So here’s the thing: if you know me you absolutely know what my favorite book is. I always talk about it and always ask everyone to watch the movie with me. I tell everyone this book will completely change their life. So for this blog post I am going to write about exactly why Into the Wild is by far my favorite book, and why I admire Chris McCandless so much.
The first thing I want to say about Into the Wild is the fact that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve talked to a lot of people about the story and it seems some people just understand it and others do not. Some people, like myself, view Christopher McCandless as an intellectual that pushed the boundaries of conventional society by daring to live, but some people view him as a narcissistic lunatic who was extremely optimistic and naive. I see both perspectives, but like I said I believe he was incredibly intelligent, and I truly admire what he set out to do and what he accomplished.
I guess it would be helpful for those of you who have not read Into the Wild to get a bit more background on the story. I am going to explain the story a bit in my own words, but I am also going to link author, Jon Krakauer’s, original Outside article on Chris McCandless as well. (http://donna-mason.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/61395682/deathofaninnocent.pdf)
Into the Wild is a true story based off of the life of Christopher Johnson McCandless. The summer after his graduation from Emory University he donated his life savings of $24,000 to the Oxfam America, which is a charity to fight against poverty. Then he set out west towards Arizona. This was June 1990. Chris abandoned his yellow Datsun & burned the rest of his remaining cash; which was about a total of $160 in defiance of conventional society. Within this act, one which would have made Thoreau proud, Alexander Supertramp was born. He roamed the country for nearly two years, alone, experiencing a liberating and nomadic existence until his body was discovered in an abandoned transit bus in the bush outside of Healy, Alaska.
Chris spent nearly two years tramping around the west, but in April 1992 Chris made his way up to the last frontier to fulfill his Alaskan odyssey. He set out to live off the land in Alaska far away from the confounds of society. You see, Chris was a well accomplished outdoorsman and had managed to navigate the southwest for nearly 2 years with little money and possessions. However, others argue Alaska is unforgivingly wild and that Chris was incredibly underprepared for the Alaskan bush. I can't argue that he was not underprepared; he was. Without said, Chris more than held his own in the Alaskan wilderness; for nearly 4 months living off of the Stampede Trail, a few miles outside of Healy, Chris found an an old transit bus, which is referred to as the 142 Magic Bus. This is where he made his home and lived off the land hunting and foraging. His death was ruled as "starvation", and while his death is often debated a scientific study conducted by author himself, Jon Krakauer, suggested that an amino acid within the potato seeds Chris has consumed, in a large quantity, contributed to his demise. I will attach an excerpt from Krakauer's article below.
With that said, the book Into the Wild depicts Chris' journey and encounters throughout his two years of traveling, and his Alaskan odyssey. Chris traveled all along the southwest visiting places such as the Detrital Wash, Bullhead City, the Slabs, the Grand Canyon, Carthage, and many more. Chris was inspired by authors such as Jack London, Tolstoy, & Thoreau. Excerpts from the books he had annotated were included within Into the Wild. I appreciate this because it gives us more insight into his thinking and how he viewed life, because he lived by "a rigorous moral code". Chris was intelligent and an educated man, and perhaps that is why I admire him and his story so much.
I see glimpses of myself within Alexander Supertramp and obviously I can’t speak for Chris, but what I can say from what I’ve read and my own experience is that Chris had an intense drive and passion for life, and as do I. Quite often I think of a letter he wrote in which he claims he might make a home in Bullhead City, but expects his ”his itchy” feet to return soon. This is a feeling I often experience, and I credit for my craving to travel and experience the world. I have such admiration for the journey he completed, and his spontaneous and independent nature.
I had always planned to visit the 142 magic bus. I had even gotten a tattoo on my right wrist with the number "142" in the same font as the bus to remind myself to never conform to societies standards and be my own unique, independent, and spontaneous individual. Unfortunately, days after getting my tattoo, I found out that the Magic Bus had been removed from it's original location. While I understand why the bus was removed, personally I do not think that people will stop visiting it's location. I am extremely glad that it is being moved to a museum, and will be available for the public to see and appreciate. One day I plan to see the bus in person, and perhaps I will even see the original site, but who knows where life will take me.