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The Traveling Philosopher’s Roundtable: Into The Wild Edition

Welcome to the 1st of the weekly series on The Mad To Live: The Traveling Philosophers Roundtable. Each week a group of world-traveling, life-inspiring, dream-pursuing bloggers from all walks of life will share their personal opinions, stories and insights based on a question stemming from a quote,  event, video, photo, etc.

We all go through our lives collecting insane, inspiring, and irreplaceable experiences and adventures that make us who we are. And one of the best things about traveling anywhere is the people you meet along your path with whom you get to exchange those experiences and adventures with. They inspire us, challenge us, and change us. And that’s what we’re doing right here.

This Week’s Roundtable Discussion: INTO THE WILD.

The non-fiction book and film Into The Wild is about Chris McCandless, who after graduating from Emory University as a top student and athlete, abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

Christopher McCandless: No, man. Alaska, Alaska. I’m gonna be all the way out there, all the way fucking out there. Just on my own. You know, no fucking watch, no map, no axe, no nothing. No nothing. Just be out there. Just be out there in it. You know, big mountains, rivers, sky, game. Just be out there in it, you know? In the wild.
Wayne Westerberg: In the wild.
Christopher McCandless: Just wild!
Wayne Westerberg: Yeah. What are you doing when we’re there? Now you’re in the wild, what are we doing?
Christopher McCandless: You’re just living, man. You’re just there, in that moment, in that special place and time – the freedom and simple beauty is too good to pass up…

Roundtable Discussion:

There’s something about the freedom of exploring uncharted territory – be it a crazy adventure or a peaceful wandering – how it makes you feel, the answers you find while you’re there, the way it changes you. Does a specific time come to mind when you were just living, in that moment, in that freedom similar to the way Chris McCandless was talking about it? What did you learn about yourself or the world, how did it change you, what made it so imperfectly perfect? Why do you think so many people are like Wayne don’t quite understand this mentality?

Collin Vine

Collin Vine of The Trailblazing Life

They laughed at me for trying to take deodorant. They made me remove my excessive load of underwear and socks until I was down to just 2 pairs each. They got rid of the TP we tried to bring. Only the bare essentials were allowed on this trip.

I was nervous. I had never spent 30 days mountaineering and didn’t know what to expect. But I knew, deep inside, that I had to go on this journey. The white-out snowstorms, the incessantly wet socks and underwear, the snow that we used as TP – to this day it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done; to this day it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Chris McCandless chose to explore the geographical unchartered territory; others choose to explore the mental, physical or emotional. It doesn’t matter how or what you choose to explore, it just matters that you do. If you don’t, you’ll be one among the many. Fitting in? No thanks. Instead, let’s stand out.

Spencer Spellman Spencer Spellmen of The Traveling Philosopher

That moment has definitely been the first few weeks of 2011; having left a home, car, and office job to become a digital nomad. Spending the last few weeks in Central America, experiencing different cultures has taught me that the more I travel, the less I really know about life and the world. To me, travel is the window through which we understand the rest of the world. This life I’ve set out on certainly hasn’t been without skeptics and people who don’t quite understand. In much of the western world, it’s somewhat expected that one’s life should take on a certain progression. While doing the 9-5, having a big family, and living in suburbia is for many, it’s certainly not for everyone. With that said, though I tried that life for awhile, I’m happy I’m now living outside the lines. (Photo by Kirsten Alana)

Shannon WhiteheadShannon Whitehead of All Of Us Revolution

As challenging as it is, I think choosing to focus on the “now” is something that can and should be pursued every day, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Having said that, I didn’t begin living my own life “in the moment” until I went to New Zealand two years ago. It was during the time I spent road-tripping around the South Island in a tiny rental car, that I began to realize the true meaning of freedom.

Nothing else matters when you’re driving through the most scenic and untouched landscapes you’ve ever seen. That’s something that will change you. Obligation, social pressure and trivial things are rendered meaningless when surrounded by nature in it’s purest form.

It was those moments in New Zealand — jumping out of a plane, climbing a glacier, or driving for hours on a deserted road– that I flipped the switch. My priorities changed, and my life began to go down a completely different road of its own.

Lauren Rains of I couldn’t resist answering this

There’s something about just BEING. There’s a misconception out there that when traveling it all needs to be so GO-GO-GO. We have that same misconception about life. And hey, I’m guilty as charged. I get antsy sitting still in the same place be it for 1 hour in a room or 1 month in a city.

But if we’re able to let go just a little bit, we can really change the way we view life and start to learn ourselves. Suddenly we’re left with ourselves and our surroundings, and for the first time in a long time, we actually consciously notice everything about them.

