To travelers from more populated areas of the world, Alaska can seem like another planet. It is otherworldly in its difference, with its vast wilderness, free-roaming wildlife, and splendid scenery. But the call of the wild is also a call to our roots—to a rich fabric of nature that speaks to our primeval past. That other world is also an ancient home. All it takes to answer the "why" question is a visit to the state. There is simply no comparable travel destination on Earth.
A more important question might be, "What’s the best way to see Alaska?" Tourists make a mistake when they treat the state as they might treat Washington, D.C., or Yellowstone. In Alaska, it is less appropriate to carry a "must-see" destination list and drive from sight to sight or viewpoint to viewpoint. The state is so richly endowed with stunning mountains, awesome glaciers, and impressive wildlife that, in a way, there’s no place to go—you’re already there!
If you’re wise, you won’t come to Alaska to collect snapshots and T-shirts, but to seek experience. Head into the wild country. Feel the power of a land that is geologically violent, climatologically raw, and biologically inhuman. Nose your kayak into bergs of a Kenai Fjords glacier, hoping you’re not a little too close to the calving river of ice that sloughed them off. Listen to the motor of a floatplane fade into the distance, the pilot having promised to retrieve you a week later from a lonely gravel bar, 50 miles away across the Brooks Range. Leave your tentsite for a sunset hike in the Wrangells, knowing that a grizzly sow and her cubs might be trundling silently through the alders just over the next rise. If your Alaska visit is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, come not as a tourist, but as an explorer.