Films to Watch This Weekend: The Great Outdoors Edition

Unforgettable and inspiring journeys into the wild.  
Alaska mountains
Alaska's rugged, snow-covered mountains are as much of a star as Christopher McCandless in the film "Into The Wild". Photo: Ian D. Keating/Flickr/Creative Commons (

These are stories of ordinary people who undertake extraordinary journeys across the world. They are tales of discovery, survival, unlikely friendships, and the tenacity of the human will. From a young man who travels into the Alaskan wilderness to an intrepid explorer who follows Genghis Khan’s trail across the vast Eurasian steppes, these are odysseys that test human endurance and open up the mind to whatever lies on the road ahead.

Tracks (2013)

Tracks brings the stark Australian outback to life by chronicling the journey of Australian writer Robyn Davidson with her dog, Diggity, and four camels, Dookie, Bub, Zeleika, and Goliath. The expedition unfolds over nine months beginning in 1977 and features a long and solitary journey through an unforgiving land. Along the way, she meets kindly farmers, a rookie photojournalist (Adam Driver), an Afghan camel trainer, and a jolly Aboriginal man, who guides her through part of the harsh desert. But it’s the relationship she has with her animals that makes the movie special. Early in the film, in a letter Davidson writes to National Geographic Society in order to fund her enterprise she says, “I am well aware of the hardship I will be facing. I am the first to admit I’m remarkably unqualified for such a hazardous undertaking. But this is precisely the point of my journey. I’d like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything.” And this is what makes Tracks a winner, a vision of a world where true grit makes everything possible.


Into the Wild (2007)

Directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless (a.k.a Alexander Supertramp), a hitchhiker and hopeless romantic who travelled into the Alaskan wilderness in the spring of 1992, without any equipment or supplies. His goal: to experience the great outdoors in solitude and live off the land.The film captures the splendour of the Alaskan landscape and the strength of the human spirit, backed by Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder’s sawdust and honey voice providing the soundtrack. It is a tale that is at once inspiring and foolhardy, a cautionary tale of an idealistic new-age hippie who despite his reckless behaviour, reaches out and touches a chord with those who watch it.


The Trail of Genghis Khan (2010)

This 6-part documentary features Tim Cope, an Australian adventurer who sets off on horseback journey across the Eurasian steppes in 2004, in the footsteps of Genghis Khan. The Great Khan’s 13th-century empire was magnificent and Cope traces the path the erstwhile emperor and his band of Mongols might have taken over three years and covers, from the heartland of Mongolia to the River Danube in Hungary.

Cope’s story is that of a solitary traveller with an unconditional love for adventure, but it also captures the brutal landscapes he traverses and the nomadic men, women, herders, and thieves he meets along the way. In an interview with Sidetracked adventure journal he quotes an old Nomadic adage, “A man on the steppe without friends is as narrow as a finger… a man on the steppe with friends is as wide as the steppe.” Eventually, it is this bounty of strangers and friends on the road that helps him survive this journey of 10,000 kilometres, and write his book, On The Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads.

  • Diya Kohli is the former Senior Associate Editor at National Geograpic Traveller India. She loves the many stories of big old cities. For her, the best kind of travel experience involves long rambling walks through labyrinthine lanes with plenty of food stops along the way.


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