By: Dwayne Parton

Thoughts on Chris McCandless and Adventure

Not everyone is capable of understanding and that’s OK. None of us are alike in the way we think or live our lives. I believe our differences are what make the world interesting. Some of us are made to live a quiet lives while others are made to rule kingdoms. Some are made to walk on the moon and others raise families. I envy those with families and I don’t want to walk on the moon. Bobby can’t go there anyways. I would argue that one who walks on the moon has lived no better life than the one with the family. We are all so unique, we all have our problems to solve, and each of us finds fulfillment differently.

So can I begin with, “I am not Chris McCandless nor do I aspire to be him”? He was not the reason I left nor is he someone I want to model my life after. Not because he was a good or bad person but because I just want to be me. Just Dwayne Parton. I can’t be any one else, nor am I supposed to be. It seems like the easiest person to loose is yourself. Hopefully it doesn’t sound self-absorbed to say “the most important person I can be is me” because I hope you feel that way about yourself.

Regardless of whether or not you like Chris McCandless or John Krakauer, it’s hard to deny the inspiration “Into the Wild” has created. Krakauer’s book puts into words what many of us feel. It inspires us to live, to reach out and take that step. I think that is beautiful. Some people hear the name Chris McCandless and think “What an idiot!” but I don’t think he’s an idiot. Just a human. As imperfect as anyone of us.

McCandless was not a transcendent saint, nor was he a bumbling, arrogant dis-respecter of nature, and to press him into service as an emblem of anything is a mistake. If we examine the life of another and don’t see them as a fellow-person—if we don’t look into a dead face and see our own–we’re missing something important. Chris McCandless was deeply kind and supremely selfish; tremendously brave and jaw-droppingly foolish; impressively competent and staggeringly inept; that is to say, he was hewn from the same crooked timber as the rest of us.
What Everyone Is Getting Wrong About Chris McCandless
By Ivan Hodes

I love that. When I hear McCandless’ story, I see a person who wanted to find himself, learn what it meant to live, and remove the unnecessary strings attached. That might be very different than the person you see. Perhaps both are different than the person he was but that connection is why I hiked to the bus. Not because he was a good or bad guy. I can’t say whether he was, nor do I feel like I should. I went because I looked into his face and saw a piece of myself.

Perhaps you don’t completely understand why I left home, or why I went to the bus but I hope you can relate to the thought behind it even if you don’t understand the choice of adventure. I imagine it’s the same way that I don’t understand why someone would want to live in Kansas. No offense. I love the mountains and others love the plains. Each of our desires are different. If you love the plains…what’s keeping you from going? If you want to walk in the woods…why aren’t you?

Before you embark…

Today a friend called me to say he was leaving. He couldn’t take it anymore so he was going on a grand adventure! I tried to put on the brakes for him. Not stop him, just slow him down. Maybe that sounds weird for me of all people to say but I hope not. I just wanted to make sure he had thought it out. Have you counted the cost? Have you worked out the logistics? You don’t jump off a ship without first knowing how deep the water is and whether or not you can swim. Then ask yourself “Are there any sharks in the water?” “Are they hungry?” If not, “how do you get back in the boat?” and if you don’t want in the boat “Can you swim to land?” Silly analogy, but I hope you get my point.

After I tried to put on the brakes, I encouraged him to let it sit for a while. See if you feel the same way in a month. Let the fantasy wear off a bit. Figure out how you can do it. Save your money. Learn the skills you’ll need. Then set some short term goals. Think through the consequences and make sure you’re ok with them. Then once you’ve prepared…go!

My dad drilled me when I first started talking about hiking the AT. He wanted to make sure I had counted the cost. That I knew what I was getting myself into. At the time, it just felt like he was trying to convince me not to go. Believe me when I say the hike was not walk in the park. It rained a lot! I caught the NORO virus, Lymes Disease, lost 30 lbs, and couldn’t feel my feet for almost a year!

My point is an idea alone won’t stand up to the trials. It needs to be tested and thought out. Poked and prodded until you get to it’s roots and know what it could and will cost you. I hope that makes sense?