See Inside December 2008/January 2009

Set in Our Ways: Why Change Is So Hard

Millions of us dream of transforming our lives, but few of us are able to make major changes after our 20s. Here's why

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“The shortest path to oneself leads around the world.” So wrote German philosopher Count Hermann Keyserling, who believed that travel was the best way to discover who you are.

That was how 22-year-old Christopher McCandless was thinking in the summer of 1990, when he decided to leave everything behind—including his family, friends and career plans. He gave his bank balance of $24,000 to the charity Oxfam International and hitchhiked around the country, ending up in Alaska. There he survived for about four months in the wilderness before dying of starvation in August 1992. His life became the subject of writer Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into the Wild, which inspired the 2007 film of the same name.

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