After eight years of working for the same company I announced I was leaving, to take up an internship position with an Indian NGO. Apart from my parents the only person that knew of my plan was my boss. Life lesson: where possible, it’s always best to leave a job on good terms. It not only shows professionalism but also leaves a valuable door open. You never know, you might want to go back there some day.

The reactions ranged from surprised to confused. I answered numerous questions after my announcement but one question stuck in me – “What are you running away from?” I can’t remember my exact response, I think I just laughed a little.

Tomorrow can be the first day of the rest of your life

Why do people leave everything behind and embark upon the great unknowns of travelling? The reasons are countless, and I’ve encountered many of them over this past year: gap year students wanting to see the world before committing to their degrees, free spirits, people making their living while abroad. Some even having saved to buy a house for a number of years and then deciding to spend that same money on a different investment.

Wild is a film that doesn’t pull many punches Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) is grief-stricken when her mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern) passes away from cancer. After this tragic event she finds comfort in the needle and random affairs. Like many travel films Wild is based on the memoirs of Cheryl Strayed and adapted for the screen by Nick Horny (About A Boy, High Fidelity).

Cheryl decides to deal with her loss by hiking The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which stretches from the Mexican border all the way up to Canada. After such tragedy, it’s surely fair to say that not everyone would be able to pull themselves from the depths of such despair to take on this mammoth journey.

All that baggage, physical and emotion, is just piled on top of Cheryl. She’s woefully unprepared for the trip, carrying far too much equipment and wearing boots that are too small. She persists. Witherspoon effectively plays three separate characters: a high school student and daughter, an out of control drug addict, and an adventurer battling the elements. She does to well to carry the film herself (we don’t really encounter any interesting characters along the PCT).

The trope of the journey links together the elements of Cheryl’s life – a journey that ties her life up until this point with the long stretch of territory that lies before her. Wild highlights some of the dangers that solo female travellers face and the added precautions they have to take. However, it has to be said that these inherent dangers haven’t prevented any of the women that I’ve met from travelling on their own, even to India.

I watched Into The Wild again recently, and it was difficult not to make comparisons with the story of Chris McCandless, right down to the same blue backpack they carry. Put side by side, its interesting to see how both Strayed and McCandless travel to find their true self, to be immersed and baptised by the wilds and the journey itself.

The story isn’t as hard hitting is I thought it could have been; there was a lot of scope for exploring why her character chose the particular trek she did, but this went unexamined. There was also a very obvious missing link between her drug addiction and starting her PCT hike.

Poetic license aside, Wild is honest and Witherspoon’s acting range is impressive. It does hit home, too – journeys such as Cheryl’s are both frightening and empowering at the same time, and we’ve all felt some element of that in our lives. I truly hope that Cheryl Strayed’s story can inspire others in similar situations and show that no matter what, all is never lost.

Why do you travel?