The Woman So Homesick She Walked From New York to Alaska

Despite living in one of the mostly densely populated cities in America, Lillian Alling felt completely and utterly alone. A Russian immigrant, the 25-year-old Alling was introverted and reserved, furthering her sense of isolation. She perceived the New Yorkers of the 1920s to be aloof and elitist, looking down their noses at a foreigner struggling to feel like she belonged.

Alling had worked steadily since arriving in New York two years earlier, saving up money to board a steamer ship back to her native Russia. Despite her best attempts, she never had enough. Low on funds and desperate to return home, she packed a handful of possessions and began walking. Her plan was to make the more than 5000-mile trek on foot, refusing anyone who asked for an explanation.

Over the next several years, Alling would become known in the Yukon as a mysterious figure who hiked along paths that proved difficult even for experienced outdoorsmen. She was headed for Siberia, she said, and nothing—not winter, sickness, or the law—would stop her.

 While Alling would later morph into a folklore heroine of plays and poems, her biographers have been unable to uncover only traces of information about her past. It’s likely she arrived in New York City in 1925, but whether she was accompanied by any family or was compelled to move to America for any specific reason is unknown. Alling herself was of little help, answering only“I go to Siberia” when asked about her walk. She would later admit to making frequent trips to the New York Public Library to study geography, drawing herself a path that police would later declare an impressive piece of amateur cartography.

She began her trek by walking to Buffalo in late 1926 or early 1927. From there, it was on to Canada, and across the country into British Columbia. Alling was an unusual sight, with her mismatched men’s shoes and bedraggled clothing. It wasn’t often that females were found strolling alone for miles—Alling carried a metal bar for protection—and sometimes locals would feel compelled to ask who she was and what she was doing.

“I go to Siberia,” she repeated, barely slowing down her gait.

By mid-1927, Alling had gotten as far as Hazelton, British Columbia and the mouth of the Yukon Telegraph Trail, a rugged stretch of land covering over 1000 miles that linked Canada's far north with southern British Columbia. Every 20 to 30 miles, Alling would come across a cabin occupied by one of the trail’s linesmen, men responsible for maintaining communications equipment. Early in the trip, she was intercepted by a telegraph operator who found her appearance remarkable—her clothes torn and her skin stretched thin over her face, thanks to a diet of bread, roots, and berries that made her appear malnourished. Concerned, he called authorities.

The constable who answered the lineman’s call, J.A. Wyman, was distressed by the woman’s goal and feared that allowing her to continue would be unethical. He arrested her for vagrancy; a judge sentenced her to several months at the Oakhalla Prison Farm in Vancouver more out of concern than punishment. There, she’d be sheltered and fed until she regained her strength.

At the end of her time, Alling wasn't any less determined to continue her journey, though she stayed in Vancouver through spring 1928 to work and save money before resuming her walk. The judge had no legal grounds to interfere, but made her promise to continue checking in with the occupied cabins along the Telegraph Trail. She fulfilled the promise, accepting warm meals, changes of clothing, and even a canine companion from the sympathetic linesmen through the summer of 1928.

Word of Alling reached the town of Dawson City before she did, and local newspapers delivered breathless reporting of her progress and refusal to become a hitchhiker. “Mr. Chambers offered to give her a ride to the fork of the read but she declined,” read one piece. And in another: “The people of Dawson have been looking forward with an unusual degree of curiosity for her arrival there.”

The “mystery woman” arrived in town just in time for winter, where her stubborn forward motion would finally slow. She took a job as a waitress and used the money to buy a small, dilapidated boat, which she spent her free time repairing. When the weather grew warmer, she began paddling across the Yukon River to Alaska, where she is reported to have made it at least as far as Nome. From there, she would have to convince native people to take her across the Bering Strait and into Siberia. After years of traveling on foot, Alling was closer than ever to home.

 Alling’s modest boat was left on the coast of the Bering Strait in 1929. It would be the last physical trace of her that anyone was able to definitively identify. If she made it back into Russia, it would have been difficult for word to come back to the curious residents of Dawson City or any of the other towns she had passed through. At minimum, she had walked 5000 miles, with the spacing of the linesman cabins indicating she had often logged as much as 30 milesa day.

For decades, Alaska's Bering coast was where Alling’s story ended. Then, in 1972, an author named Francis Dickie published an account of Alling’s trip in True West magazine. Shortly thereafter, Dickie heard from a reader named Arthur Elmore who wrote in with a compelling postscript. Moore claimed that he had visited a town called Yakutsk in Siberia some seven years earlier. There, Elmore met up with a friend who had been in the Russian town of Provideniya in 1930.

Moore’s friend relayed the tale of a woman in tattered clothing who had been standing near the shore of the Bering Strait surrounded by native people from the Diomede Islands, which lie in between Alaska and Siberia. The entire party was being questioned by officials, who were suspicious of the visitors.

He overheard the woman talking about how she was an outsider in America and felt like she had to make a journey back home. She had walked a great distance, she said, but finally made it.

