‘Into the Wild’

If you’re going on a solo adventure, what would you bring?

A few months ago, I streamed Into The Wild on Netflix. Sean Penn directed the film, which was based on Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book. The read per se is timeless and has been studied in schools across the US. The adaptation was no slouch either, even being nominated for Oscars.

The movie

Emile Hirsch portrayed Christopher McCandless, the main character. He studied at Emory University. Upon graduation, his parents bought him new wheels. Chris was apoplectic. His 1970s ride worked just fine.

‘Things, things, things,’ he said, shaking his head. Chris returned the money that his parents gave him.

The trappings of modern society disinterested him. He did not want creature comforts: a new car, fancy clothes, a big house. The four walls of the classroom suffocated him and he believed that real learning was out in the field. Wining and dining at the finest establishments meant little. He would rather curl up and read a book. Indeed, he was fed up with living in the secular world. He wanted to explore, to roam, to live. He longed to pack up and subsist out of his rucksack.

He changed his name to Alexander Supertramp. He treks to Mexico, where he meets some hippies. Even when promised accomodation, he opts to sleep rough. He goes to this gathering, where he encounters a sweet teener (portrayed by Kristen Stewart). He refuses her advances as she was underage. In Salton City, he also meets this senior and they connect. The oldie tries to adopt him but Alex, while tempted, leaves instead.He then continues, alone, to Alaska.

Bare essentials

Finding someone who’d forsake all the material goods in his life is rare. Selflessness is not ingrained to humans. No one would turn down a brand new vehicle. Watching this movie made me reconsider my priorities. If you’d strip a person to bare essentials, what would this entail? What makes the cut? What would be left off?

Imagine following Alexander’s lead to Alaska. Or, perhaps, to walk the Camino. You are only allowed one big bag. What would you stuff in it?

I would probably include four sets of clothes. Two thermal tops and two jumpers. Two long johns and two thick pants. I might throw in an extra tee. I would likewise include a scarf. I heard it gets chilly in Alaska. Meanwhile, for outerwear, I would bring this down jacket from Kathmandu. It kept me warm when I last visited the snow. I might need to add a ski jacket down the line. I’d also bring five sets of underwear, although I doubt Supertramp was as liberal. Don’t forget the socks, either; three would suffice.

Aside from these, I’d carry a notebook to jot down my thoughts and observations. Obviously, I’d include two gel pens. You can’t go totally incognito, so I’d bring my passport. I’ll also carry my wallet, mobile phone, and its charger. No point lugging around a Mac. I’d probably pack some eye drops just in case the scenery isn’t too pleasant that my eyes become sore. I’ll also bring two unread books and a Bible. Looking at my shelf, the duo is: The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and A Supposedly Fun Thing by David Foster Wallace.


I would not forget my toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. I’d also include one kilo of bananas for nourishment. As Alex found out, you can’t rely on berries alone. Furthermore, I might carry some cream as the freezing weather would require this. Ditto with lip balm. I’d also throw in a bath towel. I will take my two pairs of gloves as I don’t want to get frost bitten.

Looking at this list, there’s a lot of stuff that didn’t make the cut. There’s no razor, as we’re channeling the Supertramp look. The food could be adjusted, but there’s only so much that you could fit into the pack. There are no extra shoes. There is no scissors. My phone is the only device I need. I don’t require a car to explore the wilderness, nor do I have to charter a plane. I don’t need dollars because they aren’t the currency in the wild. Most importantly, I don’t ask for a companion since I need to make this journey by myself.

Theme alert

Transience is the theme of our world. Nothing is permanent and set in stone. Today’s heroes are tomorrow’s turnips. The picture reminded me of this other film, Up in the Air. I saw this in the cinema. George Clooney plays a hopscotching executive who downsizes firms. He asks the audience what’s essential enough to pack. Since he practically lives on planes, he becomes a million miler. At the onset, he really covets this award. However, as he celebrates alone, he realises that even this august achievement means nothing. This is the opposite of Wild. While the latter sees the benefits of solitude, the former posits that accolades are better shared with loved ones.

Ultimately, like George, we are merely travellers in the cosmos. We are just passing through. If we seek to gain glory and material goods, we will never be content. I admire Alex’s worldview. There are more consequential things than success and creature comforts. Moreover, Alex was an exemplary person. He never took advantage of anyone. Indeed, he’s so autonomous that he knocks back help of any kind. He lived like a nomad but troubled no one. He left his life behind and embraced the unknown.

Having a unique perspective and way of life can never be overlooked. So many souls yearn for fame and fortune that getting lost in the crowd is easy. However, people who choose to live like Chris are so rare that his story is being dissected decades later. Opting for his path was not easy but I could understand how modern society could make him disillusioned.

Watch and learn

I spoke with my chiropractor about the movie. He said that he’s seen it.

‘Would you do something like that, go to Alaska?’

‘Just wait and see,’ I told him.

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