it was the summer after graduation high school that i first read Into The Wild. i was ready for a new adventure. excited about what the future would hold. and wanting to hear more about how one young man had rejected the conventional path of adulthood and carved a way of his own. i started the book on a three day backpacking trip with a good friend. we'd packed flashlights, journals, a large bag of trailmix, and this book. we read the story aloud to each other splayed out on sun-filled rocks watching the stream below us twinkle; curled up in our tent amidst the call of crickets; and finished it after returning to civilization in the shade of a park in our hometown, as the final signature on our adventure.
the book left a deep mark on my developing sense of self. i won't go into why. there's no convincing to be done. those who read it usually feel either inexplicably connected to alexander mccandless or completely baffled by him. but at the end of that day, as the last words were read, i added a line to my life list: 'visit the magic bus'.
ten years later i was headed to alaska.
there was a moment on the road to the magic bus when i wasn't sure we were going to make it. i had miscalculated how far we'd gone, the sun was descending, and all our sustenance was back at camp, ten miles behind us. i couldn't shake the thought that if we turned back now the bus might be just up ahead, and that we would never know. we'd never know how close we were. what i wasn't willing to face was what it would mean to turn back. what it would mean to come all this way and not fulfill a dream i'd been dreaming this long. would it mean failing to prove to myself that everything is possible, that i can do anything i set my mind to, that my dreams are in reach. so really, we had no choice. we stashed our daypack and ran. in wet tennis shoes. through mud. and marsh. across snow, rivers and streams. some frozen, others freezing.