No one can say with certainty the woman of Elmore’s story was Lillian Alling. But to think she had spent years in dogged pursuit of her goal only to perish so close to the end seems improbable. Only about 50 miles of the Strait remained, and Alling had proven herself to be resourceful and stubborn beyond belief. Having come so far, the mists of the Bering and its dangerous waters seem inconsequential. For what little we truly know about Alling, one thing is a certainty: She would do anything to get home.

The World’s 50 Most Beautiful Cities

A peek at Bruges, Belgium.
A peek at Bruges, Belgium.
Yasonya/iStock via Getty Images

The multitude of blogs, websites, and social media accounts dedicated expressly to travel means that we now have a seemingly infinite number of resources to help us decide where to book our next vacation. Having the world at our fingertips is undoubtedly a great thing, but it can also make the final choice seem pretty far out of reach.

To help you decide what’s worth using that precious PTO for, Canada-based travel agency FlightNetwork asked more than 1000 travel experts—professional writers, recreational bloggers, travel agencies, and more—to share their insights on which cities around the globe are quite simply the best.

Though the resulting list is called the world's 50 "most beautiful" cities, it’s “beauty” in a much broader sense than just visual appeal. If you delve into some of the individual entries in FlightNetwork’s guide, you’ll come to find that history, culture, food, entertainment, and other elements have significantly factored into the experts’ assessments of each city.

And, according to these experts (and probably everyone else in the world), Paris really does have it all, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, and wine so fine it might ruin you for all other beverages.

New York was the runner-up, because apparently not even the grimy subway rats can dull the sparkle of the City That Never Sleeps. While it might not boast the same snow-capped mountain peaks of Vancouver or the radiant beaches of Barcelona, the sheer quantity and variety of activities The Big Apple has to offer make it a must-visit—maybe more than once.

“You could visit hundreds of times and still discover new things on every trip. It has it all,” David Jagger, reporter for Bradford, England's Telegraph & Argus, told FlightNetwork.

The rest of the top 10 was mostly filled up by other cities that you probably expected to see on this list, like London, Venice, and Rome. Having said that, if you’re a “road less traveled” type of person, there are plenty of offbeat options for you, too. Colombia’s Cartagena, number 44, is a beachgoer’s paradise—complete with a breathtaking cathedral and castle—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming waterfront town than Bruges, Belgium, number 26 on the list.

Scroll on to see the full top 50, and read more about each city in FlightNetwork’s guide here.

      1. Paris, France
      2. New York, New York
      3. London, England
      4. Venice, Italy
      5. Vancouver, Canada
      6. Barcelona, Spain
      7. Cape Town, South Africa
      8. San Francisco, California
      9. Sydney, Australia
      10. Rome, Italy
      11. Singapore, Singapore
      12. Lisbon, Portugal
      13. Amsterdam, Netherlands
      14. Prague, Czech Republic
      15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
      16. Budapest, Hungary
      17. Istanbul, Turkey
      18. Tokyo, Japan
      19. Vienna, Austria
      20. Buenos Aires, Argentina
      21. Toronto, Canada
      22. San Diego, California
      23. Quebec City, Canada
      24. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
      25. Chicago, Illinois
      26. Bruges, Belgium
      27. Madrid, Spain
      28. Havana, Cuba
      29. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
      30. Jerusalem, Israel
      31. Edinburgh, Scotland
      32. Quito, Ecuador
      33. Zurich, Switzerland
      34. Cusco, Peru
      35. St. Petersburg, Russia
      36. Berlin, Germany
      37. Hanoi, Vietnam
      38. Queenstown, New Zealand
      39. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
      40. Seoul, South Korea
      41. Dubrovnik, Croatia
      42. San Sebastian, Spain
      43. Bangkok, Thailand
      44. Cartagena, Colombia
      45. Dublin, Ireland
      46. Marrakesh, Morocco
      47. Bergen, Norway
      48. Jaipur, India
      49. Beijing, China
      50. Athens, Greece

There Are 13 Winter Road Hazards in This Image—Can You Spot Them All?

trendobjects/iStock via Getty Images
trendobjects/iStock via Getty Images

If you've already found the hidden stocking and the sheep among the Santas in these brainteasers, see if you can solve another seasonal puzzle that's both fun and educational. The hidden image challenge below, which is a collaboration between Specialised Covers and IAM RoadSmart, is filled with winter road hazards experienced drivers will recognize.

This puzzle fits 13 hazards into a scene of cars driving down a snowy road. According to the makers of the image, it takes the average person 32 seconds to find them all. See if you can beat that time, and then check out the picture below for the answers.

Puzzle of winter road hazards.
Specialised Covers

Winter weather like snow and freezing rain make for dangerous conditions when traveling by car. Some driving risks—like large snow drifts—are obvious, while others are harder to spot.

Factors like freezing temperatures, darker days, and nasty weather make winter a treacherous time to hit the road in many parts of the country. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, an average of 800 fatalities a year occurred as a result of weather-related accidents between 2011 and 2015. Here are some tips for staying safe while driving this winter.

Solutions to winter road hazards puzzle.
Specialised Covers

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER