I have now been working in Alaska for a month and a half. And the raw beauty of the Last Frontier is unmatched. However, being so far from civilization as I’ve known it isn’t always a blessing.

In this sense, I don’t mean working remotely in the typical sense: working from a laptop in the comfort of your home or taking your work with you while you travel. If only. My job actually takes me to remote locations no tourists tread and the conveniences of home are all but a memory.

I have been based out of two locations so far: Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island and Akutan Island. Aside from those who come to work seasonally, the local population and economy is pretty bare-bones. Dutch Harbor is the biggest “city” any of us in my position will see and its airport doesn’t even have security; with that, I bet you can infer what life on the rest of the island is like.

While this all might sound a bit shitty, it does have its benefits…

Pro: Save money

Some other jobs abroad I’ve seen want you to pay to work for them or only cover your room and board with no additional payment. However, I get my room and board covered both on land and at sea and have no outstanding bills to pay at home, so my bank balance builds quickly. Especially when I’m based in Akutan where the temptation of going to the pub I experience in Dutch Harbor is also eliminated. On a similar note, I also get to keep all my air miles, which adds up to about 24,000 miles a year!

Pro: See Alaska

I get to see all sorts of different Alaskan “cities” and scenery and its wonderful creatures. How many people get to say they see humpback whales every day?

Pro: the job itself rules

I enjoy the work I do and wouldn’t want to be in any other observer program. I’ve pictured myself doing this for quite a while, even citing my company as my “dream job” and although I don’t think I’ll be observing or working in fisheries forever, this is such a neat opportunity. If anything, this position will really pop on my CV when I move on. I also feel useful because the data I collect and send is used live to assess fishery stocks rather than having a lag time of a few years to create catch quotas. Finally, my job is really flexible: after this first contract, I can come back to observe as often (or not) as I wish and for as long as I want, but 60-90 days is the usual.

Pro: camaraderie

It takes someone in a unique (and possibly odd) position in life to take this job and I feel we observers are all bonded in that way. I get along with 99% of the other observers I’ve met and already consider a few of them close friends.

Pro: know thyself

Have you ever thought, “Man, I wish I could just sod off to the middle of nowhere where I don’t have to answer to anyone?” That’s pretty much my life. Don’t get me wrong, it gets lonely (more on that in a minute), but I can always call up friends and family and see co-workers in town. At home, I sometimes felt I couldn’t escape social pressures and obligations. This job gives me a lot of time to reflect on my life and my future.

Now, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies working in the middle of nowhere…

Con: no Internet

This might seem silly, but it really does suck when it’s the way our whole world is connected. Or rather, paying $80 for 5GB of Internet that takes ages to load, eating up your usage in a manner of days. Ugh.

Con: not seeing land for two months

Fortunately, I’m currently in a fishery that offloads regularly, so I do get to step foot on land every few days. But there are certain boats where you may be out at sea for months at a time. While the amenities are usually better on these boats, is it really worth it?

Con: butting heads

As I mentioned, you may be assigned to a boat for up to three months with a crew as small as five other people. If you don’t get along with one or more of them, it’s going to be a long contract for you.

Con: depression

I’m sure literally having depression doesn’t help my case, but being away from family and friends and any way to connect with them is especially a bummer some days. Also, the lack of stimulation I’ve always taken advantage of (even the simple things like going out to eat or going to a concert) can really drive you mad. I just have to remember to look forward to blowing all my money on concerts and travelling when my contract is over, I suppose!

All in all, this job is interesting to say the least and I’m glad I’m finally getting the ropes (pun intended) and coping with the “cons” I’ve mentioned. This isn’t a forever job for me and hope to get a permanent position at the headquarters in Seattle after a year or so, but for now, I’m happy with my work (read: pay and lack of financial obligations, I’ve just paid off my student loans!).

What do you think? Would you work abroad or remotely?

Photo by Rod Long.

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As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it
  • (★★): Barely finished it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. My dates may not be completely accurate as I have limited Internet access to update my progress.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been able to get a lot of reading done, it’s hard to keep up with all these reviews! I have about three more books already for my next post plus the Twilight series.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

51wlZPh8IyL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: ★★★★½

Genre: Historical fiction

GoodReads rating: 4.46 / 5 (1,900,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: Aspiring writer Skeeter finds her passion project in taking stories from the help: colored maids found in nearly every household in the South. The maids’ stories will reveal shocking things about both her circle of friends and her own family.

