Back to the Wild on Airplay

First aired on Airplay (27/6/11)


In 1992, Christopher McCandless hiked into the Alaskan backcountry with few supplies and a head full of ideas on how people should live in and relate to the world. His emaciated body was found in an abandoned bus that fall. His story caught the imagination of writer Jon Krakauer, who turned it into the bestselling book Into the Wild.

Now, almost 20 years later, McCandless's family is ready to share their version of his journey in a book called Back to the Wild. It's a collection of previously unpublished photos and writing by Chris, lovingly curated by his mother, Billie, his father, Walt, and artist Heather Horton.

The photos are largely from Chris's many journeys into the wilderness. Some were found with his body, others were given to the family by friends of Chris's. The photographs became a healing tool for his mother. "When Chris first passed, I couldn't look at the pictures enough," she told Airplay host Dave White. "I couldn't talk to enough people. I couldn't answer enough letters."

Billie was overwhelmed by the response to her son's death, and made an effort to connect with every person who called or wrote, hoping to offer them the answers or comfort they were seeking. The fascination with her son hasn't waned in the two decades since his death. Billie thought that the book would be another way to connect with the communities that Chris's life and adventure touched. "We felt that in these pictures were the answers that all these kids were looking for," she said. "It could help [them] experience what Chris was doing and what Chris was seeing."

Creating the book was a painful process for the McCandless family, but it also helped them heal. It reminded them of the lesson that Chris's life represented, one that Billie tries to remember every day. "Happiness is only good when shared. You give to people and they give back," she said. "That's what makes the world keep going around."

Watch a trailer for Back to the Wild below.

Back to the WildBack to the Wild
by Christopher McCandless

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"In 1993, an adventure writer named Jon Krakauer, wrote an article for Outside magazine about a young man that was discovered perished in an abandoned 142 Fairbanks City Bus on the Stampede trail in Alaska. The circumstances surrounding this event were so mysterious, it lead to Jon Krakauer spending 3 years thoroughly researching all aspects of the event resulting in his world famous novel Into The Wild in 1996. This was later depicted in the award winning Sean Penn movie of the same name in 2007.

Since then, there has been a cult following, if you will, on the story and its main character Christopher McCandless. Many have visited the bus, many have started websites and internet groups, many schools have written assignments on the story and people from all over the world and from all walks of life have been touched by the story. This is continually made evident through comments on forums — years after the book and movie were released. For some, there are questions remaining on why this talented and educated young man ventured off alone and more importantly, where are all of his other pictures that he took and journal that he kept."

Read more at the Back to the Wild website.

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