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Three Movies That Will Inspire the Adventurer in You

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

We can draw inspiration from anywhere. It fuels our anticipation for our next big adventure. And the anticipation is often even more exciting than the adventure itself, which always comes with the actual toil of putting one foot before the other, suffering in the cold of night and in the heat of day. We first need fire and fuel to get there, which can come from inside ourselves or elsewhere. Books, films, and articles abound with inspiring stories that egg the little backpacker out into the wild where she’ll conquer fears she didn’t know she had. Sometimes a story resonates, it hits home, it strikes the heart when we aren't expecting and motivates us to go beyond the limits we thought we had.

Here are three movies that I’ve found truly inspiring not only for getting outside, but also for being a better person. Two are movies based on books, and one is a documentary. All are based on true events of brave and adventurous souls who have left an impact on everyone who knows their stories, and who have accomplished the impossible even when they were told they couldn’t.

Into the Wild

The movie is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, whose dream of venturing into the Alaskan wilderness resulted in his tragic death at the age of twenty-four. The book of the same name, also highly recommended, was written by John Krakauer and published in 1996. The events took place over the course of several years in the early nineties, and it was Sean Penn who was so captivated by the book that he had to turn it into a movie.

The movie tells the story of McCandless from the time he graduated college to the time of his death in the Alaskan wilderness a couple years later. It chronicles his adventures and the profound impact he had on all those he met, from South Dakota to Arizona. Throughout his journey, he had one goal in mind: get to Alaska, into the remote wilderness, far from the cage of society. He succeeded until he made one small but fatal mistake and passed away alone in the wilderness.

But perhaps he didn’t know just how far and wide his story would reach. A much deeper message about humanity overpowers this story and appeals to the better conscious of its viewers. It's a message about the beauty of nature, the power of solitude, and the importance of treating others with kindness and compassion. This movie also comes with an incredible soundtrack of original songs written and sung by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.


Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, was published in 2012 and chronicles her 1995 thru hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. It was turned into a movie in 2014 with Reese Witherspoon portraying Strayed. Like Into the Wild, this story is about much more than a hike in the wilderness. Strayed is working through the death of her mother among other traumas of her past. Divorce, drugs, death, and other memories still haunt her, and follow alongside her on her journey to find some redemption, some reconciliation, which is what many backpackers and hikers may be looking for when they seek to get lost among the chaotic and unpredictable wilderness.

This story will resonate with anyone who has suffered from loss or has a painful story of heartbreak behind them. Witnessing Cheryl Strayed’s journey will force you to take a look and witness your own life, and to begin to ask questions. What are you looking for out there in the wild? What are you trying to find or leave behind?

The Dawn Wall

I’m not a climber, and I don’t think I ever will be. But you don’t have to be part of the climbing community to get a lot from this movie. This documentary chronicles the tale of Tommy Caldwell, who has overcome near-impossible odds. He became a star climber at a young age even though he was considered a fragile and weak child, and then survived being kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan as a young man. Later on, suffering from the loss of a finger and a divorce, he threw himself into climbing an impossible wall: the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

Caldwell spent not just months, but years seeking out a route for his eventual free-climb up the Dawn Wall. After he lost his index finger, he was told that he would have to give up climbing. But that wasn't an option for Caldwell. Once he was ready, he and his climbing partner, Kevin Jorgeson, attempted their free-climb up the wall, which lasted three weeks and ended with an emotional victory for the climbers, their families, and the entire world that watched them. Tommy Caldwell overcame what seemed impossible and became the first person to climb the Dawn Wall of El Capitan.

Time to get inspired

Maybe your travel plans, your hiking and backpacking plans, have been postponed over the last year and a half due to the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean you stopped dreaming. If anything, you’re dreaming harder, planning better, and sparking a new flame in your heart so that you, too, can achieve something you once thought impossible. If you need a nudge of motivation, check out one of these movies. Into the Wild and Dawn Wall are streaming on Netflix while Wild is available for purchase on Amazon Prime.

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