Last Friday I read the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, it is an incredible yet tragic life story of a young man named Chris McCandless. Spoiler Alert, but only slightly… read the book. Upon finishing university McCandless donated $24000 to charity and began living a simple life travelling around North America as a nomad. He lived his life day to day, getting by on whatever he could scrape together. He would work only to earn enough money to obtain the bare minimum needed for his next adventure. He went on many solo adventures including a trip down the Colorado River in a canoe towards the pacific coast of Mexico, surviving on the little supplies he had and whatever he could rummage up from the earth. McCandless was seeking to live his life with little impact on the earth… to see if he could do it all on his own.
He was able to do it on his own while accepting few handouts from others along his many travels. It was during these travels that he built up the experiences he believed necessary to live out his ultimate journey – walk into the wild of Alaska and survive off the land. In the spring of 1992 McCandless walked into the wild with a small pack and a gun. Only the stranger who dropped him off at the trail head knew where he was headed. According to McCandless’ journal and the work of Krakauer Chris had accomplished what he came to do and was ready to walk out of the bush but the seasonal lay of the land prevented him from walking out when he was ready, so he decided to stay a while longer. Unfortunately this is where the story takes a turn for the worse, in August of 1992 McCandless’ body was found dead in the shelter he had occupied. The cause of death is disputed; starvation or poisoning (ate the wrong plants).
Some believe McCandless went in on a suicide mission, and some believe he lacked common sense for not going into the bush prepared; but he did last over 100 days in the Alaskan Wild with pretty much nothing. No matter what you believe about McCandless and what he was up to, he had a clear goal in his mind of what he wanted to do with his life and he created a plan for himself to do it. And then he did it. Whether he saw his plan to fruition or he failed we will never know.
McCandless painted a picture in his mind; the picture was him conquering the wild all on his own. There is a certain satisfaction of going out and accomplishing something all on your own without the help of others. I have gone this route with goals in the past and I am sure you have too. It isn’t easy. I accomplished a few but failed more often than not. It took a while for me to realize that it was easier and more satisfying to accomplish a goal when I had shared my journey with others. There is strength in numbers, us Vancouverites and Canadians only need to look back 2 years ago to the 2010 Winter Olympics. When you fall down it is great to have someone there to pick you up, dust you off and point you in the right direction. Joannie Rochette had the death of her mother knock her down; her strength along with the backing of her family, her team and her country helped her get up and skate to a Bronze Medal. It brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t have been happier for her. It wasn’t my medal or my goal but I celebrated as if it was. I have won a few individual honours during my athletic career but none of them compare to the accomplishments I have achieved as a member of a team… success is so much better when shared.
You can do it on your own but you will accomplish more with helping hands along the way… there is much to be learned from Chris McCandless’ journey into the wild.
Josh Neumann, BHK
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