The last few weeks I lived vicariously through the brief life of Christopher McCandless. Throughout this book, written by John Krakaur, I kept having to remind myself that this wasn’t fiction. It was a true account of things that a real person - my age - experienced.
Coming from a well to-do family, McCandless seeks to break the mold of the cookie-cutter society that we have in our country. To an extreme. He graduates Emory University in Atlanta with honors, donates his $25,000 trust fund to OXFAM and gets in his beat up Datsun never to see his family again. He sets out west with hardly any money, living as “Alexander Supertramp,” canoeing in Mexico, ditching his Datsun in the desert, working in South Dakota, hitchhiking all over the western US before taking his last great adventure to Alaska. An adventure in which he ultimately loses his life.
Way to give away the ending right?
If it makes you feel better, it’s given away in the first chapter. The book chronicles his travels through those he met and left a lasting impression on along the way. This story is also based on his detailed journal writings found near him when his body was discovered in his makeshift home - an abandoned bus in the woods - out in the Alaskan wilderness. It takes a crack in diving into the psyche of McCandless. What made him tick?
Why did he do the crazy things he did? Was he suicidal or did he believe himself to be invincible, naïve of his own mortality?
McCandless’s life in the book makes you re-evaluate your own life. He breaks out of the mold of “normal” society to challenge himself. He obviously doesn’t take the safe route anywhere in the book and intentionally challenges himself. In the process, he does a lot of soul re-discovery and changes, for the better, as a person.
How often do we do this? How often do we make a life decision because “it’s the next logical thing” or it’s the “safe” thing? Even though it ends his life, McCandless didn’t conform. Though to an extreme, he lived his life to the fullest. He did things his way and as his writings would suggest, though he knew he was dying in his last days, he wouldn’t have taken it back. How would we be different if we had a similar mindset to our lives? Maybe not to his extreme of tramping, but taking risks and not being afraid to fall flat on our faces in the process. Sure we may fail in risks but what if we didn’t fail that one time? Just think of what our life stories could read like.
This book was an excellent re-count of a post-college grads adventure into the wild. An easy read that’s hard to believe that it’s just not something made for a movie. Which is why maybe it eventually was made for a movie…it’s that good.
What will your life story read like?