Ryan Holt unafraid of naked journey through the Everglades

About Ryan Holt Ryan was born and raised in “The Friendly Village” of Harrison.  “I feel very fortunate to have had two amazing parents, Douglas and Paula Holt, who guided me along my path until I was old enough to join the Marine Corps following my senior year in high school,” he said. Ryan is the youngest of two boys. “My brother, Tim, is one of my best friends who I continue to look up to and ask for advice,” he said. Paris Island, S.C. is where Ryan went to boot camp before hitting the front lines in Afghanistan, followed by two tours in Iraq. He re-enlisted in 2008 and joined the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force just outside of Washington, D.C. protecting the nation’s Capitol from any imminent threats.  After his honorable discharge on Oct. 1, 2011, Ryan put the military in his rear view mirror. In search of greater meaning and purpose for his life, Ryan spent the following three years exploring his own country.  “I had never been off the East Coast and wanted to see what I had been told I was ‘fighting’ for. It began with a 12,000-mile solo road trip in my ’83 VW bus, to the Appalachian Trail walking home from Georgia, then a year-long survival and guiding course, and many other adventures and expeditions in between,” he said.   Ryan recently purchased 42 acres in Roxbury, where he plans to build a home this summer and begin his own Wilderness Guiding business that focuses on using “Vitamin Nature” to heal veterans struggling from their experiences at war and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  “Immersing myself in nature is what saved my life. There is something very real in the healing powers of the earth. It is my life’s purpose to inspire and pass along all the knowledge I have attained. My vision is to create an ‘off grid’ Nature Retreat Hostel on my property for all outdoor enthusiasts alike, giving everyone a home base to connect with the natural world and other people passing through.”

About Ryan Holt
Ryan was raised in “The Friendly Village” of Harrison.
“I feel very fortunate to have had two amazing parents, Douglas and Paula Holt, who guided me along my path until I was old enough to join the Marine Corps following my senior year in high school,” he said.
Ryan is the youngest of two boys.
“My brother, Tim, is one of my best friends who I continue to look up to and ask for advice,” he said.
Paris Island, S.C. is where Ryan went to boot camp before hitting the front lines in Afghanistan, followed by two tours in Iraq. He re-enlisted in 2008 and joined the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force just outside of Washington, D.C. protecting the nation’s Capitol from any imminent threats.
After his honorable discharge on Oct. 1, 2011, Ryan put the military in his rear view mirror. In search of greater meaning and purpose for his life, Ryan spent the following three years exploring his own country.
“I had never been off the East Coast and wanted to see what I had been told I was ‘fighting’ for. It began with a 12,000-mile solo road trip in my ’83 VW bus, to the Appalachian Trail walking home from Georgia, then a year-long survival and guiding course, and many other adventures and expeditions in between,” he said.
Ryan recently purchased 42 acres in Roxbury, where he plans to build a home this summer and begin his own Wilderness Guiding business that focuses on using “Vitamin Nature” to heal veterans struggling from their experiences at war and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Immersing myself in nature is what saved my life. There is something very real in the healing powers of the earth. It is my life’s purpose to inspire and pass along all the knowledge I have attained. My vision is to create an ‘off grid’ Nature Retreat Hostel on my property for all outdoor enthusiasts alike, giving everyone a home base to connect with the natural world and other people passing through.”

‘Naked and Afraid’“It’s where the strong show what they are made of."

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

HARRISON — As a U.S. Marine, Ryan Holt faced precarious and dangerous situations during tours of action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now, he faces a new test of will and survival.

Ryan and a complete female stranger will be stranded with no food, water and clothing — yes, the castaways will be nude — in the Everglades for 21 days.

Will they have the brains and brawn to endure the harsh conditions? The answer will be revealed on the season premiere of Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, April 19.

In its third season, Naked and Afraid takes “survival of the fittest” to the next level. Each week, a new pair of complete and total strangers — one man and one woman — will find themselves stranded in and, quite literally, exposed to some of the world’s most extreme weather environments. The series, which has aired 27 episodes, has dropped off castaways in tropical and treacherous spots across the globe from Botswana to Cambodia to the Bahamas and Amazon to Nicaragua and Bolivia.

“Each couple battles the elements, each other, and their own inner weaknesses to see who will triumph over the terrain or fail under the force of nature,” the Discovery Channel website says.

After they meet in the assigned locale, the partners strip down and must find and/or produce water, food, shelter, and clothing within the environment. They are provided with rough cross-body satchels containing a personal diary/camera — for use when the camera crew is not there at night — and a map. They all wear identical necklaces with a center bead, which is a microphone that has a wire that connects to a wireless audio transmitter hidden in the satchel. Some personal jewelry is allowed. Each survivalist is allowed to bring one helpful item, such as a hatchet or a fire starter.

There is a camera crew who are not allowed to intervene except for medical emergencies when it is “absolutely necessary.”

Viewers are updated throughout with statistics including how many days have passed, the time and the temperature.

Participants must be at least 21 years of age.

So, how did Harrison native Ryan Holt land the role of Naked and Afraid castaway? His military training makes him a solid candidate to survive environmental challenges, while his love of nature puts him in an arena he actually feels comfortable in.

