling of waywardness that accompanies sailing in directions foreign to me never really fades. So with a spring in my step, I explored the ship.  

A series of circumstances lead to my family being upgraded free-of-charge to the Family Suite, one of the best accommodations aboard. Before my enriching experience even began, I could feel the winds of fate blowing me in desirable directions. Having grown up with the learning disability of dyslexia and living in a family that often struggles with income, I had never really considered myself particularly lucky. I am blessed, of course, for the privileges I have, but ask the spectators to any coin toss or rock-paper-scissor match that I have ever taken part in and they will confirm it: I have about the same amount of luck as a cracked mirror or a black cat.  

Something about Alaska seemingly changed that. We visited ports like Ketchikan, Juneau, and Victoria where I bared witness to lumberjack shows, ancient brothels, and a street performer dressed as Darth Vader playing the violin. 

But perhaps the moment that has stayed painted in my memory most was when I stood before an icy glacier, simply looking at the view. Standing. Looking. As mundane as it sounds, the event left a heavy feeling in my chest. Living in world where a Tweet can inform me instantly what Timmy had for dinner, it is easy to forget that there are things more worthwhile to look at than screens.

The world could be huge and the world could be cold. The world could be filled with otters and deer or with strangers staring up at the same magnificent view as me, thinking all the profound and terrible thoughts I myself might be thinking. The world could be massive, and freezing, and filled to bursting. And though these facts I already knew, it took traveling miles and miles from home, standing in the shadow of a thousand pine trees and colossal chunks of ice, and seeing a violinist dressed as a Star Wars character to fully understand.

Anyway, I finished my book on the plane ride home, entirely satisfied with my own “Great Perhaps.”