Editor’s Note: This is a rebroadcast. The episode originally aired in November 2017. 

Have you ever just wanted to get in your car, drive off into the middle of nowhere, leave behind the hustle and bustle of civilization, and just be by yourself? 

Well, in 1986 a man named Christopher Knight did just that and lived alone in the Maine woods without any, any human contact for 27 years until he was discovered in 2013.

My guest today wrote a biography — The Stranger in the Woods — about this man who locals called “the Hermit of the North Pond.” His name is Michael Finkel and today on the show we discuss how Chris survived alone in the Maine woods by himself, but more importantly, why Chris wanted to be by himself for so long. By looking at the life of one of the modern world’s last true hermits, Michael and I explore the idea of hermitage, solitude, and why being an individual requires you to be alone. 

Show Highlights

How Mike got drawn in to Christopher Knight’s storyThe folklore and legend of Knight in the Maine woodsKnight’s backstory: his childhood, when he took to the woods, etc.Why did Knight “quit the world”?The history of hermits throughout the worldIs Knight crazy? Is he on the autism spectrum?How Knight physically survived for 27 years in the woodsWhat Knight’s camp was likeThe state of hermits today in the modern worldThe debate over whether Knight was a “true” hermitWhy Christopher thought Thoreau was a phonyThe myth of utter self-relianceHow folks responded to the “North Pond Hermit” breaking into their homesWhy Chris reveled in absolute solitude, while solitary confinement is used as our prison system’s harshest punishmentThe benefits of voluntary solitudeHow Christopher Knight was eventually caughtHow is Chris Knight holding up now? Is he in jail?How Mike responded to Christopher’s story, and his suggestion for us today in regards to solitude

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Christopher Knight in photosThe Spiritual Discipline of SolitudeLeadership & SolitudeAoM’s Outdoors & Survival archivesA Man’s Guide to Self-RelianceJapan’s HikikomoriHow to Avoid Living a Life of Quiet DesperationHermitary.comWalden by Thoreau“People would rather be shocked than left alone with their thoughts”Podcast: Why Boredom is Good for You

Book cover of Stranger in the woods by Michael Finkel.

The Stranger in the Woods was a fun, insightful read. You’ll want to go off and find some place in the wilds to be by yourself after you finish reading this book.

Connect With Mike

Mike on Twitter

Mike’s website

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