The trials and tribulations of a 24-year old young man named McCandless from Virginia are quite well known. McCandless’s story became popular because unlike most young men of his age, he wasn’t satisfied with an urban life and dedicated himself to exploring the wild and living an alternative existence. While exploring an alternative life, he reached the wilderness of Alaska, where on being prevented to move further by the swollen banks of the Teklanika River, he spent over 3 months in the wild. He lived for 114 days in an abandoned bus and died of starvation in August 1992. He maintained a journal of his experiences while in the wild and documented his life in the jungles of Alaska . His journal was later published by the name ‘Into the Wild’ and was subsequently adapted into a popular film.
The famous abandoned bus where McCandless spent his days in the Alaskan wilderness is known as ‘Bus 142’. People from far and wide came to know about his inspiring exploration of the wilderness and his thought provoking journey as the book “Into the Wild” gained public attention. But while McCandless died in the wilderness owing to starvation and fatigue, his journey continued to inspire generations of young people to explore the wilderness of Alaska, in fact two hikers and at least 15 people had to be rescued by authorities while they found themselves in dangerous and life-threatening situations as they tried to reach out to where McCandless’s iconic bus was parked even long after his death.
The bus has been airlifted and transported away from the spot by the Alaskan Army. Even today, a visit to the part of the Alaskan wilderness which was explored by him reveals the risk and hardships that he must have braved especially due to unpredictable weather, a wild river with immense flow and without any connectivity to the external world.
Yes, McCandless died after surviving 114 days in the wilderness back in 1992, but his journey continues to inspire generations of young explorers even today.
Travellers fr0m around the world who read or watched the film based on the trials and tribulations of young McCandless, thought of the site where his bus was parked as some sort of a pilgrimage site. The bus was found to be abandoned 25 miles west of Parks Highway, near Healy, Alaska, before it was removed from the location by the army to prevent more explorers from coming and thereby risking their lives in the wilderness.
While arranging for the bus to be airlifted, the team found a suitcase from the bus, which apparently belonged to the McCandless family. McCandless’s sister conformed that the suitcase which was found at the premises was indeed hers, and one that she had left behind while she had gone visiting.
McCandless’s journey is indeed inspiring and deeply spiritual. While it may be true that he couldn’t survive as much as he would have wanted to in the wilderness and succumbed to acute starvation, but he has indeed left behind a legacy that would continue to inspire generations of explorers and nature lovers.
In his final moments, McCandless held his aching stomach while lying down on the rear seat of the bus and looked out of the window into the dense wilderness around and the blue, clear skies. Although in immense pain, his eyes were illuminated by a discovery, a realisation and an overarching truth that transcended bodily pain and physical hardship. McCandless had found what he had come exploring.
He is considered to be the contemporary Henry Thoreau, because he too left behind the luxuries and comforts of urban life and went on to live in the woods, with all that really mattered.