So…I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer a few years ago. I’d found a paperback copy of it at the Goodwill store for 99 cents (probably broke a dollar after taxes, but anyway.) I wanted to read it at the time because people seemed to make a big to-do about it and I wanted to see what it was all about.
I mean, who can turn down morbid curiosity, right? Why did a 24 year old guy who had everything give it all up only to die in the middle of nowhere Alaska?
Well…the first time around I found the book to be a little disappointing. I was intrigued at the beginning of the book and then when I hit Krakauer’s personal musings I found my interest in it drift away. I didn’t really care about his interjections and long monologues about his life. I want to know more about Chris McCandless for crying out loud!
Fast foreword a few years later.
After seeing the movie (very well done, I think they fleshed McCandless out very well) and reading his sister’s memoir (also a very good book, if you’re interested, the title is The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless), I have now brought myself to come back to the book that started me on the path to survival stories (or at least one of the first.) And surprisingly, I’m enjoying the book much more the second time around. I think it’s because I’m older now and have read other accounts that have fleshed out who McCandless really was and it’s made me more aware of what he was doing with his life and why he was doing it.
People have made comments that McCandless was reckless and irresponsible in his preparations for Alaska and to that I agree. He didn’t know how to dress for the weather there, nor did he know how to hunt or survive off the land for that environment. I think he should’ve been under the tutelage of someone who’d been there for several years and could help him succeed in what he wanted to do. In spite of his volatile relationship with his parents (and rightful anger towards them), he had people who deeply cared for him, including his sister, and wanted him to succeed and be a part of their lives, to which he abandoned and even hurt immensely. I mean, that eighty year old man who wanted to adopt him just broke my heart.
I can also understand why he did what he did. We as a society have created expectations of each other that doesn’t and can’t always fit certain types of people. Why do we force each other to live a certain way and do certain things when some of us would rather travel the country and be survivalists? Living a traditional life isn’t for everyone. Of course, there’s healthy ways to approach this, but why shouldn’t he go off and see the country on his own terms? He was a hard worker and wanted to see the world in the way he saw fit. It might have been extreme but he did what he was born to do.
And shouldn’t that be the way for all of us? Shouldn’t we stop living in our restricted lives and start focusing on what we always dreamed of doing? Writing, rock climbing, painting…traveling? If there’s a dream deep within our hearts, then we should go out and live it.
But I could be wrong. Maybe McCandless was just a reckless dude who needed to be reined in. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell. I’l let you know if I find an answer.