One of these days I’d like to pack up a few of my belongings and favorite shirts and just start to drive with no destination in mind. I’ll just follow the horizon I guess, stopping where I feel like I’m meant to stop, turning where I’m meant to turn, ending where I’m meant to end. I’d just BE in my kind of “wild”.

Jessalyn Pinneo of Diary of a Wandering Student

Whenever I walk down the street in a new place, giddy excitement sweeps through me and it’s all I can do not to burst out laughing with sheer delight at being wherever I am. For some people it’s museums; for me it’s diving into life in the local culture that makes a place feel real. By interacting with the people around me – locals and other tourists – I learn more about myself. During every trip I take, I get to know myself a little better by talking with the people I meet and paying attention to how life works in a part of the world that’s new to me. Coming to understand the little things that help define a people and their culture makes me feel giddy all over again, with the excitement of learning and the rush of freedom that comes with the adventure of each day on the road.

Join The Table

So, what about you? What does it mean to be “Into the Wild” for you? Of course, Chris McCandless was one badass, risk-taking, status-quo defying mother F-er who took going “Into the Wild” to its extreme! And while it is sad that he ultimately died in the wild, his story is inspiring, and we can say that he truly, deeply LIVED.

Everyone here – Spencer Spellman, Collin Vine, Jessalyn Pinneo, and Shannon Whitehead – are truly inspiring people. Each of them has taken some pretty big leaps of faith to follow their world-exploring, business-starting, self-growing dreams. They know what it is to really LIVE and be ALIVE.

And that my friends, is an invaluable thing to know how to do, and one we should never stop practicing and chasing after.

So, what about you? What does it mean to be “Into the Wild” for you?
What are your experiences, insights, and opinions?  Join the roundtable in the comments! I reply to each comment with love and thought and nothing is cooler than the discussion that get’s going from you guys, so don’t forget to Subscribe to the Comments!

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About Lauren Rains

Hi my name is Lauren Rains. I write about the human experience. Through thick and thin, I’m dedicated to growth, adventure, integrity, and love. The Mad To Live is based on my pursuits, experiments, research, and lessons of challenge and triumph in all areas of life, including being entrepreneur, a writer, a philosopher, a traveler, a teacher, a student, a creative, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a significant other, a stranger and the list goes on. At the end of the day, I believe human beings are here for two reasons: 1.) to love one another with total acceptance, and 2.) to see what we’re made of as we create the possibilities for an abundant life for ourselves and for others. No more bullshit, let's just enjoy our lives.

Share with me what you're getting into that matters to you. It could be stepping into entrepreneurial pursuits, embarking on a journey of the self, making a crazy life change, or even if you're totally stuck. I want to connect with, support, collaborate with, and learn from as many people as possible through this blog (that means you!) Click the *Share* link in the main menu and let's connect by filling out the form.

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  • Spencer, Collin, Jessalyn, Shannon – Thanks so much for sharing! You guys are awesome, badass, and inspiring. As far as people that stand out in this world, you guys definitely do and will continue to do so 🙂 Never stop exploring!

  • I experienced a new sense of freedom when I came to Asia to live. I’m not sure if it was so much about being “in-the-wild” (I was still in the urban sprawl for much of it), as being removed from the patterns and expectations of the life I left behind. Being disconnected from the familiar and having no preconceptions provided a sense of liberation and excitement. No car to drive down the same familiar streets. No office to go to every day. No being bombarded with media every waking moment. (the media was still there but I tuned it out since the culture was so alien). Being present in nature can be very calming too. A kind of meditative experience. But it’s also possible to feel free even amid the chaos of “civilization”. It’s something you bring with you.

    • Hey Lach!
      I know exactly what you mean here. Where in Asia were you? I spent a year living in Beijing, China and had quite a similar experience. It’s pretty fantastic what being disconnected from the familiar nad having no preconceptions can do to make us really feel alive. Liberation and excitement are feelings and states of mind that I live for.
      That freedom definitely comes within you, whether your in the wild of peaceful nature or a chaotic civilation.

      • I’m in Thailand at the moment.

  • This was great Lauren. Thanks for asking me to do this! Happy also to meet some other people and follow some new websites/blogs I wasn’t following.

    • Hey Spencer!
      The pleasure was all mine! 🙂 I like your digital nomad style – that’s what I’m going after as well 🙂 Everyone on this list is ridiculously awesome to say THE LEAST 🙂

    • Agreed. Much thanks for the inclusion here, Lauren. And I gotta admit, I was a little upset that I wasn’t clever enough to come up with this idea. The Travelling Philosophers Roundtable. Brilliant! Can’t wait to see what other cool Travelling Philosophers you come across and where this weekly column goes ’cause it’s definitely going to be getting deeper into the wild (maybe I stretched too hard to incorporate that saying…).

