This small boat is no cruise ship, there is no insulation from the world we travel. We shop for supplies in the same stores as local folks, use the same harbors, tie up for the night next to the working boats. We are provided a view into a different world and the lives of people who live there.
My father worked the salmon boats when he was a teenager, then left to find a another path. I may have had some odd jobs in my teen years, but never anything quite like that. I wonder what it is really like to live there, in a world that is more than a few steps removed from our tamed and civilized towns and cities found in most of the country. A place where most folks still wrest a living from what the natural world provides. A place where the vagaries of nature have such an immediate impact on everyday life.
I chat with a lady working on a gill net strung along the dock, performing the age old fisherman’s ritual of mending the net and lines. I see another life, of fish and water, where regulations and luck determine the results of the fishing season, whether the bills get paid and if the boat gets fixed.
I meet folks who have lived in remote communities much of their lives, places where they would like to spend the remainder of their days if economics and luck permits. A struggle made more precarious when a cannery closes, or a soft economy allows fewer sportsman to come fish local waters and spend money earned in the cities far to the south.
I see a fishing community remaking itself to provide a place interesting enough that the cruise ships will stop for a day. Floating cities with thousands of people and thousands of wallets full of dollars that can provide a better life for local residents. That money could create a future here for children that may not have to leave and seek a living elsewhere. There is a once closed cannery complex remodeled into a large visitor center, dozens of boats in the harbor for charter fisherman, whale watching excursions and eco-tours.
I spend a moment talking with a young woman, who has bet on the local economy and started a small cafe. Behind me are tables full of cruise ship passengers, watching eagles and ravens squabble overhead as they munch on salmon tacos. The character of the town has changed, will continue to change. I see that there will be both good and unfortunate aspects of what is happening. I wonder what I will find when or if I visit again in a few years.
Traveling the world with open eyes gives one a perspective into other lives. So often when I meet someone who displays intolerance or even bigotry towards other nationalities, I find they have never traveled or seen much of the world. Experiencing the world is an important part of any life. To travel, to see, to consider what it means to live somewhere else.