In search of nothing, he found it all


Written by: Max Nygren

In April 1992 Christopher Johnson McCandless wandered into the Alaskan wilderness with very little food and equipment. He wanted to get away from the modern society and was hoping to live for a time in complete solitude. When his remains were found four months later near Lake Wentitika in Denali National Park, it was confirmed he had died of starvation, weighing only 67 pounds. This is a deeper dive into the mind of Christopher McCandless mind. Into the wild.

I think everyone, at some point, has dreamt of getting on a plane to nowhere and just disappear. Christopher McCandless had such strong dreams that he eventually decided they would become his reality. After giving himself the new name Alex Supertramp, he left the civilization and everything that comes with it and completely surrendered himself to Mother Nature, Healy, Alaska. Little did he know that dreams can appear very different when we stumble upon them in real life.

If we point our searchlights beneath all of these dreams of an independent life in the wilderness we find a deep-rooted and difficult conflict with his parents. A conflict that without a doubt contributed to Christopher’s decision to leave everything. To leave everything, and go nowhere, that is. Whether this conflict was entirely his parents fault, or if Christopher’s problem with people telling him what to do also played a part, I leave unsaid. In the film adaption of the book (Into the Wild, 2007) Christopher’s sister talk about the discovery of their dad’s secret marriage and the fact that he had another son; “Their fragile marriage and our father’s denial of this other son was, for Chris, a murder of every day’s truth. He felt his whole life turned, like a river suddenly reversing the direction of its flow, suddenly running uphill.” This unpleasant discover must have felt like getting a sledgehammer to the head, and it definitely stirred up some emotions. Emotions that increased Chris’s gap between him and human beings and, at the same time, strengthened his love towards nature. His hunger for the wild grew stronger by the minute.


Just as millions, if not billions, of people on our planet today walk around with a desire for everything, Christopher had a desire for nothing. He wanted nothing. I can not enough describe the greatness and the pure beauty in that reasoning. McCandless thought living close to nature, with God and the animals as his only witnesses were enough to satisfy his existence. He was a perfect example of someone who’s luckily unaware of the impossibilities that comes with a bit of reality perception.

Having nothing can be having everything, but it can also be just that, nothing. However, I realize it can also be seen in another way; that reality perception is exactly what he had, and because of that, he chose to abandon all his belongings. It’s hard to decide. But do we have to?

McCandless was far from stupid; he knew exactly what he was doing when he left. He might have been arrogant, but not stupid. There is no doubt in my mind that Christopher would have had a bright future if he would have chosen further education instead of disappearing into the woods, I also believe he himself knew that. He knew the minute he stepped out the door that the path he chose consisted of a different kind of education than the one being offered at the finest of universities. It was an education only to be found somewhere in between the mountains, the rivers and that moment where you for once, under the same conditions, fight nature for your own existence. He wanted to experience something real, both physically and mentally.

Books are powerful. Christopher read a lot, and so do I. Because of this, I happen to know what kind of effects inspiring books can have on you. If you get really touched by a book it can affect you tremendously, it can even make you do things you would never have thought of doing before you read that particular book.

I am not saying David Henry Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Jack London made Christopher do what he did, but they for sure had something to do with it. He shared the same views and values. They fueled him. They gave him inspiration. I imagine Christopher thought, even though they were all dead, they were the only ones who understood what it was all about. What he was all about.

I actually think, after reading the book, watching the movie and doing some other research that I’ve come to understand what Christopher McCandless was all about. He was an unusual, smart young man who with critical eyes watched our society’s development. He then took a step back, and decided not to like it. He felt something was missing. He felt the society lacked the love that he were determined was to be found out in the wild. McCandless was a young man whose parents love-wise had more or less abandoned him. They were there for him physically but not mentally. Like when the street lights cast shadows of yourself on your way home in the night. They are there, following you wherever you go, but you can’t talk to them.

He saw Mother Nature’s arms as more appealing than his own mothers. He preferred the sight of a clear starry night sky rather than burning city lights. He rather lived of rice and rice only, instead of microwave food from some big supermarket. He was a true believer of the simple life. For many, Christopher McCandless will always be remembered as a hero. For someone who defied the bizarre world we’ve created and instead searched for the roots of human kind, right next to the trees. A man of simple values with the intention of losing himself completely to the place he once came from, where we all come from; nature.