This week, The News reached Ryan via e-mail, resulting in the following Q/A interview:

BN: How did you become interested in applying to be part of the show? Have you done anything like this before?

Ryan: Since I was honorably discharged from the Marines on Oct. 1, 2011, I’ve really been interested in using my education benefits (GI Bill) for alternative schools — learning life skills instead of becoming a student of the four-year degree production line. This is when I found the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School and became a student of the yearlong wilderness survival and guiding course. Owner Tim Smith is a Maine Guide Master and recently had his immersion programs approved for use of the GI Bill. He has also been on a survival show for Discovery Channel’s “Dude You’re Screwed.” Using his connections, Tim gave his recommendation for me to begin the application process to appear as a cast member on Naked and Afraid. With my eight years as an infantry Marine and a fresh yearlong survival and guiding training, I couldn’t have been more ready for such a challenge.

I haven’t experienced anything quite like Naked and Afraid. However, over the last three years since my discharge, I’ve been exploring all over the United States — undertaking the 2,200-mile journey along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, living in the northern Maine bush for three months in structures made from natural materials, and enduring a 36-day snowshoe expedition cover over 100 miles with temperatures falling into the minus-50s. So, I’ve definitely challenged myself before, but never was I naked with a stranger, living in jungle swamps in the southern Florida Everglades.

BN: What intrigued you most about the show?

Ryan: The concept of this show is what intrigued me most. The integrity of the challenge was 100% real, everything you see was me. There was no script, no off camera assistance (other than medical emergency), no off camera Q&A, no reward challenges and no prize or possession in the end. This was the definition of “Reality TV.” To literally be stripped of everything and left with only the skills and knowledge made it one of the most rewarding and accomplishing challenges I’ve ever accepted. It felt like the greatest test right before my 30th birthday, an affirmation that I am headed in the right direction and ready to move forward.

BN: What skills, characteristics do you possess that you felt would make you a good contestant?

Ryan: For a challenge like Naked and Afriad, its 75% mental and 25% skill. You can’t expect to thrive in such a survival situation based on your military experience alone. I can definitely credit my mental toughness to the eight years I served as an Infantry Marine, from boot camp on Paris Island to multiple tours to the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. The one thing I did carry with me from my time in the service were the core values — honor, courage and commitment — as well as many of the leadership traits — judgment, integrity, decisiveness, initiative, loyalty, tact, dependability and attention to detail. All of these traits helped me through my Naked and Afraid challenge.

However, my wilderness survival and guiding school gave me the other half of what is needed for success in such a situation. Skills in shelter building, making cordage, friction fires, hunting, listening to the forest and living in harmony with the natural world. The minute you fight your environment it will fight back. I was content and sure of myself. I applied all the skills and knowledge I’ve gained in my life and the end result is proof that we can live in balance with our environment.

BN: What worried you more, the “naked” or the “afraid” aspect of the show? What did your parents think about the naked element of the show?

Ryan: I was not worried about being naked or being afraid. In the military, you get used to group showers and bathrooms with no stalls, living in extremely close quarters, fighting the war. Not much phases me. Being naked is a very natural and freeing feeling. I actually felt bad for the camera crew, dressed head to toe and overheating from the hot Florida sun. A little bit of fear is healthy, but I was not that afraid. I knew the Everglades was extremely resourceful and I just didn’t take any unnecessary risk. I was careful and meticulous about each step I took in the swamps. There was no need to rush anything. I had all the time in the world to do things right the first time. My intentions are what guided me.

My parents (Doug and Paula Holt) and I had never watched the show before I began the application process. We all watched a half-dozen episodes together and I could tell their concern was much greater than mine. Although they know what I’ve been through in my life and I definitely had their confidence and support, their reaction to me being naked on national television was mostly humorous. I’m the youngest in my family so I’ll always be their baby boy — ha ha.

BN: What can you tell people about your Naked and Afraid experience?

Ryan: I was dropped off in the middle of the Everglades in Southern Florida. Literally stripped of everything and had to survive for 21 days with nothing but one survival item chosen by the producer. Some of the dangers included alligators, Water Moccasin snakes, black bears, panthers and unforgiving mosquitoes. You meet your partner on Day 1 of filming in the swamps. We were around the same age and both have military background. For being complete strangers and living together in such a harsh environment, I’d say we got along extremely well compared to other episodes I’ve seen.

BN: What surprised you the most? What were you least prepared for? What was most rewarding? What was most memorable?

Ryan: There really weren’t any surprises and I’d have to say the only thing I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of mental toughness I was going to have to harness to deal with the mosquitoes. It really was torture trying to sleep each night. The most rewarding thing was the challenge itself, there was no other motive than being able to do it. No prize or possession in the end, no amount of money could take the place of my experience. It truly was priceless and it’s something I will carry with me forever. I can’t give away the most memorable part of my challenge, but you’ll definitely know what it is when you see it at the climax of my episode.

BN: Did you do anything beforehand to get ready for this experience and what might have you done differently?

Ryan: I didn’t have to do anything different to get ready for the challenge. My entire life prepared me for this opportunity. Without telling too much, all I can say is there is nothing I would have done differently and probably nothing I could have done differently, you’ll just have to wait and see.

 

 

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