Originally from Washington, Nellie Helm arrived at Talaheim at the age of 14. She was supposed to stay two weeks, to help her Aunt Felicia plant flowers, but those two weeks turned into a full summer, and then that summer turned into another summer. Nellie’s now in her mid-twenties and if anything breaks at Talaheim, she’s the first person people turn to.

She describes herself as Mark’s puppy dog. “Mainly I just follow Mark around all day and do what he tells me.” Those chores range from chopping firewood, changing out a propane tank, staining a building, “and, oh, ya – cutting down trees.”

In fact, one of Nellie’s first jobs, at the age of fourteen, was to cut down four trees. She had never touched a chainsaw before and after a quick tutorial, Mark flew to Anchorage and left her to it. “Oh snap,” Nellie said. “I forgot to ask Mark how to chop down a tree!” But she figured it out, and thankfully– with a mixture of God’s grace and beginner’s luck– Nellie is still alive to tell the story.

After the work is done for the day, Nellie loves chatting with the guests. “It’s a weird bubble that you don’t experience elsewhere. Everyone’s from all different walks of life, they’re off their phones, and you can’t help but connect. At the end of the week you feel like you’ve gained another family member. Sometimes I cry when they leave. It’s a beautiful cycle.”

She credits the success of Talaheim with the fact that everyone is working toward the same goal. “We’re all there to keep the train going, but the exciting part is, we all want to keep the train going. We want to deliver the optimal experience, not just for our guests, but for us.”

Today you can find Nellie in Alaska working on a plane, or flying a plane. She not only caught the pilot bug while at Talaheim, she fell in love with the Last Frontier. “When I think of Talaheim I get a sense of peace. It’s a lifestyle I never knew I wanted until I was living it. Now I can’t think of life without it.”

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I moved to Alaska permanently in 2019. During the winters I work as an airplane mechanic in Anchorage.
Someday I’d like my own air strip, my own vegetable garden. I’d like to have solar panels like Talaheim does and provide my own electricity. I see myself living the dream, off the grid.
I gained confidence. Mark had so much faith in me – even when I didn’t have faith in me. I learned to just go for it, that it’s all a matter of trial and error, and that even the errors are good lessons to learn. After that first summer at Talaheim, life had so much more color. The world became vibrant.