One of the toughest towns in the country, but not for the reasons you’re thinking
If you were to ask someone where they thought the toughest town in the country was, you might expect to hear people come up with names such as Compton, Atlanta, Detroit, “Killadelphia”, New York City and so on. You might not necessarily expect to hear anyone mention Barrow, Alaska. Yet Barrow is one of the toughest places to live in the world and you can bet that most of your tough guys from the ‘hood wouldn’t be able to hack it up there.
So what is it that makes Barrow so tough? It’s the northernmost settlement in the United States, and that’s explains a lot of the reasons why it’s so tough. For 69 days a year, the sun doesn’t even shine on Barrow. Its residents spend an entire month of darkness every year, and a further two with minimal natural light. This can drive some people crazy. There is an established link between depression, suicide and exposure to daylight. As if that wasn’t enough, just to freak you out, at the other end of the year, there’s a full month in which the sun refuses to set. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, it’s not going anywhere. That sun is going to be lighting up your bedroom at 11pm, midnight, 2am, 11am, 5pm… you name the time, it’s still going to be there. And it will be the same tomorrow and the day after, and next week and the week after that for a whole month. The following month it might dip below the horizon so you might get a darker blue in the sky for that month until it decides to go AWOL again and just not show up at all. All of this is completely unnatural for human beings and gives the impression of living on an alien world.
And that’s another thing about Barrow. It kind of looks like an alien world. The landscape is just white. Some of it is ice and the rest of it is snow. Although it might seem a little presumptuous to own a snow blower here, you’d better take a look at SnowShifts now because you’re going to be needing one to dig your snowmobile out when you need to go somewhere.
That’s another thing, there aren’t all that many places to go. Barrow is technically a city, but in reality it’s a very small town. You could drive around the whole place in about 15 minutes. And if you wanted to get out? Well, there is no road out of town. You’re not driving out. In the summer, the temperature can get up to the dizzying heights of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning you can go out with just two or three layers of clothing on. In the winter it can plummet to below -56 degrees, not something your tough guys from the Dirty Peach are going to be able to handle. On top of all that, you can expect 60mph winds all year round.
It takes mental toughness to live in such an inhospitable and isolated place. Everyone knows each other and that’s pretty much all the people there are to know. You can’t just drive over to the next town – that’s 500 miles away and there’s one flight a day. You could always take the snowmobile out for a spin but watch out you don’t get caught in a blizzard and die of frostbite or even get eaten by a hungry polar bear.
With that in mind, if you have the toughness of mind that it takes, you might really love Barrow. It offers you a different way to live your life away from the world of strip malls, endless commercials and conversations about how the world is going to hell. You can enjoy the incredible Northern Lights from the comfort of your own home, see whales and polar bears and share a unique experience with a small group of people. There’s no alcohol allowed in Barrow, either, so your liver will thank you for it and you might actually become a productive person living a fruitful life. So come on, tough guy, what are you waiting for?