  • Living into the wild doesn’t appeal to me at all. I do like the though of just letting everything go — which for me would mean somehow traveling without stressing about what’s next.

    • Hey Kyle!
      Yea living in the WILD WILD doesn’t appeal to me as much. I mean, I’d like to hike the entire Appalachian trail, but I’m not sure I’d want to go out to Alaska by myself haha. I do like the metaphorical sense of it though.
      And as far as traveling without stressing about what’s next, well, that sounds like a mighty fine way to live in the wild. Sometimes you just have to go to a place and let the destination be wherever it is your feet wander off to 🙂

  • As I sit, cooped up in Temple University’s computer labs, I can’t help but have two hugely prevalent emotions rush through me (one might say like class five rapids):

    Eager Anticipation: I can’t wait to get out and start doing those kinds of things myself. I only have maybe a dozen more weeks of my undergraduate degree left and after that I’ll be out and about. Travelling, yes, but more importantly: exploring. Internally and externally.

    The second emotion? I can’t tell if it’s jealousy or a feeling of awesome happiness for what you guys are out doing. You guys (Hey, Collin, watch what I do here) are the Trailblazers (see what I did there?) and represent something I think the world needs a whole lot more of.

    Keep up the awesome work, ladies and gentlemen!

    • Hey Dan!
      OOO i can feel your eager anticipation! That is awesome!!!! Only a few more weeks to go! Congrats on graduating as well 🙂
      To be honest with you, speaking of eager anticipation, I have actually been lacking this for awhile. Since I came back from China I kind of feel like I’m floating around right now. I’m planning to go abroad in 6 months again, but I guess it feels so far away the eager anticipation feels more like wishful thinking! I like your attitude! I need to get in touch with it more lately!

      And secondly, hell yea to the trailblazers 🙂 Is there any other way to live life than to blaze your own path. Hell no. 🙂

    • Man, that Dan guy is clever! Did anyone else pick up on that? Geeze, blows me away sometimes! Heh, thanks for the promo buddy.

      And I completely know the antsy feeling of getting over the university hump. 1 year ago I was in the same position, feeling like a Greyhound trapped behind the racing gates just waiting to pounce forward and chase down the rabbit (aka life).

      If you’re ever in need of someone to do some serious exploring with, I’m game. We’ll be blazing trails long into the future (and enjoying every moment of the Now, right Shannon?).

      • You know I’m in, man. The second I’m out of here I imagine you’ll be able to find me in the UK or somewhere with a more favorable exchange rate.

      • hahaha ” feeling like a Greyhound trapped behind the racing gates just waiting to pounce forward and chase down the rabbit (aka life).” – This is why I like you Collin.

        I’ll come along for the exploring as well!

  • Great post. Hope you inspire more folks to get on out there. Whether “in the wild” or just “out there,” its an amazing and fun world out there.

    • Hey Michael!
      I hope so too! 🙂 There are a lot of ways to view life – a deep black whole, a controlling hurricane, just plain BLAH… or you can see it as the amazing and fun world that it is once you’re out there. 🙂

  • I really like the idea of this column, Lauren, and I can’t wait to see what you do with it. It’s an interesting way to get a snapshot into different travelers’ adventures and travel styles. Thanks so much for including me in this first one – as Spencer said, it’s great to connect with some new faces!

    • Hey Jessalyn!
      The pleasure was all mine 🙂 Thanks for contributing! I really love your style of travel as you’re someone that really likes to get to know little things about the culture you’re exploring. I find that those little surprises and secrets you stumble upon when traveling are what inspire some of our most profound recollections.
      Thanks Jessalyn!
      LAUREN 🙂

  • Very cool guests in here Lauren — I got a sense of their adventures just reading about them here. A shout out and big thanks for sharing Spencer, Collin, Jessalyn, Shannon — it’s much appreciated!

    I love to meet interesting people and see and experience new things. Life, wherever you happen to be today, is lived “out there.”

    Whatever you haven’t seen, experienced, understood or appreciated is something you’ve missed out on – my life’s mission is to not miss out on anything : )

    Cheers to all of you!

    • Hey Mark!
      That sounds like an absolutely wonderful life’s mission. Life should be like an all you can eat sushi buffet in the heart of Tokyo – why wouldn’t you want to try every single damn piece there is to offer?

      Cheers to you an your mission Mark, and living your life “out there”!
      – LAUREN 🙂

  • Hey Lauren!

    Wow. Such inspiring people and thoughts there. We can’t wait to have our own adventures one day. For us it would definitely be a team project although Tariq doesn’t mind as much being all alone, seeing he’s traveled solo many times before.

    Oh and like Shannon, Shaheera thinks that New Zealand is just an amazing place to taste freedom and let go. She went glacier hiking too and rode on buses along the scenic routes.

