HUELO, Hawaii — Harrison native Ryan Holt was naked but not afraid when he was dropped with a stranger in the middle of the Florida Everglades for a 21-day survival challenge.

His experience will be shown on the season premiere of Discovery Channel’s reality TV show “Naked and Afraid” at 10 p.m. Sunday, April 19. It was shot in June and July 2014.

“One of the biggest reasons to do the show was to test myself and see if I could do it,” Holt said from the vanilla farm where he’s working on the east side of the island of Maui.

Holt’s partner was 31-year-old Amber Hargrow of Colorado, who spent 10 years in the U.S. Army.

Holt, who was in the Marine Corps for eight years, said their military experience was about the only thing they had in common.

The naked element wasn’t weird for him because he sees it as freeing, he said. And it helped that Hargrow had been in the military, where personnel live in close quarters and use group showers and bathrooms with no stalls, he said.

“It was a very natural meeting on day one,” Holt said. “There wasn’t any awkward moment because she was so outgoing.”

Survivalists are allowed to each bring four items, and the producers pick one for each person. Other than that, they’re completely on their own without food, water or shelter.

“A little bit of fear is healthy, but I was not that afraid,” Holt said. “I knew the Everglades (were) extremely resourceful and I just didn’t take any unnecessary risk. I was careful and meticulous about each step I took in the swamps.”

The pair had a number of challenges, especially alligators, water moccasins, black bears, panthers and what Holt described as the “unforgiving mosquitoes.”

He admitted he wasn’t prepared for the mental strength it would take to deal with the mosquitoes.

“It really was torture trying to sleep each night,” he said.

The pair hunted and dined on catfish, crawfish, snails and reptiles. Holt found a key lime tree and used the fruit for brushing his teeth, to flavor his water and to sauté the flesh they cooked.

“It was a really great find. It definitely was a gift,” he said.

He lost 25 pounds but retained muscle. “I felt healthier, stronger and more fit than when I showed up,” he said.

Holt said his military training and a wilderness survival course he took were useful in the Everglades. He spent nine weeks in the northern Maine bush, a month snowshoeing and living in 50-below-zero temperatures in natural-made structures and a long canoe trip. In the Marine Corps, he fought on the front lines during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later protected the nation’s capital with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, he said.

Holt used his GI bill to take a yearlong wilderness survival course through the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, run by owner Tim Smith, a Maine master guide who starred on the Discovery Channel’s “Dude You’re Screwed.” Smith helped Holt get on “Naked and Afraid” by sending in a video Holt used to apply for “Survivor.”

“I am so glad I did not get picked for (“Survivor”),” he said. “It’s all about backstabbing and drama. That isn’t me. I couldn’t even fake trying to.”

He said “Naked and Afraid” is 100 percent real. “Everything you see is all me. It was so rewarding no one was there giving you a hand out or helping you,” Holt said.

“I think the viewers of this show are in for a treat and a unique episode,” he said.

There’s a great beginning, foreshadowing in the middle and a huge climax at the end that he can’t disclose, he said.

“Some of the things I get to create and some weapons I get to later use at the end of my challenge,” he said, “really tied the whole story together.” 

As for his own story, Holt believes the show affirms he’s headed in the right direction.

After he was honorably discharged from the military in 2011, he packed up his 1983 Volkswagen bus for a solo trip across the country, hiked the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and took a wilderness survivalist course. All the while, he was healing and figuring out what he would do with his life.

“It sort of culminated to my 30th birthday where I got to go on the show and put everything in my life to the ultimate test, and I passed with flying colors,” he said.

Next month, Holt will return to Maine, where he plans to begin to develop 42 acres in Roxbury to build his house. He will establish a business as a registered Maine guide, specifically helping veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Also in the works is the off-the-grid Human Nature Hostel, where travelers from all walks of life can meet.

He’s hoping “Naked and Afraid” will help garner attention for his projects back home.

“It’s a ‘if-I-build-it-they-will-come’ thing,” Holt said.

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