Into the wild
In 1990, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), a college graduate from Emory University, rejects a materialist, conventional life, and his parents Walt (William Hurt) and Billie McCandless (Marcia Gay Harden), whom McCandless perceives as having betrayed him by entrapping him in a future of traditional lifestyle. It is shown that the family is rich but unloving. McCandless destroys all of his credit cards and identification documents, donates $24,000 (nearly his entire savings) to Oxfam, and sets out on a cross-country drive in his well-used but reliable Datsun toward his ultimate goal: Alaska, to experience life in the wilderness. However, McCandless does not tell his family nor his sister Carine (Jena Malone) what he is doing or where he is going and does not communicate with them thereafter, leaving them to become increasingly anxious and eventually desperate.
Along the way his automobile is caught in a flash flood and he abandons it to hitchhike instead, after burning what remains of his dwindling cash supply at the side of Lake Mead, Arizona. He then assumes a new name: Alexander Supertramp. Along his travels, he encounters a hippie couple, Jan Burres (Catherine Keener) and Rainey (Brian H. Dierker), with whom he forms a friendship. As McCandless continues his travels, he decides to work for a contract harvesting company owned by Wayne Westerberg (Vince Vaughn). However he is forced to leave after Westerberg is arrested for satellite piracy. McCandless then travels to the Colorado River and, though he is told by park rangers that he may not kayak down the river without a license, he ignores their warnings and paddles downriver, eventually all the way into Mexico. There his kayak is lost in a sandstorm, and he crosses back into the United States on foot. Unable to easily hitchhike, he starts traveling via freight train to Los Angeles. Not long after arriving, however, he starts feeling "corrupted" by modern civilization and decides to leave.