Flipping through the channels the other night I came across the movie Into the Wild. I can’t remember exactly how I felt after I first saw it, but these days I’m guessing a little differently.
Coincidentally, PBS was airing a program called Return to the Wild, a kind of update on some of the background behind Christopher McCandless’ story. So I watched that instead. I checked to see if there was any particular reason both of these would be showing on the same night but couldn’t find any link. Having just finished my own cross-country solo road trip, though, it was timely to say the least.
A part of me wanted to write a big piece about all the things I learned being on the road for 99 days traveling 8,559 miles (exactly) around the country. It was a pretty big deal for me. And I tried, believe me, rambling on about why it was hard for me, the anxiety I experienced at times, the literal black cloud I was under for the first half of the trip, the obvious tension and surge in violence throughout the country this year in cities big and small I visited, the bad drivers (oh, the bad drivers everywhere), the simultaneous lack of and incredible diversity of this country, etc., etc. But I’m having a hard time getting over the fact I had the opportunity to do it at all, with the worst of it being a cracked windshield from the first day on the road. And all I can really think about is the gratitude I have for the people who helped make the trip possible. I’m indebted to my hosts who without hesitation opened up their homes and enthusiastically showed me their little slices of America.
One thing I should mention, and it may sound strange coming from a photographer on a long road trip, is that it wasn’t about photography at all. I didn’t want to make a “project” out of it. I didn’t want to think about making pictures. I picked up the camera when I was inspired, period. I may have missed some opportunities, but it’s okay. Just enjoying the moment was enough.
Happy with what I got though. Here are a few more, some outtakes and otherwise…
So more Into the Miles than Into the Wild for me. The documentary goes to great lengths to unpack the motivations behind Christopher McCandless’ trek into Alaska. Was it the pure spirit of adventure? Was it an act of rebellion? Was he running from the pain and trauma of abuse suffered throughout his childhood? It was probably all of those things and more. But these days I’m likely to side with the Alaskans who wonder how he became a beacon of inspiration for trekking into the woods with nothing but 10 lbs of rice and a .22.
Then again, I’m a big champion for living on your own terms and accepting and learning from your mistakes in life. From his last journal entries it’s obvious McCandless got to that point, due more to circumstance than choice at the end but it doesn’t matter. And the fact he made it a point to explore his own country rather than following the trampled trail through Europe is enough for me to believe he did indeed march to the beat of his own drum. I respect that immensely.
It seems to me the balance of idealism and rebellion with the gratitude that can only develop with a life actually lived is the sweet spot. I’m still susceptible to drawing from that pure but all too shallow well of youth, but knowing what I know about time and how little of it we truly have, gratitude just seems like the more refreshing drink at this point in my life.
I could probably say more, but that’s enough for now. Thanks to those who came along in spirit via this blog (I felt you riding along!), and again to all of my gracious hosts for making it a summer I’ll never forget.
Finally, I threw together a slideshow- 99 photos for 99 days on the road- to a little song that reflects the sentiment I’m trying to convey here. Click this.. Thanks again!