Stories of rural Alaska

By: Sydney Engelhardt, Contributing Writer

When Andy Bassich began his lecture, he announced that he was going to conduct an experiment.

He had audience members take out their cell phones and pass them to the person on the right. The experiment was met with a lot of protest: The audience could not understand why he was taking their phones away.

“Don’t worry I am not going to try and convert your choice in lifestyle,” Bassich said. “I just want to give you a new perspective.”

That perspective is of a resident of the Yukon River in rural Alaska where Bassich has lived for the past 30 years.

Patrick Burke/ The Towerlight
Patrick Burke/ The Towerlight

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, Bassich returned to his Maryland roots to talk to the Towson community about living off the grid, acquiring knowledge through experience and his role on the National Geographic show “Life Below Zero,” which captures his life in the Alaskan bush.

Andy’s message focused around something he called E.K.C: Experience equals knowledge, knowledge equals confidence and confidence equals success.

“Everything you experience in your life shapes you,” Bassich said. “Experience is knowledge.”

When Andy is faced with a challenge in rural Alaska, he has to use his gut instinct and inventive mind to solve problems. He had to start from scratch and learn as he went.

“A nickname I have been given is MacGyver, I am a person that likes to create things, I like working with my hands,” Bassich said. “At the end of the day if I hadn’t build something or made something, I don’t think I have anything.”

Clinical associate professor Celia Bassich, Andy Bassich’s sister, had asked that her brother come to talk to her class in order to show them how to actively participate in learning.

“Andy provided real-life descriptions of how he has become an independent, active learner rather than using a ‘passive’ style of learning,” Celia Bassich said.

Andy Bassich explained that his life in rural Alaska meant experimenting when faced with challenges, therefore teaching him how to learn through repeated trial and error.

“Just go out there and do things, the more you do the more you will be able to do,” Andy Bassich said. “Don’t worry about failure, failures are the best thing you can do, when you fail you learn.”

Although his stories about living in Alaska showed that he resides in a very different world then the audience, the lessons he shared were universal.

“He showed me that the resources that we think we might need are not as important as we thought,” freshman Lian Blatchford said. “He lives with the bare minimum and he still lives.”

At the end of the talk the audience got more then just their phones back, as Andy hoped that they acquired the lesson that they should experiment more in life.

“It was very refreshing to hear about his lifestyle and the wisdom he has gained from it,” senior Julie Bagan said. “His eyes are wide open to the important things in life and doesn’t seem to take anything for granted.”

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