Life in Alaska provides an education on everything from small-town etiquette to survivalist skills. Of course, some lessons are easier to swallow than others, since the unique difficulties we face up north can make for harrowing material. Here are 8 hard truths living in Alaska will teach you to accept.

1. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

…And in the land of cold and darkness, failure can have dire consequences. We’ve all heard horror stories about people who meet a terrible end in the dead of winter or the backcountry, so we prepare accordingly. Why else do you think we’ve always got a flashlight, extra batteries, drinking water, several months’ supply of food, and a well-stocked emergency kit at home, or arm ourselves with disaster-preparedness kits, bear spray, and firearms anytime we travel?

2. Sometimes pain is inevitable.

We are no strangers to discomfort since life here can be rough around the edges. We quickly learned from a young age that no amount of layering will keep you warm in certain kinds of cold — and then there’s the pain of having to pay and arm and a leg for gasoline and groceries, and the social isolation. We know that sometimes, pain is inescapable, and there’s little one can do but grin and bear it.

3. Life holds no guarantees.

With our oil-dependent boom and bust economy, swings in the fishing and tourism seasons, and the looming possibility that we’ll be swallowed up by some natural disaster, we Alaskans understand better than anyone that there’s no certainty in life, and sometimes you have to roll with the punches. We have our backup plans, of course, but we know at the end of the day some things are out of our control, so we set our expectations accordingly.

4. All good things come to an end.

Maybe this message is so well-ingrained because we live at the mercy the seasons. Either way, we know that eventually, all good things must come to an end — from the summer daylight to when they stopped manufacturing Xtratufs in the USA.

5. What goes around comes around.

Community being the lifeblood of Alaska’s small towns, people who live out in the middle of nowhere together, stay together. We’re a surrogate family who looks out for each other, which can be a double-edged sword. Reputation is everything, and nowhere will karma smack you harder in the face than when your wrongdoing or bad intentions come to light here.

6. Manual labor builds character.

Whether cutting and stacking firewood, helping with a house remodel or commercial fishing with our parents, most of us grow up doing some kind of manual labor on the regular. As much as we might complain about working with our hands, deep down we know some of our most important life lessons were acquired in the hours spent doing physical work.

7. Life on the frontier isn’t all romance.

Jack London and Christopher McCandless may have romanticized the rugged north, but real Alaskans know life up here can be far from poetic. In fact, sometimes it feels more “brutish, nasty, and short” — like when your hair freezes and breaks off during extreme cold snaps. Or the smell of manure fills the air during springtime. Or when you kill a salmon by smashing its head against a rock.

8. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Make that free shipping. There’s no such thing as free shipping.

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