Thoughts: Wow, this book was amazing! I love multiple point of view formats and historical fiction, so I really enjoyed this book. It would have been a five-star book if it wasn’t written by a white woman. Hear me out: sure, writers are supposed to try to get into the minds of other characters and livelihoods, but this felt too on the nose. When writing from the point of view of Aibileen, the author gets a “blaccent”, appropriating the use slang and language patterns among the black community… you know, the same ones white people make fun of them for? Not to mention, I have mixed feelings about Skeeter. First, she does problematic things like comparing her sexual disinterest in women to her mother hooking up with a black guy, not writing a single thing for herself (both the Miss Myrna column and Help) and letting black people do all the work (so, basically a reflection of how this nation was built), undermining the current state of racism (basically ignoring Aibileen’s worries about her friends and neighbors getting beaten and killed), said she felt it was her “duty” to help black people (talk about a white savior complex) and lets her friends treat their help like garbage while she’s writing the book. Skeeter wasn’t really pro-black, she just wanted trauma porn for white people to read so she could absolve herself of any guilt from the time she had help and get ahead in her career. The book itself seems like an extension of that, the primary take-away mostly “feel-good.” The author also romanticizes the relationship between the help and their bosses, saying “it’s like true love. You only get it once in a lifetime.” While there are better people to work for than others, there is still a power dynamic and professional line in the relationship that you can’t gloss over. When addressing such issues in the afterword, the author justifies writing about the plight of black women because “we’re all people after all” (not exact words, but same idea), insinuating colorblindness, which is the exact opposite of anti-racism. Viola Davis as Aibileen absolutely stole the show, but she regrets making the movie because it focused more on white voices than black voices. Also, the real-life maid the author had took issue with the movie and even filed a lawsuit. Here is another great blog post on more issues with the story. While the story is good, the understand of racial issues is still lacking, so you can’t get a complete narrative.

Other adaptations: The critically acclaimed 2011 follows the plot well with the most amazing cast (I especially loved Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance). However, I need to have words with whoever casted Skeeter, I just don’t see it for Emma Stone.

Tranny by Laura Jane Grace

51yWyltWybLRating★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir, LGBTQ+

GoodReads rating:  4.27 / 5 (5,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: Self-proclaimed anarchist sellout Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! shares her story of wrestling with gender dysphoria through childhood, writing music, touring, addiction, marriage and family.

Thoughts: I haven’t listened to Against Me! much (I do listen to “Bamboo Bones“, “Thrash Unreal” and “The Ocean” a lot though), but her story has been in my peripherals as I follow a lot of other bands on the scene. I really enjoyed her concise writing, candor and peering into the life of a literal rockstar. It was fun to read about touring with bands I listen to more (the verdict: Blink-182 are pricks and Dave Grohl is as humble and fun as he seems) and life on the road, but at the same time sobering (no pun intended) to hear about her struggles with gender. Although, I wish there was more about life as she transitioned and how the hormones and body changes affected her writing and performing.

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

51G46zzal2L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: ★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, entertainment

GoodReads rating: 3.34 / 5 (7,00- ratings)

Medium used: Hardcover (borrowed from the Unalaska library)

Summary: This book dives into America’s favourite guilty pleasure, The Bachelor franchise, from casting call to after the final rose and the fame that comes with it.

Thoughts: Guilty as charged. I watch and like The Bachelor. I won’t even correct myself like many people do by saying the love to hate it, because I don’t; I like it for its entertainment value, but this book made me realize the cost of that amusement. Although everyone signs stringent contracts before being casted, it’s atrocious what they go through and some of the unexpected consequences. I’m disappointed, but not surprised as some of this information has been floating around for a while now. Also, the author struck me as having a bit of internalized misogyny and holier-than-thou attitude. If the book could speak, it would say “I’m not like other girls.” Also, 80% of this book is just quoting interviews. Poor form.

The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

51nEwdfyY0LRating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, short stories

GoodReads rating: 4.52 / 5 (15,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: Red takes interest in mysterious, young banker Andy when Andy requests a small rock hammer and cloth inside the walls of Shawshank Prison. Like every other man on the inside, Andy swears he’s innocent, and Red actually believes him.

Thoughts: Full disclosure: I’m still not entirely sure what version I listened to. The audiobook says “Based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption; a novella in Different Seasons,” so I’m not sure how my version differs from the original. No matter, I’ll make it my personal duty to see to Different Seasons soon. In the meantime, this did not disappoint. I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few Stephen King books and this story is absolutely captivating. Not to mention, audiobook was a great choice for this as the format is narrated by Red and seems as though I’m being read a bedtime story rather than hearing “and this happened, and this happened.”

Other adaptations: The 1995 film is a masterpiece, often referred to as one of the best films of all time. I know it’s one of my personal favorites. There were some minute changes and differences, but I think they only made the movie better. (start spoiler) For example, in the book, Brooks wasn’t the inmate that owned the bird Jake and his departure was unceremonious. In the movie however, his suicide made a good narrative for how institutionalized men become on the inside. (end spoiler)

Have you read any of these? Which did you enjoy?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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After I trained for my new job, I was immediately sent to Dutch Harbor, Alaska to start my first 3-month contract. I waited a few days for my assignment and then boarded my boat. Luckily, the previous observer was still about to give me a quick tour of the boat and some tips.

XJCB8485

Typically, on my first boat, we fished for about three days, spent a day in town to offload and headed out again. Each time the net is brought in, I sample the catch for species composition and biological data (sex, length, weight, dissections, etc.) from the fish within my sample. As it’s near the end of the season, fishing is quite slow, so we only bring in one catch a day, which equals about 3 hours of work for me. Without WiFi, I’ve gotten a lot of reading, sleeping and rewatching It’s Always Sunny in Phildelphia for the ump-teenth time done. Once our hold is full, we deliver the catch and I have to monitor the offload, so my time on land is usually limited to the fish factory. However, there has been the odd trip where we come in early and I get to spend time (read: drink and shoot the shit) with other observers, including a few people from my training class.

DTFI6799

The job isn’t as hard as training made it out to be, at least on my current assignment. I just got a new boat and it’s really nice (have Internet, but no Wifi, my own room, amazing crew), but it doesn’t ride well, so I spent the first trip violently seasick. Hopefully things turn around next trip and I can run into more observers in Akutan: my new offload destination.

DWUN1362

I’m really grateful I got this job, it certainly has been an adventure and I would like to continue working for NOAA after a few contracts. This job is just so damn convenient at the moment for me as I save money and have extended periods of time off to travel. A few other observers and I are talking about doing a dive master’s course in Honduras either this summer or over New Year’s.

I apologize if parts of this post seem vague, I’m meant to keep details of my job, especially fishing locations and data, confidential.

August in Review 2017 || August in Review 2016

What I’ve been listening to: Year of the Snitch by Death Grips, Americana by The Offspring, Perfect Trim by Bad Larrys, Say It Out Loud by The Interrupters

What I’ve been watching: Game Night, Anchorman

What I’ve been readingCheck out my most recent Reading Wrap Up posts #11 and #12 for the most recent (another post coming soon!)

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IMG_9568(2)Tell us a bit about yourself.

What’s happening guys! I’m Johnny, just turned 23 (woop woop!) and I blog about travelling and lifestyle at johnnystraventures.com. I’m a qualified fitness instructor which is what I do for work and I’m absolutely crazy about keeping fit, comic-book lore, and the captain obvious which is travelling the world! Grateful to be featured on here as Rachel’s blogger of the month

How did you get into blogging?

I graduated from Uni and I already made up my mind that I wanted to travel around the world more post-Uni. But I wanted to use my experiences as an opportunity to educate close ones on the places I’ve visited and their cultures. That’s where the idea of starting a blog came from and here we are…

Tell us about your favorite post (written by you).

Do collabs I did count? Haha! Well I have a lot of posts I’ve enjoyed writing both individually and with other bloggers and influencers. It’s difficult for me to pick an outright favourite and even harder when you write them for slightly different reasons.  For the sake of choosing a favourite, I’ll go with my collab piece on family perceptions of travelling. It was really surreal having travel bloggers come together and share what their families and friends thought of them travelling as often as they did and their general opinions on travelling.

What are you doing when you’re not blogging?

I’m definitely in a gym! Whether it’s at work fitness instructing or having my own workout at the gym I go to. I love keeping fit and living a healthy lifestyle and helping others do the same. Otherwise, I’m at the cinema since I’m a big film goer or doing anything and everything comic-book related – or earning money in my spare time doing surveys. Lets say I’m an undercover nerd disguised as a fitness freak!

What is one travel regret you have?

