My wife and I went to the movie theatre yesterday and watched the film “Into the wild” by Sean Penn. I did not know exactly what to expect but must say it was a great recommendation by my wife: an excellent and overwhelming movie.
The story is based on a true story investigated and published by Jon Krakauer. Chris McCandless decides to turn away from the regular way of living everyone including his proud parents would expect him to go after he finishes his study – and disappears. He decides to escape civilization and heads into the wild. He gives away all his money, gives up his car, shoulders his backpack and starts tramping through the country. He even gives up his name and calls himself Alexander Supertramp.
He turns away from a world where you have to sign up for a years long waiting list to get a permit for a boat trip on the Colorado river, unless you would prefer to book an organized tour. Alexander does not like both alternatives. He is the type of person who simply gets himself a boat and makes the crazy ride on his own, not accepting any rules made by men how to “use” nature.
On his trip he meets a lot of people: the old hippie couple, some tourists from Denmark down there in the Grand Canyon and finally an old man who has lived alone for a long time. Alexander is a nice guy, a good listener, someone to trust and to tell everything, someone who easily becomes friend with all people he meets. Nevertheless, in one scene of the film when he has a conversation with the old man he emphasizes that relationship to men is not his primary desire. His ultimate goal is to be alone and on his own in the wild nature of the north: Alaska.
— In case you don’t know yet how the story ends and you plan to see the film or read the book you should not read any further since I will reveal here how the story ends. —
He finally makes it to Alaska and enters the wild. He finds an old bus where he decides to stay. He calls this place the “Magic Bus” and it becomes his new home in between the great scenery of white mountains, green forest and clear rivers. He manages to survive quiet well, but at some point in time he decides to leave. This attempt fails, since the river he conquered on his way in meanwhile became a rapid stream – impossible to get through. Thus he has to return to his Magic Bus.
His dream becomes his fate. He fails to conserve enough meat. He is running out of rice and finally picks the wrong plants to eat. He becomes sick and weak and finally dies of hunger. Two weeks later his dead body is discovered in the bus by some elk hunter.
It is a very emotional story and it made me think about this character. Was he a hero or an idiot ? Worldly innocent or figuring out what really counts ?
He knew to some extent how to survive in the wild. He did not plan to give away his young life for this, but of course he did accept the high risk being part of this adventure.
I am not sure about you of course, but I know this feeling and dreaming about escaping our modern life. I actually have nothing to complain about. I live a very comfortable and lucky life. But sometimes when stuck in a traffic jam or seeing how building sites eat up our countryside, or seeing people sitting in their living room watching the life of other people in TV they never would like to meet in their own living room, or when I see how people rush through their life and let stress make them sick, then I sometimes get a clue of this dream to escape the mad world and find some peaceful, quiet spot.
Of course I would not survive for long in the wild. Alexander Supertramp did a much better job there then I would be able to do. I might consider a short escape, like a one week camping or fishing trip, or what I actually did: a five week trip to New Zealand on my own. But after that I also enjoy to return into the comfort of my regular life: back to work, my home, my wife, my friends, my secure existence.
Alexander Supertramp went much further. And obviously he missed the point of return. To me he is a hero, because he clearly decided what would be a good way of living for him and followed his path self confident and without hesitating to do everything needed to get there.
What about you ? Do you sometimes dream about to escape … your job, your family, your home, your life as you live it today ? And do you sometimes go a little further than just dreaming about it ?