The Man Who Left Society: Chris McCandless 

Mar Jacobi

Chris McCandless is a man who gave up his life and abandoned civilization to live in the wilderness on his own. His body was eventually found, along with his journal and several pictures documenting his journey through the wild. This bred documentaries, TV specials, and even a book which was later adapted into a movie called Into the Wild, which I watched in Sam’s “Lost” class my sophomore year.

Chris was born on February 12, 1968 in California to parents Walt and Billie Mccandles. From the outside perspective, Chris’ family seemed perfect, composed of multiple kids and wealthy parents. However, Chris’ sister, Carine, wrote a book of her own called The Wild Truth. In the book, she reveals their father was very abusive behind closed doors and would beat the children when drunk. This is significant as it offers a motive for why Chris abandoned his life. I also want to note that Chris was often very put off by materialistic things, viewing them as useless things that drag people down.

In 1990, immediately after graduating college, Chris donated the entirety of his remaining college fund to a charity, got into his old Datsun car, and just began driving west with no car insurance and an expired license plate. His parents pestered him for an explanation, only to get vague responses back.

Eventually, Chris met a man named Jim Gallan, who gave him a ride to a long trail that wrapped around the Alaskan wilderness. Noticing that Chris’ supplies were lightly packed, he knew the man didn’t have the means to survive with what he had. He begged Chris to change his mind, even offering to drive to the next town over to buy him survivalist gear. Chris refused, though he did accept mere pair of boots and limited food. This was the last time he was seen alive.

Chris began to live in the Alaskan wilderness for 113 days, documenting his full experience in various photos and journal entries. He eventually found an abandoned bus where he set camp. Chris would take pictures and write several notes and letters, typically about his diet which consisted of berries and occasional small game he’d have to hunt by himself. It seemed as though Chris was enjoying his new lifestyle.


Chris planned to return to civilization in early July 1992, hoping to regroup and get more food because he was lacking in proper nutrition.  However, he was unable to recross the river of Teklanika, it being swollen with snowmelt, and he returned to the bus. 


The first sign of something going wrong was on his 69th day, in which chris said the River looked “impossible, lonely, scared.” 

Things got more dire when on the 94th day, he wrote “extremely weak, fault of potato seed. trouble just to stand up. Starving great jeopardy.” This potato seed is important, as it’s believed to be one of the potential causes of his death. 

He gets more and more ill as days go by, when the entry says “made it but in weakest condition of life. Death looms as serious threat. Too weak to walk out, have literally become trapped in the wild – no game.

At this time he continues to take pictures of various scenery and recording notes, one of which is believed to be near the end of Chris’ life. “Happiness is only real when shared.”


Chris began to leave letters on the door of his bus. 

Shortly before day 113, he took a final picture of himself holding a note that was later discovered on the bus along his remains. The note he was holding read “I have had a happy life and thank the lord. Goodbye and may god bless all!”

On September 6th of 1992 a group of hunters discovered the bus. After walking in, they immediately smelled something that they assumed to be a rotting animal carcass, however they found it to be none other than Chris himself, curled up in a sleeping bag. The coroner placed his time of death as being about two weeks before the hunters discovered him. His body was only 67 pounds when found, which leads to people thinking he died of starvation. However, others think he died from the poisonous potato seeds.

Chris McCandles was a controversial figure, admired by some, and ridiculed by others. Chris’ story has always resonated with me. Although it’s not the best idea to venture to the Alaskan wilderness with no gear or knowledge about his whereabouts, I respect him for being brave enough to leave everything behind to do what his heart desired. In the end, it seems he was happy with his decision, and satisfied with what his life has been.