“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, an obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospital board. The hospitality was as cold as the ices.”
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden
In the spring of April 1992 a young man named Chris McCandless walked into the Alaskan wilderness to live off the wild. His decomposing body was found in September inside a bus by moose hunters.
Chris took to the road directly after graduating from Emory University in 1990. He traveled the continental U.S. and part of Mexico. His movements took him from Arizona, to California, to the Dakotas, to Washington state, and eventually Alaska. He donated his life savings to charity, burned his remaining cash, and simply migrated from place to place. He picked up work along the way to fuel his journey, but ultimately desired to take his odyssey into the Alaskan wilderness.
Chris changed his name to Alexander Supertramp and discontinued all contact with his family. He was driven by a need to explore the wilderness, externally as well as internally. Amongst many writers to pick up on the trail of Alexander Supertramp, Jon Krakauer captured this odyssey best. He initially wrote an article for Outside magazine, but became so obsessed that he wrote Into the Wild to elaborate on the heart and soul of this traveler. Men’s Journal went on to summarize this work as “Sensational… [Krakauer] is such a good reporter that we come as close as we probably ever can to another person’s heart and soul.”
Krakauer interviews family members, people whom Chris met on the road, and analyzes previous travelers cut from the same cloth to paint the entire landscape surrounding this tale. What’s interesting about this subject is how much it polarizes its readers. Some people think that Chris was a clueless idiot who ventured into the wild. I’ve met people who actually said that he deserved what he got. Others view the story from a more romantic perspective and appreciate the attempt, intellect, and will power to break away from modern society for that long.
Whichever side you may take, there’s no doubt that Mr. Supertramp left an impression on everyone he met. He wrote, “so many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun” (pg. 56-57). He believed this and encouraged others to do the same.
He was consumed with nature and nature ultimately consumed him, but his spirit lives on within Krakauer’s text. It’s a wonderful read for those who favor simplicity and minimalism.
I pass this off to you.