Into the Wild

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Unexpected, unusual, compelling… are the first three words that come to mind from my personal experience with Jon Krakauer’s telling of the story of Christopher McCandless.

While I know this book won’t be for everyone (critics were rife when this book was released in 1996), I know that for me, I found this book hard to put down and it certainly sparked a few thoughts towards my own travels.


McCandless as depicted in the film adaption, “Into the Wild”.

Into the Wild

I read this book on a full day bus trip through Japan recently and instantly knew it was a story I wanted to share with WOW readers and the WOW Book Clubbers. I also knew instantly that the story would not suit everyone, but I found the book so engaging and intriguing that I thought at the very least, it was a good read that would keep you engaged and interested to find out how the story ends.

It was a couple of years ago when I first saw the film adaption of Into the Wild and in complete honesty, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it then. I was a lot younger then and found the story slightly uncomfortable, as it made me question my reality, society, and the purpose of my own life.

But reading the book struck a different cord for me. I didn’t find the story uncomfortable or confronting, but rather it forced me to question my own path and the reason why we travel.

For me, travel is a way to understand the world in which we live, to educate myself based on first hand experiences, and to open my eyes to new sights, sounds, tastes and experiences. This book was a way to understand that on a deeper level, based on McCandless’ unrelenting desire to “live off the land”, belong to nowhere and no one.

I personally don’t relate to Christopher McCandless in many ways, but I did find his story intriguing. As someone who is close with my family and friends and would never close the door to an old life to start a new one, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around his decision making and with so much of the book and public information surrounding McCandless being speculation, I’m not sure I ever will.

The book puzzled me to some degree but I finished it feeling thankful for my own life – the relationships I have with people at home and how I am able to upkeep them whilst travelling. I suppose for me the book described everything I would not like to be: detached, in complete solitude and perhaps even ungrateful (?)

For me solo travel is about the relationships you form for the long term, so in that regard I could relate to Christopher McCandless, who seemed intent with keeping some of the relationships he formed alive (albeit via postcards). But he always kept people at arms length and in contrast for me, I find beauty in vulnerability and opening yourself up to relationships/friendships to let them take their course.

If you lose a person in your life or a friendship turns sour, life goes on. It simply must.

After all, life is not what happens to you, but how you react to it. 

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are your thoughts about McCandless’ decision to leave his family without warning, despite his close relationship with his sister?

  2. Do you believe McCandless’ fate was inevitable given his lack of preparation and concern for the reality of the Alaskan wild?

  3. What do you make of the author’s decision to go to the location where Christopher McCandless passed away?

Sound off in the comments below!

Hopefully see you all next month! We’ll be reading “Lunch in Paris”.

Brooke Saward

Brooke founded World of Wanderlust as a place to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to see our world. She now divides her time between adventures abroad and adventures in the kitchen!

May 1, 2016





    May 10, 2016

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  2. Brooke Saward

    May 7, 2016

    The book of course! I liked both but I think I did enjoy the book more 🙂


    Mani Kunis

    May 6, 2016

    Which one of these came first? The Book or The Movie?
    I have seen the movie during my college days….That that i had a crush on Kristen Stewart…Although her role was small….but i like it…..This was one of the best movie during my college days…….



    May 3, 2016

    I loved this book! I found his story very inspiring, as I’m very interested in people who don’t take the expected route, who do things differently and follow their own path. It takes courage to do that, to live by your beliefs, especially if they are not the norm. And Chris certainly did that.

    I did see the movie adaptation a few years ago, so I knew how his story went, but the author did a great job writing this book.

    Although I don’t aspire to live off the land, I could relate to Chris in some ways. I too broke with my family, which is never easy, but sometimes necessary in poisonous relationships, to find your own path and happiness. Some would consider that selfish, but in my opinion that is not always a bad thing. Sometimes you have to put your own happiness before that of others. I don’t think we know enough about his family situation from this book to make fair conclusions. His sister wrote a book in which she tells more about it, so that might be interesting to read. I could relate a lot with the post of Natalie Eck (although my situation was a little different), who describes my thoughts more eloquently. It is not easy to talk about these things when English is not your first language.

    Obviously, Chris was not prepared enough for his Alaskan adventure, but I don’t think he did such a bad job either. He also had a bit of bad luck. He did live several months off the land, which is, for me, quite impressive. When I was reading the book, I sometimes wondered if Chris would have done things differently knowing how his adventure would end. He would have been more prepared of course, but to me he seemed so at ease and certain about his life choices, that I don’t think he would have chosen a very different life path. Living according to his values seemed so important to him. This is guessing of course, but it got me thinking about how I live my life.


