“I think it made a difference to Jon,” said McCandless. But did it matter for him and his wife? “Well, not really because it doesn’t change anything.”
When asked if he disliked the media attention when another young man went missing in Oregon, he said, “Yes.” He said the young man’s father had said that he wanted to make sure people looked for his son unlike Chris, which McCandless said was simply not true.
He does, however, understand how it feels not to know what has happened to one’s missing child. “It’s a terrible thing,” he said. “I tell people it’s like living in suspense continually. You just feel displaced.”
He said Billie would put a note on the door of their house for Chris whenever they went out before Chris was found. He said, “We still had hope.” But, he noted, their son didn’t contact any family members. “He, basically, I think, knew we’d be looking for him. It’s hard to work your way through that one.”
The last trip Chris took was not the first time he had gone off to explore on his own, said McCandless. He had disappeared on road trips on two other occasions, before college and one summer during college. “He had that kind of wandering spirit,” McCandless said. “Chris took a lot of chances and the last one he took he was not able to deal with it.”
The book, “Into the Wild,” which McCandless said was “right on,” says Chris had a difficult relationship with his father, who had eight children, including Chris who was born while McCandless was separated, but still married to his first wife, which Chris learned from family friends on one of his road trips. McCandless also had a son with his first wife, before his last child, Carine, was born to Billie.
McCandless said he was the counterpart to Chris, who was more like his mother, Billie. He knew exactly what he was going to do, go to college and work. He eventually became an aerospace engineer who designed radar systems and had his own business. He also took Chris hiking every year from the age of 8 until he was 17.
So the take away from Chris’s experience, said McCandless, is “learn what not to do and what to do. I can appreciate people going into the outdoors. I think that’s fine, but what you should learn is you really need to be well-prepared.”
“You need to learn everything you can and lower your probability of getting into trouble. “ And, he said: “You need to let people know where you are.”