My one stand out travel regret was probably not travelling as much during Uni. I had so much money from maintenance loans and grants that could’ve been used for so many trips. Whilst I saved a sizeable chunk of it they weren’t with the goal to explore the world. Not to mention the free time I had from holidays and stuff. So yeah my biggest is way before these traventures were even a thing hahaha.

What are the shortest and longest trips you’ve taken?

The shortest trip I’ve taken is my first ever solo trip, which was to Paris and my longest was my two-week family getaway to Toronto with my mum and brother to see my 2nd cousins. Happy to say Canada will be kindly greeting me again next summer because I’ve started saving up for a 2nd visit.

Where else can we find you?

Twitter || Instagram || Pinterest

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic.

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I have been reading like a mad person, I don’t know how I’ll be able to keep up with these posts, but I’ll do my best.

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it
  • (★★): Barely finished it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. My dates may not be completely accurate as I have limited Internet access to update my progress.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

810BkqRP+iLRating: ★★

Genre: Fiction, romance, erotica

GoodReads rating: 3.67 / 5 (1,693,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 31/07 – 02/08

Summary: Innocent Ana gets lured into a possible live of luxury and erotic conquests by the mysterious Christian Grey.

Thoughts: Oh, boy. Where to begin? It would have been one star if it wasn’t so laughable. Obviously, I didn’t read this because I thought it would be a literary masterpiece. I saw the movie and vouch that it’s so bad it’s good and I wanted to see if the book was just as bad. Also with a lot of discourse around the book about BDSM vs. abuse I wanted to get the full picture. The book is somehow worse than the movie, probably because over the 6+ hours I wasted reading it, it became so damn repetitive. How many times can one girl bite her damn lip? I have decided that both the book and movie don’t send a positive message about sex and relationships, except maybe if they explicitly painted this story as an anti-example, which they don’t. (start spoiler) Christian should not have preyed on such an inexperienced girl for his sex acts before she had time to decide for herself if that’s something she wanted to explore. He tells her to “embrace” feeling demeaned for him, threatens to take away her gifts if she doesn’t reply to him every single second of every single day, he’s possessive, jealous, aggressive, manipulative and entitled. He also got turned on when she said “no,” rapist much? Although I know the dominant/submissive relationship is popular in the bedroom, it rarely extends to real life, where partners can exercise independence and open communication. (end spoiler)

Other adaptations: The series has been made into films that have ratings from 12-33% on Rotten Tomatoes. To be fair, the film didn’t have much to work with. But, only seeing the first one, all I can say is that I think it’s so bad it’s good.

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman

9781250169440_p0_v4_s550x406Rating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

GoodReads rating: 4.27 / 5 (122,400 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 31/07 – 03/08

Summary: “[T]he story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera.” They discover total intimacy and love that lasts a lifetime.

Thoughts: I felt at times this book was unnecessarily meta and dragged on at times, but all in all, not bad. I really liked the idea of Elio being close to both his lady friend and Oliver at the same time, because love isn’t always limited to one person and can manifest in different ways.

Other adaptations: The 2017 movie is critcally acclaimed, I’d really like to see it. Plus, Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer are super hot together. Perfectly casted.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

81ZLO1VwpBLRating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, animals

GoodReads rating: 3.87 / 5 (17,900 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 05/08 – 07/08

Summary: The author explores cognition and personality in octopuses (not octopi) from the tanks of the New England Aquarium to the reefs of Mexico, breaking barriers in animal intelligence.

Thoughts: I loved this book! I pretty much live and breathe marine biology and this was no exception, there’s always something more to learn.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

39072210Rating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction

GoodReads rating: 3.69 / 5 (58,500 ratings)

Medium used: Hardback (purchased from Bookman’s in Tucson, Arizona)

Date started/ finished: 05/08 – 07/08

Summary: When a shooter comes into a women’s reproductive center, the people inside from all different walks of life are brought together to stay alive.

Thoughts: Her books are always hit (My Sister’s Keeper and The Storyteller are some of my all-time favorite books) or meh for me. This one was very meh. Don’t get me wrong, they are easy to read and go by quickly, but this one was underwhelming. I do appreciate the book at this dark time in women’s reproductive history and ridiculous lack of gun laws, but something was missing I can’t quite put my finger on. The “twist” was not very gag-worthy and underdeveloped and I wasn’t crazy about the risk she took with the writing style: going in reverse chronological order. I’m a big fan of her multiple point of views style instead.

Have you read any of these? Which did you enjoy?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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