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This is one book which I have just finished reading. I don’t normally read biography, but came across the story while doing some random search on wikipedia (where one link can lead to another). I really got very interested in the true story of this young man who ended up dying in Alaska. I went to buy the book at Kinokuniya. In 1992, a young man by the name of Christopher McCandless from a well-to-do family in the US abandoned everything he possessed after graduating with honours from University.
For the next two years, he lived off the streets, travelling from place to place, living on the bare minimum.
Finally, he hitchhiked to Alaska with little food (only 5 pounds of rice) and equipment as he wanted to be in total isolation from human contact and go into the wild, in his words “to live off the land” – eating the animals he hunted and plants grown there. He actually managed to survive for more than 100 days in Alaska with this way until a series of unfortunate accidents that caused him to die slowly (and painfully) of starvation on an abandoned bus.
His decomposed body was found more than two weeks later. He was only 24 at the time of demise.
All this while, his family didn’t know his whereabouts and was searching for him, until they received this piece of unfortunate news. In this book, Jon Krakauer explored the life of Christopher McCandless and try to understand the thoughts behind this young man who gave up everything he has in search of a life of adventure and meaning (to him), and also how the people around him were affected.
He must had been a very charismatic person, as people he met along the way during his years on the streets really liked this guy a lot. Some actually asked him to settle down at the place he was at.
But then his ultimate aim was to really live in the wild with only nature (and nothing else, human relationships was worthless to him) and commitment was the last thing on his mind. This story left a very deep impression in me, not just because of the tragic circumstances surrounding it, but I could identify with Christopher McCandless in that at his age, I was also sort of like him. Well, I might not have given up all my wealth (I admit, my family wasn’t as well-to-do as his) and go all the way out into the wild, but I did have certain anger or unhappiness about the way my life turned out and wanted to live a different sort of life.
That was why at that time my results sort of fumbled (as I was half-hearted about the whole studying affair – to me, studying what I had no interest in was an “insult to my integrity”. ). I also wanted to get away from my family (which was one of the catalysts which caused Christopher McCandless to make such a decision, he was very upset by certain things he found out about his parents), so for a period of time I was staying in the hostel. During that time, I really planned to eventually leave my family once I have the financial means and stay outside.
In fact, after I graduated from university, I went to Malacca for a few days all by myself to enjoy the isolation. Ha ha, until now, my parents weren’t aware this was what I did – and I can’t yet find the courage to inform them. (This is probably a secret I will bring to my grave). Okay, this was probably not so much of an adventure, but I did derive certain excitement out of this trip. Imagine me on a free and easy trip carrying just the map and walking around (and people who know me know I’ve a very, very poor sense of direction). I would not say I managed to find my sense of purpose in life during that very short trip.
In fact, it was years after I graduate before I realised what was really important in my life. For Christopher McCandless, towards the end of his life, realised that “happiness only real when shared” which is what he wrote on his journal. When he finally got the isolation he yearned for in Alaska, somehow, he must have finally realised the importance of human relationships and that real happiness lies with being able to spend time with the one you care. Of course, the sad part is it came too late too as he was trapped in the wilderness which he had yearned for previously.
Given time, I believe he would eventually return to his family and friends. For me, after years of working (and probably maturity over the years), I also realised the importance of treasuring the time with my familiy and friends. You do not have to go to the extreme (in my case, escape from my family) to change the state of your life. In fact, all that matters is your perception. I have to be responsible in what I do as it is not just about me, but whatever I do have repercussions on my loved ones too. I had probably hurt the people around me as much as they have hurt me.
I remember there was one saying I read somewhere – people may not love you the way you want them to, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Recently, I did have the urge to go backpacking alone somewhere (of course, with the intention of not letting my parents know), but I admit I did have second thoughts after reading the book, ha ha! But don’t think that will last for long, as by nature, I do like to “wander around” – I can’t be trapped for too long. In the end, I guess Christopher McCandless did manage to find peace with himself. His final note written on his journal was “I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORD.
GOODBYE AND MAY GOD BLESS ALL! ” Although he didn’t manage to go back to his loved ones, he appreciated all the love bestowed upon him by them. I would like to think that he did not leave this world with any regret. Currently, I am reading another book by Jon Krakauer about his experience during the 1996 Mount Everest climb. Another tragic tale of how harsh nature can be. I might want to catch the movie version of “Into The Wild” directed by Sean Penn. Not sure if the film will evoke the same emotions in me (sometimes film adaptations can be disappointing).
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