This is a blog/essay I wrote for Creative Nonfiction in response to John Krakauer's Into the Wild. You'll probably get it even if you haven't read it. (I didn't actually finish reading it. But, shh!)
This is going into my portfolio that's due tomorrow, so any constructive criticism would be reeeaaally helpful because I want this to be as good as possible, and I value my readers' opinions.
No Room Service
“My idea of roughing it is staying at a hotel without room service,” my mom has said many times, and I tend to agree.
I have no desire to go back to nature or return to my natural roots as did Chris McCandless of John Krakauer’s Into the Wild. I do like to take a hot shower in the morning, use a toilet, drink a cup of coffee, fry an egg, read a blog or two, and put on a clean pair of jeans. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate nature, or that I’m an anti-environmentalist. The environment is important to me, and I think it should be preserved, respected, and explored. I compost and recycle, and I would like to learn how to grow vegetables; I’m very conscious of my carbon footprint. Furthermore, I have a problem with luxurious living when people waste simply because they don’t care, and simply because they can afford to, disregarding their waste’s effects on the earth. Wasting has never been an option in my family, especially when it comes to food, electricity, and water. Luxury often ties in with overabundance, and living in nature is the opposite extreme, which is why, to me, living comfortably is the ideal. There is a balance.
It was difficult for me to relate to Chris McCandless. Unlike him, I don’t have family problems, I wouldn’t go into the wild alone, and I don’t have the urge to get away from society for more than a weekend. My mom, my brother and I all get along, and being alone in the wilderness frightens me, especially if I was as unprepared as McCandless. And while there are some aspects of society that I disagree with, I would rather stay where I am and write about why I disagree with them. I would prefer to make a statement in my writing than embark on a suicide mission like McCandless. The only life-threatening mission I would carry out is one from which a positive change in the world could occur. I don’t know that leaving society would make an impact on the world; I think the impact would weigh more heavily on my family and friends, and because of this, the notion of leaving seems particularly selfish. McCandless does not gain anything by abandoning his life and loved ones as one might hope. I could not do the same to the people I care about; it would weigh too heavily on my conscience. I just couldn’t do it.
I could never get up and leave my life without a plan. I could never travel to another city without a plan. I could never even leave my house without a plan. I need to know where I’m going, how long it will take me to get there, who will be there, what weather I need to prepare for, how much money I will require, what I will eat, and where I will sleep. I need to know what my plans B, C, D, E, and F are in case plan A goes awry. However, I do not carry around a big bag containing a flashlight, first aid kit, energy bars and thermal underwear. I’m not insane. Instead, I have lip balm, hand sanitizer, hand cream, tissues, pen, keys, cell phone, tampon, and wallet in my purse. I am prepared for my everyday life every day. If I was to travel, the size and contents of my bag would adjust according to my trip and destination. I like to be prepared, but reasonably so. Leaving unprepared for the wilderness is not something I could ever do. It’s dangerous. Anything could go wrong, even if I was prepared for the worst, and if I was alone, there would be no one to help me.
As a woman, travelling or living alone in the wilderness is extremely daunting. Although it did not seem like McCandless encountered bad people, I would be constantly aware and afraid of the dangers that could arise simply because of my gender. McCandless did not worry about trusting certain men out of fear that he might be raped or abused, whereas I would constantly. Any time that I would find myself alone with a man or several men, I know that I would have to proceed with extreme caution. Considering the potential threats a woman might face by travelling alone in the great outdoors, it would be foolish and unrealistic for me to do so.
One part of Chris McCandless’ journey that I can relate to is his discovery of unhappiness in loneliness. While I tend to be quite solitary, working best alone and quietly, I could not live in the middle of nowhere. Some are attracted to the silence and solitude a cabin in the woods provides, but to me that kind of location is nice for up to a week. As much as I like to be away from people, I still want them to be within reach. I want to be able to look out from the seclusion of a one-bedroom apartment onto a bustling city street. I want to be able to walk into a coffee shop and have my presence acknowledged. I want to be able to call up a friend and make plans to see a movie in the evening. I like to be alone, but not lonely. I find comfort knowing that if I was to die in my apartment, someone might hear, someone would know where to find me, someone would consider my absence suspicious, or someone would smell my body decomposing within a couple of days. And that’s comforting to me. If I fell into trouble where no one could find me, it would be a sad ending to my life; one, I imagine, where my dignity may be compromised and my suffering prolonged. I would not want to leave that kind of memory behind.
As beautiful as nature may be, and as hectic as everyday life may seem sometimes, I could not go into the wild as Chris McCandless did. I would need to be much more prepared, find someone else to go with, and let others know where I would be. If I had to choose between camping in the wilderness and staying at a hotel in a foreign city, I’d pick the hotel. And if there was no room service, well, I suppose I’d have to do my best to survive.