By Martine Jansen
Thailand was the first country I travelled on my own. I wasn’t the first to go there, definitely not the last, and yes, I too had the soundtrack of The Beach on my headphones. Years later, I would go to Canada by myself and, again, I had the images of Sean Penn’s Into the Wild on my mind and the melodies of Eddie Vedder’s tunes in my ears.
There is something exciting about stepping out into the unknown. However, most of us do follow someone else’s footsteps. What is it that drives those attracted to unfamiliar yet already chartered shores? Is it the need for adventure, escape, coming of age? Or, is it just another way of trying to be ‘mindful’?
The right answer is probably not one, or all, of the above. Christopher McCandless, the young man on which the film Into the Wild is based, was himself inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Having said that, Thoreau’s Walden can hardly be considered a blueprint for McCandless’s adventure.
Thoreau and McCandless do have a lot in common, though – most notably, they both became an inspiration for inquiring minds all over the world. In my opinion, what caused this is that, though perhaps not unique, both Thoreau’s and McCandless’s story are authentic. In a world where more and more people are looking for attention, it is this authenticity that sets them apart.
You can read the entire essay on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Sean Penn’s Into the Wild here.