A Modern Transcendentalist – maybe

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“Some people feel like they don’t deserve love. They walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps of the past.” ~ Chris McCandless aka Alex Supertramp

I was first introduced to this story about a year ago. A co-worker and I were having a conversation about outdoors experiences and he said, “Did you know Chris McCandless?” As it turns out, Chris went to the same university as I and graduated a year before me. Chris was a history and anthropology major and unfortunately our paths never crossed – not in a physical sense, anyway.

I did not think much about it until I recently saw an independent documentary on PBS   The Call of the Wild by Ron Lamothe.  Lamothe lives in Concord, MA near Walden Pond. He is touched by the writings of Henry David Thoreau. Having been to Walden Pond myself, I can understand why. Walden Pond has been preserved to retain the setting that Thoreau inhabited when he shook all conventional materialism and shunned cultural norms to live a short portion of his life communing with nature.

Likewise, McCandless upon graduating college gave away the remainder of his college fund to a charity, left his belongings behind, and drove west.

“The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.” – Chris McCandless aka Alex Supertramp



Chris left his Virginia home 2 weeks after his college graduation. He disrobed himself of all his worldly possessions save his Datsun and a notebook which chronicled his journey. In fact, he took on a new road name Alexander Supertramp inspired by W.H. Davies.

McCandless made his way through Arizona, California and South Dakota, where he worked at a grain elevator. He alternated between having jobs and living with no money or human contact, sometimes successfully foraging for food. He survived a flash flood, but allowed his car to wash out (although it suffered little permanent damage and was later reused by the local police force) and disposed of his license plate. He also paddled a canoe down remote stretches of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. McCandless took pride in surviving with a minimum of gear and funds, and generally made little preparation. He was, however, frequently fed or otherwise aided by people he met on his travels.


Along his way, he depended on the good will of others. He spent his time discussing great philosophies with the downtrodden, poverty stricken and ordinary people he encountered. He touched all that he contacted in a deep, spiritual, meaningful way. Unfortunately, his life seemed wrought with an inability to become too close to anyone for an extended period of time.

Chris’ final destination was Alaska. Like his Thoreau mentor he wanted to live off the land in solitude. Unfortunately, that is part of what lead to his tragic demise. Lack of preparation for his environment led to his starvation on “The Magic Bus” in Denali National Park on the Stampede Trail.

There are some who are critical of his lack of preparation – others celebrate his life and the meaningful implications of it.

Either way, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a good read that has life lessons for all of us

FWIW, Sean Penn also created a very “Hollywoodish” version of Chris’ life in his docudrama  loosely based on  Krakauer’s book  Into the Wild.

I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!  ~ Chris McCandless


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  1. “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 peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous 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.”

    ~ Chris McCandless aka Alex Supertramp

    • rossl on December 5, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    a few weeks ago, along with a lot of Thoreau and Emerson and Walt Whitman and some other romantic stuff.  It’s great.  Me and my friends have talked a lot about “Into the Wild.”

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