The first book I have read in 2014 is the nonfiction book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. This copy I have is the second edition, published in 1997. I read this book because I read the article published all those years ago about the death of Chris McCandless. I never knew the author wrote a book, so when I saw it mentioned in a newspaper article, I definitely wanted to read this book. Chris’ story really stuck with me. Even now, all these years later, I could not stop thinking of how sad it was that he died. Here was a young man trying to do something – only God knows what – and he ended up dying. So I read the book because I wanted to know more about who Chris was and exactly what happened. I wanted to know his story. And I must admit that, after reading his story, I was deeply saddened and in tears – for what happened to him and for the pain his family has gone through because of it. I really felt for his parents.
But reading the book made me a little scared, too, because I have a child who wants to do the same thing that Chris did: Walk off into the wild. In fact, she is set on it, planning to depart on her travels after graduating from high school.
My daughter does not know about Chris McCandless or about what happened to him. Now that I have read this book, I want her to read it, too. Maybe it will be a wake-up call, or maybe she’ll come away from it a little wiser.
Part of me keeps hoping she will abandon this plan of hitting the road, but at the same time, I’m not surprised she has a strong sense of wanderlust. I come from a nomadic family. We were ALWAYS moving from one city to another, one state to another. My husband’s family moved a lot, too. Jennifer was born in California and we moved to Oregon when she was 3. We have driven out to the Oregon coast and traveled out to St. Louis. We have also visited family in California (where I was born, too). We have definitely moved around quite a bit. So I’m really not surprised she feels the call of the road. My mom had that stronger than anybody else in the family and Jennifer has got that, too. She is really set on these travels.
And after reading Into the Wild, I was a little frightened that Jen would meet the same fate as Chris McCandless. I know for a fact that my daughter is NOT prepared to live on the road or to ride the rails or live off the land. She does not know the necessary survival skills. I have tried to help in that regard, giving her books to read on those subjects, encouraging her to learn things like how to use a compass and read a map. That sort of thing. She will have to learn other things, too, like how to catch and cook her own food and how to use a flare gun.
I am just glad she is not planning on traveling alone. In fact, she has talked two of her best friends into hitting the road with her. That is one relief. I have come across too many stories of young women traveling alone getting raped and murdered. I have told Jen that she should NEVER travel alone. There is safety in numbers.
Of course I support my children’s dreams and the things they want to do in life. I just hope they will make the right choices and be smart. I have heard how Chris McCandless’ story has inspired others to do what he did (as well as the tragic end many of them met), but I also hope that Chris’ story will make people think, make smarter choices and learn from the mistakes that happened on his journey.