Do you ever dream of being away from it all and living life on your own terms in the woods, like Henry David Thoreau? The idea has its attractions sometimes, especially when modern society proves vexing.
The idea’s nice to ponder — especially when I’m sitting near a lake or walking through a forest — but I don’t think I could ever really do it for long, though. I’d eventually miss the conveniences of modern society — movies, books, socializing with my family and friends — and would return.
Chris McCandless, whose story was immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, was a young man who did pull off the Thoreau existence in Alaska for a time. I’d heard of the movie (haven’t seen it yet), but when I came across the book, I was curious to read the backstory.
(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie.)
Krakauer depicts an intelligent, idealistic and rebellious young man whose drive to escape to Alaska was particularly strong. McCandless, who traveled under the name “Alex Supertramp”, seems to have had a gift for making friends on his travels. You can see that in the book.
The book contained a major surprise, for me at least: Chris McCandless came from the Washington, DC metro area. When he and his family lived in the area, I may have passed by them at the mall or walked past them at a store.
Who knows? Life is funny that way.
Tragically, McCandless underestimated the Alaskan wilderness and died there in his twenties. He would be in his early 50s now if he had survived.
Were you happy, Chris? Did you ever see the Northern Lights? I envy you that (I still want to see them — Alaska’s on my bucket list).
From what the book says, McCandless eventually intended to abandon his solitary existence and live with friends in South Dakota while he figured out what to do next. I suspect McCandless would have made a good writer.
I wish he’d had the chance.
Video credit: YouTube Movies, YouTube.