Pulled In Many Directions

Not-so-daily rambings about my life and my thoughts

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Into The Wild

I know I have said in a number of previous posts there is a Wednesday Addams side to me, and because of that, yesterday while surfing around on the web, I came to a site called Dead or Alive, which is essentially a database that keeps track of famous and infamous people and whether they've shuffled off this mortal coil or not. Further piquing my morbid curiosity, I found there is a section for those who have died before they reached 30.

So among all the famous people dying from drug overdoses or vehicle accidents that I knew of previously, there were a few profiles that stood out because I hadn't heard of them before, and one of them was for a guy named Chris McCandless. McCandless was a guy who died in 1992, at the age of 24 in a very horrible way -- alone in the wilderness of Alaska, from starvation.

I found his story to be very interesting. He was a guy who was really bright, but took very much to heart the works of Tolstoy and Thoreau, authors who preached living very simply and renouncing wealth. Chris McCandless came from a very well-to-do family, but there are reports he resented his family background. He felt he was too well-off, and he considered his father to be a one-time bigamist. (Chris had a number of half brothers and sisters from his father's previous marriage. He was devastated when he found out his dad was carrying on with his second wife while still married to the first one for awhile.) He took on the name Alexander Supertramp in his travels and worked around the western part of the States, taking odd jobs whereever he could.

After he was able to survive in California and Mexico without many supplies, he decided to try his hand at surviving the harsh climate of Alaska. He had a savings account with $25,000 in it, (once earmarked for law school) but donated everything in it to Oxfam. He left behind his pocket change and his watch. He burned the paper currency he had. He only had a 10 pound bag of rice with him and some books, and few other supplies. Four months after he set out on his trek, his body was found in an abandoned bus. His family had no idea where he was going or where he had been for the past 2 years.

I found this story really intriguing, as Chris seemed like a lot of the guys I went to college with: very intelligent, but also stubborn in their idealism, and enthusiasm for an idea.

I have found a book that talks about his trek and his life, called Into the Wild, and as I read it maybe I will let you all know how I find it. His story sounds really heartbreaking, but of course, those less sentimental wouldn't be too far off in calling him crazy for going to the Alaskan wildreness in the middle of their winter woefully underprepared.