Although Into the Wild was largely a cautionary tale, since its publication, many more young men have followed in McCandless’s footsteps. With the book’s great success, McCandless’s bus has become a famous landmark, often a source of pilgrimage for those looking to challenge themselves, to connect with nature, and to reject society just as McCandless did.
Many locals of Healy, Alaska, fear that Into the Wild has romanticized the Alaskan bush in a way that is potentially dangerous, as these young men, who are often not very experienced outdoorsmen, try to mimic McCandless. Indeed, many of these people have ended up having to be rescued, and so town officials have considered removing the bus in an effort to dissuade these inexperienced pilgrims.
It is also interesting that, whereas McCandless was looking to truly go off the beaten path, and for that reason did not even carry a map, these men who copy him are following his path closely, and in so doing are not truly following his principles. As Into the Wild shows, McCandless clearly wasn’t the only person to ever make great sacrifices to live in the wilderness, and many have done it before him, but it seems that the popularization of his tale has prompted some of those who might normally find less extreme ways of rejecting society to follow his far more dangerous path.