Into The Wild

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers” and a book that was released 24 years ago should be exempt from spoilers by now anyway,  I mean really.

“Into the Wild”, by Jon Krakauer was released in 1996.  I have read the book and I have also watched the movie of the same name, in that order, so forgive me if I get my facts mixed up between the two at some point.  There was also another film made about it called “The Call of the Wild”. I have not yet seen this one, but I will.

If you don’t know, “Into the Wild” is a semi-biographical story about Christopher McCandless, a.k.a Alexander Supertramp as he traveled across the United States and up into Alaska from 1990 to 1992.  “Tramp” being a reference to someone who is homeless, and travels from place to place typically on foot. 

After graduating college, McCandless followed an invisible pull, which is said to have been derived from his favorite authors, to travel the roads, towns and cities across the United States with nothing but a run-down car, which didn’t last very long, and a little bit of cash, which also didn’t last very long.  He was nothing if not determined, once the car and the money was gone he did not tuck his tail and run home. He traveled and worked his way all the way across the States where when he hit the west coast he took a sharp right and started circling around the north central, west and southwest United States, including a stint in a canoe that takes him into Mexico briefly.

During this time period, I found myself occasionally envious of his travels.  I would imagine myself having similar experiences, living with next to nothing and bouncing from city to city and experience to experience.

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Chris’s ultimate end goal was to travel up into Alaska and onto the “Stampede Trail” to try and live off of the land.  Just him, his pack and the wild. He begins this northern trek from South Dakota.

Reading up to this point, I was right there along with him.  The decision to head up into Canada towards Alaska is where he lost me.  Over and over he runs into obstacles that are nearly insurmountable and somehow fate intervenes and help arrives, typically in the form of helpful passers-by.  I feel he was blind to these “miracles” and allowed himself to become cocky after having survived for nearly two years, “on his own”. He was never truly on his own though, he repeatedly put himself in dire situations and had to be saved.

Nevertheless, off he went towards Alaska, ill-prepared and ill-equipped. After yet another helpful intervention by a stranger he headed off down the “Stampede Trail” with a new pair of boots, never to be seen alive again.  He lasted about 4 months alone in Alaska, we know this because of a journal that was found where he stayed along the trail. It is believed that he mistakenly ate a plant that he shouldn’t have and died as a result of it.

The location that he ended up living in was an abandoned van in the middle of the Alaskan forest, yet another curious, convenient man made happenstance, I would like to point out. 

So despite every opportunity, McCandless was blind to every subtle and not so subtle life preserver that life threw to him and he died because of it.  The lesson learned here – Learn to take a hint and try to look beyond your own ego but also, don’t be afraid to take a chance and follow the beat of your own drum.  Rather than be herded like sheep along the beaten path, feel free to buck the norm and blaze your own trail.

This book also served as a reminder to myself while I embrace a minimal, hygge lifestyle, that there is more than just applying these aspects to my external life.  If I don’t look inward I am not gaining the meaningful, purpose driven life that I am striving for. Living with less, and living for experience and quality can only be achieved if I’m willing to look inward first and foremost.

Despite my conflicted feelings about Chris McCandless and his ill-fated travels, I highly recommend both this book and the film of the same name.  I actually enjoyed the film more than the book, and that is not typically the case I assure you.

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