Woman eager to establish roots in Homer
Tovar fell in love with the natural beauty and people
For the past four years, Mariza Tovar has been dividing her time between India and Alaska. Now she is eager to call Homer home.
She first visited Alaska in 2012 to help a friend work on his properties in Fairbanks and Kodiak. While in Kodiak, she was hired to work with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and has spent the following summers counting salmon in Kodiak and Dutch Harbor.
"I live remotely with no cell or Internet, no running water and my electricity is solar or a generator," she said. "There is a peace and acceptance of the present moment that isn't as easily attainable in the fast-paced, over-stimulating world."
Mariza has developed a deep respect for salmon.
"There's something incredibly beautiful about them," she said. "They'll go swimming up through the weir with their eyes floating behind them or with chunks of their bodies missing. I've never seen any other creature with will power, strength and endurance like that."
Mariza has also spent time in Homer in the fall and winter. Two winters ago, she created A Bite of India, and sold Indian food at the Wildberry Emporium and the Nutcracker Faire.
Born to parents and grandparents from Mexico, she is the first generation in her family to be born in the United States. She grew up in California, Wyoming, Montana and Alberta.
In 2010, at 24 years old, Mariza set off on her first solo hitchhiking trip, thumbing her way around the Olympic Peninsula.
"I knew I wanted to do a longer trip, so I thought I'd start with a short one," she said.
Having met many kind and interesting people on this trip, she hit the road again later that year, when a relationship ended. This time, spending three months hitchhiking the Washington and Oregon coast and then cycling from southern Oregon to San Francisco.
Initially drawn to hitchhiking because of her background in cultural anthropology and her love of adapting to new situations, Mariza found a deeper meaning as she traveled.
"For the first time, I really connected with this country," she said. "Growing up as an immigrant child, people always try to categorize me as Mexican and I never really felt American. Hitchhiking, I met people from all over the U.S. who were proud to be American and from a range of socio-economic and political backgrounds. It was the ones who had the least and gave the most that really touched my heart and re-worked my internal meaning of what being American is."
One such experience that left a profound impression on her was during her cycling trip.
"I cycled next to an elderly woman and she explained that she and her husband participate in Warm Showers, an online group that hosts cyclists from all over the world," Mariza said. "I stayed in a cabin they had built and was inspired by the life they created together. Like so many others I met on the road, from them I learned that there is more love and compassion out there than people recognize."
In 2012, Mariza set out on her first solo international trip, traveling to India for the traditional folk music, and the food.
"I was cooking and selling Indian food in California and I wanted to learn the real thing from people in their kitchens," she said.
While in India, she met Harish Vasavan, who she married in 2016, after being together for three years.
Today, Mariza divides her time between India and Alaska. From the first time she visited Homer while on her way to catch a ferry to Kodiak, to the other times she has visited, she appreciates the natural beauty.
"Getting to Homer was like a deep breath of fresh air — being back on the ocean and being greeted by the glacier," she said.
Today, she is eager to establish roots in the community, drawn to the beauty of the area, but even more, to the beauty of the individuals she has come to know, especially, local woman, Kate Rich.
"Having a good friend like Kate is like having family, and being here with her feels like home," Mariza shared.
In the middle of September, Mariza's mother, Manuela will be traveling from Wyoming to visit her in Homer. She is the first of Mariza's family to visit Alaska. The two will spend time together enjoying the community Mariza loves, with the people she loves.
This fall, Mariza will return to India. She and her husband are currently working on his visa paperwork.
"We're hoping we can move to Homer in a year," she said. "I've been telling him how Alaska feels like its own country and has its own culture, vibe and lifestyle. He's excited."
Mariza's short-term goals include continuing to work for Fish and Game in the summers, expanding her graphic design company, Black Fire Graphics, and continuing to grow herself musically. Her long-term goals include buying land and building a home in Homer, with her husband by her side.