In this world of expectation, structure, busy-ness, and bills, it has always interested me to come across people who abhor these tangles of everyday life and live like nomads. I recently came across some YouTubers who travel the United States, living out of their RVs or vans full-time and loving it. When I thought of this kind of lifestyle in the past I thought of the sad Matt Foley character from SNL “living in a van down by the river”. I am not convinced their life isn’t without its hardships… nor bills… nor eliminating “THE MAN” from their lives completely, but these people do their best to make their cramped quarters and vagabond lifestyle look very attractive. I know myself very well, and can adapt to living without the finer things like a flushing toilet for a few months in the summer. But, living this way as a lifestyle forever? Nope. I likes my heated home with running water.
For many, though, this way of life is a philosophy, a mantra, a necessity. It’s quite curious and intriguing to see the world through their lens. So when I recently reactivated my library membership after a long drought, a virtual trip to the eBook portal landed Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild onto my tablet, and next thing you know, I found myself immersed in one of the more recent stories of an infamous American vagabond, Chris McCandless, a young man who took the concept of nomadic living to extremes.
Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild tells the true story of McCandless, a headstrong, fiercely independent guy who felt more at peace alone in nature than anywhere. Raised by strict parents, he always went against the grain, never thinking a career was important, and that schooling was a waste of time. Following parental expectations was difficult for Chris, but he managed to tow the line, eventually making it through college with honours, with plans for law school. However, he had enough of the litanies of life the day after he graduated, packing up his things and leaving his life behind forever. He gave his life savings to OxFam, burned his Social Security card and embarked on a journey that saw him tramping his way around the U.S., with the eventual goal to live in the Alaskan wilderness in complete solitude. He even assumed a new name: Alexander Supertramp. His family never heard from him again…until his body was found in a remote forest in Alaska by a Moose hunter.
McCandless in Alaska
Jon Krakauer gives some context and understanding to Chris’s thought process by recounting his life, childhood and relationship with his family. To round out the book, he interviews other folks Chris met on the road, living a similar nomadic life. In telling these stories, it shows the many layers to Chris McCandless. He wasn’t simply a naive guy with big dreams; he was a guy determined to live out his philosophy at any price. And what one could gather from the book, he touched many lives in profound ways.
I found Into the Wild to be incredibly immersive, balanced and very thoughtfully written. Might I add, there is a reason why the book is on many “top books to read before you die” lists. It’s good – very good. Get your hands on it and start reading. I highly recommend it!
Into the wild / Jon Krakauer (1996)
And while we are here…
[Movie] Into the Wild (2007)
Starring: Emile Hirsch, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart
So, I thought, what the hey…let’s watch the movie for comparison.
The film follows the book very closely. I’d hazard it was a visual representation of the book, but not a thorough one.
The one thing I noticed: Sean Penn, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, stole A LOT of direct dialogue from Krakauer’s book – seriously. If I hadn’t just finished the book, I would not have noticed…but he does. If I were Krakauer, I’d be taking him to court. And yet, Krakauer only got a “based on the novel by…” credit, which I thought was also a little strange for the amount of the book Penn used.
I didn’t overly enjoy Into the Wild: the movie. It wasn’t terrible, but didn’t do McCandless any favours. It missed the heart and soul of McCandless, showing him as a sort of untouchable, someone you could never get close to and who was completely ignorant and wonton. In fact, I remember when the movie was released, there was a lot of criticism from people saying McCandless’ ways were glorified in the movie, and that no one should take his lead if they think they can survive in Alaska without being properly equiped. The book does well to give more context to McCandless, and to the people who knew him. Besides the fact, I found the book much more enjoyable (isn’t that typical?). Do yourself a favor: Get your hands on the book!
Into the Wild (the movie)