I read a lot of books – most of them are pulp fiction but I prefer to read books that I like rather than admire. Recently I read the story of Christopher ‘Alex’ McCandless, Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. It’s a tragic, yet inspiring, story of a young man’s search for himself in the Alaskan wilderness.
Chris came from a well-to-do family in Washington and after getting his degree gave away every penny he had and went traveling around America on the edges of society. His ultimate dream, however, was to live off the land in the wilderness of Alaska – eat what he could catch or forage and let the seasons dictate his diet and lifestyle.
So, he hitched his way north, followed something called the Stampede Trail with nothing but a backpack and a rifle and started his adventure. Nutter.
He eventually died of starvation but his story kind of hit a chord with me. Maybe it’s because I admire his zeal, that he was willing to compromise everything in order to follow his dream. Maybe I also admire the fact that he survived for nearly a 1/3 of a year with pretty much no local knowledge, a minimum of equipment and no bushcraft skills. I think more than anything I admire his spirit of adventure; that he was willing to give everything up and all that he was used to and to actually do something, really go through with it rather than making idle plans and vague promises to himself.
Perhaps it reminds me of the experience of moving out here, what we did. We’re not foraging for our own food (though visiting the village shop sometimes feels like it) and we’re not hunting everyday (though the green welly brigade would like to hunt chavs from open-top Land Rovers given half a chance) but we did take a risk and try to do something different. We made a mad decision and we actually followed through on it, no matter how ill conceived and badly planned that decision was – millions of people sit on their hands and do nothing, stay within their comfort zone. Maybe they’re right.
Chris eventually got punished, in the most horrific way, for his spirit of adventure. I wonder what rewards or punishment we will get?