    Natalie Eck

    May 1, 2016

    I read Into the Wild right after I graduated from high school in 2009, and although I was happier at that time, I had just escaped a nightmarish situation: living with a mentally unstable mother, a childish, verbally abusive step-father, and my two beyond amazing siblings that I spent the bulk of my childhood caring for.

    I escaped my senior year when I moved to Florida to live with my father. And although I spent my senior year away from my siblings, my friends, and the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains that I loved so much, I felt like I was able to finally reflect and heal from all the turbulent times I had when I lived in a house with two angry, delusional adults that viewed me as more of a housemaid/ caregiver for their children then what I was: a depressed, insecure teenager that needed a stable environment, one away from the lies and the persistent chaos that kept me on my toes.

    Moving away from my siblings hurt like hell. I felt like I abandoned them to fend for themselves, but, unlike McCandless, my mother wanted me to leave.

    I do, therefore, think it was unkind of McCandless to push his sister away, too, but I suppose he wanted to get as close to a rebirth experience as possible in an attempt to reevaluate his existence and purge the darkness from his mind, body, and spirit.

    I think McCandless was selfish, reckless, and a bit in denial, but most twenty-four-year olds fit that description; I know I do. I think McCandless’ hubris is only amplified in Into the Wild since his decisions unnerve the average reader so much.

    He was in search of a rite of passage, one that could cleanse the pain he felt from his upbringing, but also the pain he felt when he looked at society.

    He grew up in the thick of the Reagan era, which led to the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor in America. Wall Street was given huge tax breaks that led to a culture of unapologetic gluttony and materialism.

    During his time at Emory University, McCandless chose to study issues that exposed him to the horror of the apartheid, and the hunger crisis in Africa.

    He was, therefore, clearly fleeing not just from his family, but also from the lifestyle of an affluent American. I think he wanted to test his ability to live off the land as a way to prove his ability to survive on the bare minimum like the African people he clearly loved and respected.

    Yes, McCandless was wrong to leave his sister behind without any contact, and he should have prepared more for his Alaskan adventure, but beyond all of his faults is one truth: his story has inspired more people to travel, and, more importantly, his story has poked and prodded at the inner depths of people’s hearts, making them question what truly makes them happy, and whether or not they, too, feel the need to have a rite of passage to find the answer .



    May 1, 2016

    I read this book a few years back and I never really got over the feeling that he really should have called his mother more! In truth, the book doesn’t really go into his relationship with his parents so maybe there is more to the story than we know, but I couldn’t help but feel like just taking off and not staying in touch with anyone in his life was incredibly cruel and selfish. They were worried and he chose to let them worry. In the end, his fate was sealed, not only by his poor preparation, but by his unwillingness to let others into his life.

    That being said, the book was phenomenally well done. This is one of those books where you’re so frustrated with the main character, but the author does a wonderful job of keeping you reading even when you want to chuck the book across the room because of the main character’s actions.


    conor rees

    April 30, 2016

    I’m a big fan of the film. The book has never appealed to me since I already know the story.



    April 30, 2016

    Such a great post


    Jennifer @ This Off Script Life

    April 30, 2016

    I haven’t yet read the book, but it’s on my list of travel books to read. And (difficult as it is), I’m willing myself not to watch the film until I’ve read the book; so, I better get crackin’!



    April 30, 2016

    In one of the reviews on this book, someone posted “This book made me feel things I have never felt myself”. I think, this sums up my experience too. Loved this book.



    April 30, 2016

    I had similar thoughts after reading this book. And I wanted to understand more on why Chris would do something so drastic. Angry or not, I would never be able to simply walk away from the life I have built so far with my friends & family. So I read his sister’s book, “The Wild Truth”. It did answer a lot of questions. I believe, it was just the way Chris reacted towards his parents, while his sister had a different way.
    Although, towards the end Chris did realize how important it was to share happiness with others, it turned out to be too late. Inevitable fate, yes maybe. But also combined with bad luck.
    As always, I enjoyed the book more than the movie (Beautiful music though. Cannot go wrong with Eddie Vedder!).


    Sharon Kay Phillips

    April 30, 2016

    My family was in Alaska in Sept 1992. The talk about the young man was the rage. I did not care for his treatment of his family. He could relate to strangers, so he was capable of caring. I can’t begin to understand his thinking. I did like the book. Well written. The author researched well. I loved the quotes. I think the author visiting the the bus was research. The author took the story as far as he could. Chris just didn’t understand what he was getting into. He was young and thought he was invincible.
    Good book.

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