My next source of experience surrounding my essay question ‘is travelling running away or running towards something?’ has been to read Jon Krakauer’s autobiographical tale of Chris McCandless’s trek into the wild, originally titled ‘Into the Wild’. It tells the story of McCandless’s young hopes and dreams of the Alaskan wilderness, his naivety cost him his life in 1992 when after travelling America he finally got to Alaska, four months later his emancipated body was found wrapped in his blue sleeping bag in an abandoned bus. Chris’s story was special because of the amount of people’s lives that he touched along the way, Chris himself appeared to develop no particular attachment to any of these people, and was known to keep them at arms length, but when Krakauer begun interviewing those who met McCandless on his travels, they all seem to have been touched by him.
McCandless was scathed after his death by those who read his story as he did in fact have a loving family back in Washington whom he disappeared from without a trace.His loneliness and isolation was self made, his demise self conflicted. “McCandless was thrilled to be on his way north, and he was relieved as well—relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it. He had fled the claustrophobic confines of his family. He’d successfully kept Jan Burres and Wayne Westerberg at arm’s length, flitting out of their lives before anything was expected of him. And now he’d slipped painlessly out of Ron Franz’s life as well.” McCandless was not just a nomad of literal means, not content with constantly changing jobs and place to stay, he also appears to have been an emotional wanderer, he either didn’t realise or didn’t care for those he left behind, thinking nothing of the effect he had on them. Perhaps I admire this because it meant he never got hurt or worried, but I can’t help but see it as just a little selfish.
“Seven weeks after the body of his son turned up in Alaska wrapped in a blue sleeping bag that Billie had sewn for Chris from a kit, Walt studies a sailboat scudding beneath the window of his waterfront townhouse. ‘How is it,’ he wonders aloud as he gazes blankly across Chesapeake Bay, ‘that a kid with so much compassion could cause his parents so much pain?’” Walt and Billie were Chris’s parents, speaking to Krakauer after their sons death. I think perhaps they did not understand his mind at all, resulting in the end sad relationship where McCandless felt unable to speak to his parents about travelling, and so he had to just up and go. Perhaps his frivolity was only achievable because of the spontaneity of his departure, if it had been more planned, from what I have learnt about McCandless from reading this book, he would have felt the trip ruined.
So far I’m two weeks into reading this and I’m half way through, usually I would be a little disappointed at this slow pace but so much has been happening recently, the time has just slipped away. I’ve got a stall at a huge christmas market in two weeks which I am going crazy making for,and the orders I’m getting are coming in thick and fast.
So I will leave with a quote I have just got to in the book which I really like : “A trancelike state settles over your efforts; the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence—the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes—all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose and by the seriousness of the task at hand.”.
I think what Krakauer and McCandless are trying to get across here is the idea that wherever you are, you have to be ‘all there’, ‘participate’ if you will, you have to immerse yourself in where you are and what you are doing and not think about anything else for you to truly enjoy it.