I moved from Los Angeles to a remote island in Alaska with my kids. I never realized what I was missing.

·4 min read
Girl playing in the water in Alaska
One of the author's children plays in the water in Alaska.Courtesy of Liz Bolton
  • My family and I moved from Los Angeles to a remote island in Alaska.

  • There's no children's museum or zoo to take my kids to. Instead we spend hours at the library.

  • Being able to slow down and be more present was exactly what I needed in my life.

We step out of the bracing cold and into the warmth of the library. Before my children have even finished returning their books, my 2-year-old has spotted the children's librarians down at the other end of the building.

"Ms. Amie!" he shouts. "Ms. Ann Marie!" He skip-hops the length of the library, past the cozy fireplace and a handful of people in armchairs. My 8-year-old daughter smiles up at me: We're both tickled by his love for the library.

When we arrive in the children's room, with its enormous stuffed tree decorated with beloved children's-book characters, the two librarians bend down to greet the kids, directing them to old favorites and brand-new books."I ordered this one just for you!" Ms. Amie tells my son, proffering a book about tow trucks.

The children settle in; this is their happy place, and mine too.

We left the city chaos and noise of Los Angeles for a quiet, nature-connected life on a remote island in Alaska. While we sometimes miss what big cities have to offer, I've been able to slow down and enjoy life with my family here.

We moved because we wanted more nature

In a small town on a remote island in southeast Alaska, the library is very important.

We don't have children's museums or a zoo. We don't have fancy ice-cream shops or trampoline gyms or elaborate indoor play spaces that can be rented out for very expensive birthday parties.

But we didn't move here for any of that. We were living in Los Angeles when my husband was offered a job up here, and our first thought was nature.

From our house at the top of a hill, we watch as the mountains across the water from us get their first dusting of snow in November, a dusting that will turn into a thick white buttercream lasting long into May.

Two blocks behind our house, the town dissolves into the national forest; we can step out our door and be deep in the temperate rainforest, centuries-old trees surrounding us, in a matter of minutes.

Everyone who lives on the island, whether they make their living from the sea or not, keeps a tide chart handy. When there's a negative tide, the water sometimes 4 or 5 feet below the average low-water mark, we meet friends at the beach to ogle massive purple sea stars and put our Xtratuf boots through their paces.

I've always lived in big cities

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, so in many ways big-city life, with its racing pulse and infinite possibilities, still feels like home to me. But when I moved to a place with neither of those things, I suddenly discovered a mindfulness I hadn't tapped into before.

I am much more purposeful in how I spend my days now, in part because I need to be. We have chickens to tend to and a dog who's part husky and born to run. On long summer days we harvest wild berries and catch and freeze as many fish as we can; we reap the benefits of those efforts all winter long. The days start getting very short in early fall, but I embrace that now: We take thermoses of tea on midday hikes and keep warm slippers by the front door.

I have moments of missing the creature comforts of city life — like Target and Indian food — but being away from the city has forced me to be more creative. I've learned to make a decent curry.

I've realized my life used to move so quickly that I was missing opportunities to even appreciate all those options I had available to me. I was always looking ahead to the next thing. Now that I've slowed down, I look around me more and the views are stunning. I should have been doing that all along.

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