I think the biggest reason Chris wanted to drop out of society was his sense of adventure. The word “adventure” crops up over and over again in Krakauer’s book, and it is a favorite way for Chris to describe his life to others. In his explanatory note to Ron Franz, Chris writes:
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.
This idea of “adventure” became, for Chris, a kind of spiritual and political practice. Chris does what he does for the fun of it. In a sense, all Chris wants to do is meet new people, have new experiences, learn new things. When he meets Jan Burres, even though he is “hungry, hungry, hungry” trying to get enough to eat by foraging berries, he clearly is in love with his freedom and the challenges being self-sufficient poses. (Burres says “He was tramping around the country, having a big old adventure.”)
But “adventure” also comes to mean an intentional way of living. No adventure was more important to Chris than his “Alaskan adventure,” of course, but I think that in Alaska, he tried to live out principles he had been formulating during his years of travel in the west. In his bus in Alaska, there is his famous sign, declaring his purpose:
AND NOW AFTER TWO RAMBLING YEARS COMES THE FINAL AND GREATEST ADVENTURE. THE CLIMACTIC BATTLE TO KILL THE FALSE BEING WITHIN AND VICTORIOUSLY CONCLUDE THE SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION. TEN DAYS AND NIGHTS OF FREIGHT TRAINS AND HITCHHIKING BRING HIM TO THE GREAT WHITE NORTH. NO LONGER TO BE POISONED BY CIVILIZATION HE FLEES, AND WALKS ALONE UPON THE LAND TO BECOME LOST IN THE WILD.
The “false being within” can be understood as Chris the honor roll student, the gifted athlete, the standout at Emory —the Chris that has been the product growing up in the suburbs. Civilization is poison that can only be counteracted by somehow getting out of civilization—by embracing adventure. There is a sense that for Chris, the “right” way of living is incredibly simple—that by being true to your innermost self, by living the “adventure,” you live in a way that is filled with joy, and therefore is politically radical and spiritually pure.