I moved my family from LA to a remote island in Alaska. We now know fewer people, but we see them all the time.

I moved my family from LA to a remote island in Alaska. We now know fewer people, but we see them all the time.
Liz Bolton's daughter playing at Bugge Beach.Courtesy of Liz Bolton
  • My husband and I moved our two kids from Los Angeles to a small island in Alaska.
  • Here we not only get to appreciate nature more, but we also know almost everyone.

When I told Tim, our friendly UPS man, that we were moving across town last year, I asked whether we'd still be on his route.

"No," he said. "You'll be on my daughter's route!"

This sort of thing happens a lot where I live, a small town on an island in Alaska. So I wasn't particularly surprised. Nor was I surprised that the garbage guys from our old route sometimes drive by our new place and honk so my 3-year-old son can have a little thrill.

"It's Ross!" he'll shout when he spots their truck. It should be noted that Tim once gave my son a small UPS truck, and Ross gave him a toy monster truck for Christmas. They really know how to befriend a small child.

We had a USPS mailman when we first moved here — also named Tim, now retired — who once clued me in when my husband's picture was in the paper so that we could pick up a copy. Now that Tim's retired, I occasionally run into him on the bike path south of town or at the bank. We always say hi.


We moved out of the chaos of Los Angeles into the quietness of a nature-filled island. I had always lived in big cities, but slowing down made me appreciate nature and my family more than ever.

I get to be part of our community in a meaningful way

The past few years of small-town island life, after being in the big city, have felt like living in a first-grade social-studies textbook. We're being introduced to civics at its most basic level.

Seen through a certain lens, this could all feel too close for comfort. And maybe if I'd grown up like this, I'd want to go someplace where I could be anonymous. But I was anonymous for so long, the teeniest of fish in a succession of gigantic ponds.

In a small pond, I can be a regular-sized fish and still feel that the things I do matter to people in my community.

When our high school's debate, drama, and forensics team won the state title recently, I texted the coach to congratulate him. Then I realized I had a shelf full of plays that I don't really need anymore, so I asked him if he wanted them for the team to use. He was happy to take them, and anything the DDF kids don't need, he said, he could pass along to the theater teacher.


I love being able to see all the links in the chain, and knowing that my old highlighted scripts will get used by local high-schoolers makes me smile.

Living where I do, I'm sometimes reminded of the old song from "Sesame Street" Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood? They're the people that you meet when you're walking down the street. They're the people that you meet each day.

I spent a lot of years living in places where it felt like an absolute miracle to run into someone I knew.

Now that I live in a smaller place, I know fewer people, but I see them more.

I wonder now if I was too busy back then, if life was too fast-paced for me to stop and chat with everyone. Maybe this is all a part of learning to slow down and be more mindful about everyday life, and if that's true, then it can really happen anywhere. The people we meet each day are people with important jobs, knit into the fabric of our society. And that feels like a pretty cool lesson for our kids to learn.