The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Les Stroud talks about his life as Survivorman

The Canadian survival expert, filmmaker and musician takes our version of the Proust Questionnaire.
Les Stroud is famous for his production of the TV show Survivorman. (Laura Bombier)

Les Stroud, best known as Survivorman, is famous for having sought out wilderness adventures around the world for more than 18 years — his popular TV show chronicled these solo survival expeditions. 

His new book, for middle-grade readers, is called Wild OutsideIt's an adventure book that offers kid-friendly activities and tips about how safely observe wildlife.

Stroud stopped by The Next Chapter to take its version of the Proust questionnaire. 

Tell me about your favourite character in fiction. 

I'm a reader of nonfiction, but I'm a lover of fiction characters. I grew up loving Tarzan. What set me on the path to become Survivorman was loving Tarzan. On the nonfiction side, I loved Jacques Cousteau. If you really think about it, if those two characters had a baby, it would be Survivorman. 

Where would you like to live? 

I live where I like to live: in Canada. I've been all around the world. I've seen some of the most beautiful places on the planet. But in the end, you can't convince me that there's anything more beautiful than Muskoka, Ont., in late September and early October during the fall. Or even the dead of winter in northern Canada, blanketed in snow, or in a canoe on a lake in the summertime.

What set me on the path to become Survivorman was loving Tarzan.

I do, in the clichéd sense of the phrase, consider myself a global citizen. I've seen it all — and it all sends me back to Canada, every time. 

What is your favourite journey? 

The knee-jerk answer that came right into the front of my brain, is the journey of the soul, I suppose. It's because a lot of other journeys require logistics, nothing more. But the journeys of love and the soul and the mind require a larger existential perspective. 

Episode 37

12 years ago
Duration 24:27
George interviews musician, filmmaker, and survival expert Les Stroud.

What is your greatest regret? 

My greatest regret happened when I was about 24. I was offered an opportunity to write music for the likes of Bruce Springsteen. The head of a music label in Canada was wooing me, saying, "We want your music, we love your stuff."

I can blame it on a lot of things — I can say I had no mentorship, no guidance, no understanding, no maturity — but I blew it. 

When you tell people what your greatest regret was, often they'll say, "Oh, but look how far you've come. And if you've done that, who knows what would have happened. You might have ended up as a drug-addicted musician somewhere and got lost in that." 

My greatest regret happened when I was about 24. I was offered an opportunity to write music for the likes of Bruce Springsteen.

Yeah, that's true. Or I might have had a wonderful, amazing life as a singer-songwriter and never gotten addicted and enjoyed my career as a musician.

I became Survivorman and I achieved some wonderful success as a documentary filmmaker. But that does not mean that I would not have done well when I had the opportunity, and I blew it. 

What is your principal defect? 

I am being a bit facetious here when I say, like a classic Libra, it would be my second guessing. If I forget to use my instinct, I spend my time questioning myself and second guessing. The insecurities come up, and they speak louder than my boldness, concept and idea. That's a defect for me because it stops me from doing good things. You could ask other people this question — and I'm sure they have a much longer list about me than I do. 

Having camped in the freezing temperatures of the Arctic Les Stroud, also known as Survivorman, knows a few tricks that can help us deal with the recent cold that has engulfed our country. In a conversation with Brent, he shared some of his survival tips.

What is your greatest achievement?

It's knowing that in creating Survivorman, up against the odds when everybody told me no one will ever want to watch people survive on television, I said, "No, I think you're wrong." 

I pushed and I got it out. Survivorman, if you look at the history, created the entire genre of survival television that exists today. 

Survivorman, if you look at the history, created the entire genre of survival television that exists today.

I can look back and go, "I know where that started, and I know who started the genre." I am very proud of that achievement. I don't consider it braggadocio.

It's a historical truth. In my mind, anyway. 

Les Stroud's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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