Connection with nature is a part of our human DNA. We came from the wilderness, and thus we are drawn to it. Nature provides us a sense of freedom; it’s wild, untamed, brings peace but also an element of risk and danger. In an age of technology, tapping into ones ‘wild self’ can take time. We need a reminder of our wild instincts. These three engaging stories will get you there.
Into the Wild
Remember being young with not a care in the world? Into The Wild is the true story of Chris McCandless, a young Emory graduate who is found dead in the Alaskan wilderness in September 1992, when he is twenty-four. Written by novelist and mountaineer Jon Krakauer, the story of McCandless and his ultimate demise is filled with adventure, exploration, and a spirit to explore the unknown.
“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
From the suburbs of Atlanta, McCandless finds his way to the base of Mt. McKinley in Alaska. He hikes into the wilderness with the intent of being off the grid and living off the land. He spends the next sixteen weeks hunting small game, foraging, reading, and living in a deserted bus, not seeing another single human the entire time. Into the Wild is an amazing account of perseverance, our connection to nature, and our own vulnerability. Depending on who you ask, McCandless is a patron saint or a cautionary tale.
The Last American Man
Eustice Conway is unlike any other man you have met. In 1987, Conway founded Turtle Island Preserve—now over 1,000 acres of mostly pristine Southern Appalachian wilderness, serving as a preindustrial farm and education center. The biography, published in 2002, is chronicled by GQ journalist and author Elizabeth Gilbert.
“One thing I encourage a lot of people to realize and do is just have an adventure.”
In 1977, at the age of seventeen, Conway left his family’s suburban home to move to the Appalachian Mountains. For over two decades he has lived there, making fire with sticks, wearing skins from animals he has trapped, and trying to convince Americans to give up their materialistic lifestyles and return with him back to nature. Conway’s approach to living challenges every aspect of our modern day, technologically driven lives. As Gilbert proclaims in The Last American Man, Conway is a symbol of how we feel our men should be, but rarely are.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
The exploration of Ernest Shackleton to Antarctica goes down as one of the most amazing trials of bravery, resilience, and leadership. In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the ship Endurance and set sail for Antarctica. The plan: to cross the last uncharted continent on foot.
“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
In January 1915, after battling its way through a thousand miles of pack ice, the Endurance became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. A story of pure will against the harshest of environments, Shackelton’s adventure inspires hope and stands as yet another reminder of how insignificant we are to the elements of nature.