    Thank you for sharing this with us and thank you to Spencer, Collin, Jessalyn and Shannon for the inspiration!

    Tariq and Shaheera

    • Hey you two!
      Well I hope that your own adventures one day soon stops being someday and becomes today as soon as possible!!! 🙂
      I have been hearing so many things about New Zealand and all the adventures it has to offer. I really want to go! That is exactly the kind of travel I’m looking for on my next trip. I really want a sense of adventure and a sense of just exploring uncharted territory. For some reason when I feel like I’m doing that it really puts life in perspective for me.

      Thanks or sharing you two! You’re inspiring blog and also great companionship between the two of you is something that I really love to see!
      – LAUREN 🙂

  • This is a great series and very interesting that all of these travelers liked Into the Wild and it’s philosophy. I hated the book because I felt like it undermined the efforts and hard work of those who actually survive in the wild every single day . . . . like the amazing boatsmen in Botswana (I actually wrote a whole post about it at my side titled Really Into the Wild). Nonetheless, I love this series and seeing how other travelers approach traveling. Great idea!

    • Hey Alika!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the series!
      Yea I can understand where you’re coming from on that and you make a good point. I’ll have to check out your article too! That sounds really interesting. But despite the issues of the book and whether liked it or not, I think that the quote above is really great even if its isolated. I love the excitement and message of it.
      Thanks for stopping by Akila!
      -Laur 🙂

  • Carol Ma

    When I was in high school,my father wanted me to go to Canada to accept a higher quality education.However,I did not want to go because I did not want to leave my parents and my classmates.My father persuaded me to go and listed some reasons,including independence.Finally,I decided to go because I think it is time to go outside and face the complicated world.
    Through this special experience,I learned that when children grow up,independence is important for them.If children own independence,they will take the first step to go wherever they want and achieve their dreams.

  • Frances Tsai

    I think I have a similar characteristic to the protagonist who was described in the book of “into the wild”.

    We have some dissatisfied complains to our unfair society; however, we are no power and inability to change it. Thus, people want to return to the most primitive life, there is no complicated legal obligations and ethics, absolute freedom. We can really recognize the real significance of life!

    In fact, all things are born with survival instincts, but there are still some acquired experiences, skills and tips that are needed to learn for survive. Some people say that Christopher was silly; however, in my personal opinion, I believe he is a valiant but his skills are not enough for him to face challenges from nature.

    Right now, our society has developed to a queer situation that is people just need to know how to “make money” for whole life. I doubt that if one day we need to use survival techniques to face the severe environment how many people can survive? Answer seems to be close to the zero including me!

    “Into the Wild” there is a page stated that Christopher intends to boating in a river, he goes to the local police station to ask the relevant message, but the police asks him: “Do you have a license?” and shows out a roster. On the roster if Christopher wants to boating in the river, he need to line up and wait for12 years! The burden in our life is too much, now when we walk in the wild we have to worry about that are we in an interdiction area?

    “Happiness only real when shared”, these words many people can understand the meaning on the surface, I thought about these words for a long time. I completely agree. I had three girls. It is amazing how much happiness through my girls. They make me smile, happy and every day is a good day with them as I share my love and happiness with them. Sharing our happiness with someone will be different for everyone!

  • Andrea Yuan

    I very appreciate Alex’s attitude for life, which can do whatever he wants to do and insist his dream.I am kind of like the main character Alex,I do insist living in my own way.I spend most of my spare time to do volunteering and I am pretty much enjoy it,because I really learned a lot,even the people around think I am kind of crazy.Alex can achieve his dream by insist his own way,he is really brave.I want to have this experience like what he have.In to wild,enjoy nature,have a wonderful trip and find the meaning of life.I am kind of weak,which sometimes I do not like walk alone,but after I read this book,I find many similarities between I and Alex.If I have the chance someday,I will try to travel into the wild.I love crazy things and I do not real want to a such a this regular life,doing the same things over and over again.I remember when I was grade eight,everyone hated the head teacher,except me.I know the head teacher did really caring us,I was the only one who was really making friend with teacher.I know the head teacher really nice when others could not understand him.I remember when all of my classmates were really sad to sent a guy away, who was the one hit the teacher by using a steel.road.I was the only one,who just stay in the classroom,it did not worth me to do anything for such a bad guy.I have lots of experience of life and I learned a lot.I know no matter how others think,I should just do what I want and insist what I think it is correct. Life is short and we should do something really valuable.We should not regret how bad is our life before we leave from the world.I really hope I can have the chance someday to explore my life

  • Andrea

    I really appreciate Alex’s life and i really want to have that kind of experience. I like volunteering so much that others think I’m crazy.