Travel Book of the Week : Into the Wild

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This week (by week, I mean I finished it in a day) I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  While this may not be your typical travel book and definitely does not have a happy ending, there’s still so much that I, and I believe other travelers, can relate to.  When you start reading this book, it’s no secret how it ends but it doesn’t make it any less interesting.

Into_the_Wild_(book)_cover

On September 6, 1992, Christopher McCandless’s body was found inside an abandoned bus in Alaska.  Between the time McCandless graduates in 1990 and the time is body is found in 1992, he lives the kind of life not many can relate to.  After seeing his family at his graduation from Emory, Chris ceased all communication with them, gave away $24,000 meant for law school to charity and started driving across Western United States.

When his beloved car was flooded and he had no way of jumping the battery, he also abandoned it, burned all the cash he had and set out on foot.  McCandless stopped using his legal name and went by Alexander Supertramp.  After almost two years of hitchhiking, working random jobs, meeting new people, and going on some pretty crazy adventures, McCandless decided he wanted to live off the land in Alaska.  In April 28, 1992, McCandless hitchhiked to the Stampede Trail in Alaska and over 100 days later, he died of starvation.

While I, of course, don’t want to follow his footsteps, McCandless’s way of thinking was something to be noted.  In a letter he wrote to Franz, one of the friends he made on the road, he said this:

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.

That one quote made the entire book worth reading.  It sums up all my feelings from the past several months into one neat paragraph.

Many criticized McCandless by saying he was extremely stupid to enter the Alaskan wilderness so ill-prepared.  In reality, he actually succeeded at an amazing feat-surviving in the Alaskan wilderness for over a 100 days with next to no supplies while having to hunt and gather all your food source is not something many can say they’ve done.  So, ill-prepared? Yes, I’d agree.  But, stupid?  Definitely not.

Have you read Into the Wild?  How do you feel about McCandless’s brave, while arguably insane, actions?

Ashley is the mastermind behind A Southern Gypsy, a travel blog focused adventure, outdoors, wildlife and Vegan food! In between bigger trips, she is delivering the best of her hometown, Nashville. Hates mustard & pickles. Needs coffee to function. Other passions | activism, minimalism, zero waste, books + writing.

6 Comments

  1. Lunaguava

    December 31, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    I really enjoyed reading “Into the Wild” a few years back. Krakauer did a great job at sifting through all the mad stories surrounding McCandless’s lone journey and coming up with a tale not only about survival but also about the need to move. I’m still unsure of McCandless’s motives though: as much as he liked to emphasize his adventurous spirit, I still got the feeling he was running away from something (or, most of the time, someone), which is usually a very thorny reason to go out into the world. But, even if the outcome was ultimately tragic, he made his own journey, which is more than can be said about many of those who criticized his choices. As for the end of his voyage, well, we’ll all get there at some point, so might as well do whatever makes it worthwhile – just maybe skip the Alaskan wilderness, or at least bring a friend 🙂 Have a great 2014, Ashley!

    • Ashley Hubbard

      December 31, 2013 at 5:23 PM

      I definitely believe he was running away from something, but as you said, he still did some pretty amazing things. I think I’m going to read Krakauer’s Into Thin Air soon which based on his own experiences with Mt Everest. Have a great 2014 as well! 🙂

      • Sarahlee2011

        February 5, 2014 at 10:02 AM

        I’ve read both books (quite a while ago, but re-read again. ) and I enjoyed both. I think it’s important we understand the author’s message in the first book, that being, that while we should always endeavour to make those journeys of both the physical and the soul (and to do them concurrently is extra-“special”), we should never, ever lose sight of the world around us. Mother Nature it seems, can be a Bitch. But in reality, most of us are totally prepared to stand in awe of the beauty and bounty she can so (it appears) lovingly bestow upon us, watching on as we caper and cavort in her rooms of majesty. But, ohhh… we quake and quiver when it seems she keeps things we need inches from our grasp. The food, the rain for crops, the terrible storm or even tornado to miss our home, please, please, please.. God? Ahh. See, we call to different “deities” when pushed to extremes. It seems that most of us DO know what control we have over what, and what respect we should have for a force, simply because it has no emotions, no empathy, thought or process – other than the scientific one that rules it’s many, varied and albeit beautiful and mysterious workings. Jon Krakauer understood this mechanism, this grand movement, when he wrote the book. The unfortunate subject of it, had only a poor, I believe, unraveled view of it. His few words of “wisdom”, chance ramblings of the blind – every broken watch tells the correct time twice a day… Mr. Krakauer’s second book, Into Thin Air, is a much more interesting book, although we look at these live “action-figures” and wonder, how sane are they! But have to marvel at their achievements… until they too before too crazy for us! 🙂

        • Sarah2011

          February 5, 2014 at 10:06 AM

          Thanks for the lovely pic! So, hmmm… I’ll read other blogs. 😉

  2. Gemma

    January 9, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    I love Into the Wild – the book as well as the film. Both are crafted exceptionally well. I can definitely relate to what McCandless was feeling, about needing to get away and see more than the ordinary. I agree with you, while he was certainly ill-prepared, it’s unfair to call him stupid.

    • Ashley Hubbard

      January 10, 2014 at 9:22 AM

      I have not watched the film yet. I was waiting until I read the book, so I’ll probably watch it soon. I think many travelers can relate to that feeling–needing more than a “normal” life.

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