Friday, March 14, 2014

Into The Wild ... A Movie, A True Story!

Love this quote, but wouldn't have a problem with a secure future in addition to an endlessly changing horizon.  Although, our cruising/travel plans do make our future less secure ... or does it?  We never know what could jeopardize a seemingly "secure" plan.

Since Mardi Gras was a wash out, we made the best of the day and finally watched a movie I'd been wanting to see ... "Into The Wild".  It's a true story about a guy (Chris McCandless) that graduated from college in 1990 (one year after Ken and I did), gave away all of his money to charity, detached himself from his family, and took off to seek adventure and stints of isolation in nature.  Sounds like a good movie about travel, right?  Well, it's deeper than that.

*Warning:  If you don't want to know details about this movie or how it ended ... you may not want to read this entire post.  However, I knew how the movie ended before I watched it, and I still enjoyed it.  In fact, I think knowing the ending made me appreciate Chris' experiences more when watching it.  

 Perhaps it's my love for psychology (minor in college), but I love movies about life and the struggles that people face.  To me, this movie was just as much about Chris' life wounds as it was about his travels.  I wouldn't describe this movie as an "action" movie and Ken described it as "slow" (2.5 hrs).  However, we both enjoyed it. 

Chris had a hatred for society, money and material possessions that was just as strong as his passion for adventure. Without a goodbye to his parents and sister, he left them wondering (and worrying) what happened to him.  

Below is a "selfie" that was found undeveloped on Chris' camera, in front of the bus he found (and lived in) while staying in the Alaskan wilderness ... 

Like most folks dealing with wounds, Chris' wounds started in his childhood.  His parents loved him, but they fought violently ... and often.  When Chris learned that his mother had been "the other woman" and that his father had been married to someone else that gave birth to a son around the same time that he was born ... that blew him away.  He felt he was a "bastard child" from a deceitful relationship.  His father hadn't really dealt with his other son, and that was incomprehensible to Chris.

When speaking of society to a friend, he wondered why everyone was always treating each other so badly so often ... I've wondered the same thing and can relate to his bitterness about society.  I've felt the same way at times, getting pretty worked up about our society and the countless times I've come across a person without integrity or consideration of others.

Chris kept a journal during his "adventure", and he had some good quotes and thoughts.  Some were his own thoughts and some were those of others that he'd read.  Some reflected his resentment, some his passion for adventure, and others his change in attitude about being alone as his adventure progressed.

Chris burned his social security card and all of his identity, and took on the name "Alexander Supertramp".  During his two-year journey he never picked up the phone and called his family or sent them a note letting them know that he was alive.

He did come across several people during his journey that were touched by his presence.  One hippie couple had been searching for their own missing son and formed a bond with him, and another was a lonely and elderly widowed man that had lost his wife and child decades earlier in an automobile accident.  "Alexander Supertramp" inspired the man to do things he hadn't considered, and he even wanted to Chris.

Before finally reaching his dream of the Alaskan wilderness, Chris had kayaked from Nevada all the way to Mexico!  He hopped trains, learned new skills and picked up odd jobs every now and then.  He did have some great experiences ... until he stayed a little too long in Alaska.

In his journal he had written, "Now I don't know much about the sea, but I do  know that is the way it is here, and I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing the blind death stone alone with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head".  

He experienced just that.

Chris endured the Alaskan wilderness during the winter, but when Summer came he started to experience difficulties.  He shot and killed a moose, only to find that he wasn't able to clean it quick enough in the heat.  He was devastated, and wished he'd never shot that moose.  

After a while, he referenced a book he was reading by Leo Tolstoy and his quote about happiness.  It seemed he was having a change of attitude about relationships ...

When he decided it was time to check in with society and end this chapter of his journey, he found that the river he'd previously crossed when entering the wilderness had swollen into a roaring river with a fierce current ... and no possible way of crossing.  He retreated back to the bus, and he began to run out of food.  He grew hungry.  

He relied on a book he had about plant identification, and mistakenly ate a plant that causes "starvation and death" if not treated.  He became deathly ill and later realized his error.  He thought that he'd survived, but he became weaker and eventually died ... alone in the bus.

