“I went looking for the frontier that I was promised and found a complex landscape, and a road that served as a physical and psychological line between wilderness and progress.” – Ben Huff
I chose this quote, tied to the photo-mentary of Ben Huff’s five years driving up and down the Haul Road, because I am drawn to the concept of ‘the Road in the Wilderness.’
Nearly all stories involve travel as a spur to growth – this is found in fairy tales, grand epics, and philosophy alike. Fairy tales draw the characters out of their comfortable villages, down the road, and into the wilderness to meet Baba Yaga, talking bears, questing beasts, and damsels in distress. Epics such as the Iliad and the Odyssey take us not only on voyages but down roads to the House of the Dead and up the mountains to Circe’s lair. The whole of Chris McCarther’s book titled ‘The Road’ is about the search for progress in a land become wilderness.
Alaska is considered by peoples across the world to be the land of the Last Frontier, where wilderness abounds and anything could happen if you stray from the path. ‘Into the Wild’ wasn’t just about a young man coming to Alaska and living on his own in a bus until he died of starvation – it was a young man leaving ‘progress’ and the road of normality and entering the wilderness (literally and psychologically.)
Stories by Jack London are set in the Yukon and revolve around using the road to escape progress and enter the wilderness. Poems by Robert Service continue the lure of the Last Frontier, and Robert Frost continues the idea of roads and paths making a difference in our lives. “I came upon two paths in a wood, and took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference.” (paraphrase.)
The point is: No great adventure comes from staying in your comfort zone.
It’s a theme found in stories across the world, and as such is open to a global audience regardless of culture and language. It is independent of the audiences’ living space, because even when someone lives far from a wilderness they can and usually do still have an idea of what it is and what it symbolizes. And a wilderness can be of the spirit or mind as well of the physical geography.
My focus for this is going to be figuring out the best way to tie the stories together, and what point I want to make. I’m thinking of aiming for a sort of ‘call to action’ – where the audience becomes inspired to travel their metaphorical road. That can be from their comfort zone into adventure, or it can be the realization that the wilderness-journey doesn’t have to be forever. People take the road into the wilderness but at some point they usually try to come back.