As I write this I’m sitting at the front of the ship, with a 180 degree view of the ocean passing by as we cruise towards Alaska. It’s a wonderfully meditative way to reflect on the past 6 weeks and all we’ve experienced, seen and learned.
One of our main thoughts has been how our VISA limitations do not allow for adequately exploring any country and how tough it has been deciding how to spend the time we do have. Ask any local for advice and you get so many conflicting suggestions – you end up just deciding based on what your gut feels is right and knowing you can’t possible see and do it all… Our main approach has been avoiding cities and tourist destinations where possible, preferring nature and off the beaten track. That having been said, we’ve enjoyed experiencing a number of typical ‘tourist’ attractions, such as the Boeing Manufacturing Facility in Everett, near Seattle, Washington and Whistler in Canada, B.C.
Our greatest joy thus far has been the people we’ve met and spending time getting to know individuals, being allowed a glimpse into their lives and communities. We keep our minds and hearts open and have marvelled at discovering so many new ways of living. We’ve had to learn to accept the many offers of help and get out of our own way in terms of our mindset which has been erring on the side of politely declining. An offer of a futon in the lounge becoming the greater gift of sharing a special moment in the lives of an amazing family. Alex and Kristi have been hosting us near Seattle and storing our motorcycles whilst we cruise to Alaska. The best way to describe Alex is “a massive 6 foot 6 of energy, enthusiasm, generosity and mischief!” He has laughed at our naivety and curiosity as we’ve been exposed to things we’ve never experienced before such as gun shops and weed shops. He has enthusiastically helped us with last minute preparations and showcased his neighbourhood, including a trip to the local weed shop, which has been sheer fascination.
As we arrived off the ferry from Canada we passed the first psychedelically painted weed shop. I wanted to stop for this ‘rare’ photo opportunity but was soon agog when this became a regular occurrence – weed shops or pot shops are all over Washington State, as recreational marijuana is legal! It is common to see road signs saying “don’t drug and drive” whereas we are used to seeing signs saying “don’t drink and drive” in Australia. In British Columbia, Canada we had often smelled weed in public places. Chatting with locals we were told it is ‘tolerated’ and ‘not enforced’, although marijuana is currently still illegal. New laws have recently been passed towards legalising marijuana in BC.
In Washington State in the US recreational marijuana has been legal for about 2 years and Alex showed us the stats in terms of dollars generated for the State in taxes and the money made by growers and retailers is astounding. We debated the pros and cons endlessly and found ourselves talking in circles about informed adult consent and ‘other addictive and harmful drugs’ such as alcohol and tobacco, which have been legal and widely accepted for ages across the world. Interestingly the local laws stipulate that you cannot advertise cigarettes, yet bill boards advertise recreational marijuana – as a result of regulatory considerations for marijuana still being in early stages.
After reading more about the marijuana trade in WA, we realised that regulatory frameworks, branding and marketing is what it’s all about. We found outstanding examples of brand loyalty created through clever marketing campaigns. Amazingly consumers are informed by and invested in marijuana brands. I found it really bizarre to experience something I’ve only ever known as ‘illicit’ – suddenly so openly accepted and talked about. Visiting a weed shop in WA out of curiosity, I was acutely aware of my emotions and thoughts…’personal views on marijuana use aside…in another place I’d be committing a crime for what I was doing in Washington State.’