Towards the end when Chris was suffering from starvation and weakness, he came to realize ...

While I'm pretty much an introvert and quite enjoy my time alone, I do believe in the value of relationships and sharing experiences with someone.  Whenever I see a gorgeous sunset or experience something on my own, I often think of someone and wish I could share it with them.  Sometimes that "someone" is Ken, sometimes my mom or dad, sometimes a friend or my daughter.  I don't believe a person needs a romantic relationship to be fulfilled, but I do think we all need someone to care about ... and vice versa.

During his last days, Chris referenced a book that he had read about calling things by their proper name.  Before dying, he wrote a note to whomever would find him, stating that he'd lived a happy life and may God bless all.  He didn't sign the note "Alexander Supertramp", but instead signed his full and proper name.

Just two weeks after passing away, some hunters came across his body in the bus.  I thought it ironic and sad that all that time he spent there, he'd never crossed paths with anyone .. until just after he died.

His parents were informed and here's a picture of a plaque they had made for his headstone ...

The film was written & directed by Sean Penn and he had a voice narrate the film, which was meant to be Chris' sister.  She shared some of the family's pain, and also her efforts to forgive and understand her brother when he was missing.  She knew he had to live his life his own way.  I can not imagine the grief that she and her parents endured.  She mentioned that it was ironic ... the grief caused by his disappearance brought his parents closer together while he was missing.  She wished she could tell her brother that their parents had changed, and were no longer the parents he'd resented.

So, hope I didn't bring you down!  This was such a sad and tragic ending.  But, Chris McCandless enjoyed quite an adventure for most of those two years. He broke away from the safety of his home & society and ventured into the unknown to pursue his dream.  There's something to be said for that.  

If you haven't watched this movie, I'd recommend doing so.  Oh, and it also has some great tunes from Eddie Vedder!

If faced with knowing I was about to die, would I change any of my beliefs?  I can't really think of anything I'd change ... maybe I'd suddenly become more religious, but I doubt it.
With my own dream of cruising and travel, I can relate to Chris' passion and desire to break away.  However, I'm not running "away" from anything (maybe somewhat from society and a lot from work) but instead running "to" something ... seeing new parts of the world and experiencing new things that at this point I can only imagine.  Sharing them with Ken, my daughter & family/friends is part of the dream too!  

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

*Unless otherwise noted, pictures from


Emily said...

Wow...that must have been a very intense film. Seems like I read about his story at some point in the distant past. I hope I get to see the movie someday. I enjoy that kind of thing. Life doesn't always have a happy ending, and some people are driven to find something that they can never quite reach. Sounds like he was one of those. As a student of psychology, I find that fascinating as well.

Steve Yoder said...

Read the book long before the movie came out. I think it may have been serialized in Rolling Stone. Anyway, I totally identified with Chris as I used to picture myself heading off into the wilderness all alone. Just me and my backpack. Things didn't turn out that way (thank goodness). There but for fortune went I. But I can still totally relate to his story. Next fall, when Lulu and I embark on our Epic Road Trip, we're going to stop a night or two at Slab City in southern California where Chris stayed awhile. Here's to the true free spirits out there.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed the movie and hope to watch it again. I felt a connection with him. We were born in the same year 1968.
I've never done any vagabond travels. I love wilderness backpacking and intend on cruising in the future as well. In our home we are surrounded by so much stuff and have so many daily obligations.
I'm ready to pack lightly and taste freedom.

Ken n Cheryl said...

Steve, would love to read the book someday ... maybe once we're finally on that boat! I can also identify with some of Chris' needs to "get away". Enjoy your road trip!

Kenneth, we were born in 1966 so Chris was just a little younger .. such a short life! While we can't wait to live on our sailboat, I also envision some time spent backpacking .. I think I'd love it! Like you, our days are currently filled with too many obligations and we can't wait to taste freedom too!

Jessica said...

Sounds like a really good movie, I might have to check that out. Thanks for the recommendation! Wow, spending all that time alone, I could never do it. I get lonely enough with just Matt and I on the boat. You should have seen me almost freak out when we went about four weeks without even any boat friends.

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