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Author Topic: Chris McCandless' Philosophy for Living Free - His Own Words  (Read 26775 times)


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Chris McCandless' Philosophy for Living Free - His Own Words
« on: November 20, 2008, 08:36:14 AM »


Many people, especially Alaskans, harshly judge and condemn 24 year old Chris McCandless http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_McCandless  for being a reckless, (or suicidal)  fool when he walked into the Alaskan Wilderness on April 28, 1992, without the skills & knowledge to survive.  On September 6, 1992 his emaciated body was discovered by hunters.  He had starved to death 2 1/2 weeks earlier.

Those who condemn him, don't understand or can't relate to his adventure seeking, risk taking, Explorer Spirit and his philosophy for living freely, which he clearly expresses in his letter below.  Those who judge and condemn him are motivated by their Egotistical Need, to elevate themselves as wiser, more superior beings.  But I'll bet that they are prisoners of their own fears, trapped in a mundane civilized life.  I do not think that Chris McCandless was a fool at all... I think that he was naive about the reality of surviving in the wild, without an umbilical cord to  the outside civilized world.  But then niavete goes hand in hand with being young and inexperieinced.

I think that he was very brave, daring and willing to take risks so that he could feel truly alive and free.  I admire and am inspired by his adventuresome spirit.   Even when he realized that he was starving and would soon die, he took one last photo of himself  happy and smiling and holding a hand written note for those he was leaving behind... 


I think that Alex (his road name) expresses perfectly his philosophy of living in the letter he wrote to his 80 year old friend  Ron Franz who had befriended him in Salton City CA, and even wanted to adopt Chris as his son.  He encourages the old man to  put a camper on the back of his pickup, give up his apartment, pull up stakes and hit the road, and begin to really experience being alive.  I found his letter on the internet, here it is...


Alex here. I have been working up here in Carthage South Dakota for nearly two weeks now. I arrived up here three days after we parted in Grand Junction, Colorado. I hope that you made it back to Salton City wihtout too many problems. I enjoy working here and things are going well. The weather is not very bad and many days are surprisingly mild. Some of the farmers are even already going into their fields. It must be getting rather hot down there in Southern California by now. I wonder if you ever got a chance to get out and see how many people showed up for the March 20th Rainbow gathering there at the hotsprings http://tinyurl.com/58n7xr . It sounds like it might have been a lot of fun, but I don’t think you really understand these kind of people very well.

I will not be here in South Dakota very much longer. My friend, Wayne, wants me to stay working at the grain elevator through May and then go combining with him the entire summer, but I have my soul set entirely on my Alaskan Odyssey and hope to be on my way no later than April 15. That means I will be leaving here before very long, so I need you to send any more mail I may have received to the return address listed below.

Ron, I really enjoy all the help you have given me and the times we spent together. I hope that you will not be too depressed by our parting. It may be a very long time before we see each other again. But providing that I get through ths Alaskan Deal in one piece you will be hearing form me again in the future. I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing or been to hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to this scheme of life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover. Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, Ron, and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.

My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.

Ron, I really hope that as soon as you can you will get out of Salton City, put a little camper on the back of your pickup, and start seeing some of the great work that God has done here in the American West. you will see things and meet people and there is much to learn from them. And you must do it economy style, no motels, do your own cooking, as a general rule spend as little as possible and you will enjoy it much more immensely. I hope that the next time I see you, you will be a new man with a vast array of new adventures and experiences behind you. Don’t hesitate or allow yourself to make excuses. Just get out and do it. Just get out and do it. You will be very, very glad that you did.

Take care Ron,


His letter of encouragement inspired the old man to do as he suggested, but instead of living on the road,  he set up his home camp in the nearby desert at "Oh My God Hot Springs" http://tinyurl.com/58n7xr  ...at the same campsite where Alex had camped for 2 months when they met.  There he waited everyday for Alex to return.  One day he picked up a couple of hitchhikers who started talking about an article in "Outside magazine" http://outside.away.com/outside/features/1993/1993_into_the_wild_1.html
about a young kid who was found starved to death in the Alaska Wilderness..  and he knew it was his young friend Alex.
I guess the only person that really holds us back from chasing our wildest dreams is ourself.  I know the feeling of being trapped by my own fears and inhibitions.  Once we can overcome that gatekeeper, we can begin to really live feeely.

If an 80 year old man was inspired by Chris to give up his secure, mundane conventional, civilised life, for the adventure and freedom of a more primitive , simpler life on the land...  I imagine that he has inspired countless younger people to step outside and chase their wildest dreams.

"The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin living"

More McCandless Links:


Orion >>
« Last Edit: November 20, 2008, 03:15:28 PM by orion »