We had a chat with Discovery Channel’s ‘Naked and Afraid’ contestant, Lee Trew, who spent 21 days in the wild in the Kopacki Rit region of Croatia. Lee spent his days surviving a harsh environment while being naked with a stranger. However, confronting his demons in solitude after his partner Stacey left the show is what really pushed him to the edge.
SR. How did you learn your survival skills?
I began learning survival skills through the Forest School Camps in England. That’s where I learned about knots and learned how to use axes and knives and things like that. And then I went to the Tracker School in the U.S and that’s where I started learning stone-age primitive skills. Ever since that, I’ve been a bit obsessed with practising them.
SR. How many years did it take before you felt confident in the wild?
Well, when I did the one-year immersion in the wild, I’d been learning survival skills for about six years by then. Probably that was how long it took before I felt comfortable with walking into the bush with nothing and feeling that I could make a stone knife and some clothes and basically be at home.
SR. When did you realise that you were not made for an office job?
(Laughs). I think at school! I always found school really difficult. I couldn’t sit still. It felt like this strange kind of prison and quite bizarre. Now on our family camps, we get a lot of kids who feel the same way, and it’s awesome to see them come alive and realise, ‘Oh, there’s actually nothing wrong with me. It’s just that I’m not cut out for school.’
SR. What motivated you to go on Naked and Afraid?
I was just up for an adventure. It sounded like a really cool adventure, you know? A mystery destination. The nakedness was a whole other level that I hadn’t considered before and something inside me was just like, ‘Yeah, let’s take the leap.’
SR. How did you feel when Stacey left the show after only a few days due to her extensive wounds?
I was devastated. I felt so bad for Stacey. She’d invested so much in being there and she was so tough. It really broke my heart that she had to leave, and that she took it personally, you know? That she took it as a failure, somehow, when really it was nothing to do with her.
SR. What was more difficult for you: dealing with the solitude or surviving in the wild?
Oh, definitely the internal stuff that came up during the solitude. We built a shelter, we had water, we had fire, we had food, within the first few days. Then, after that, it was all about the emotional and psychological process, like a kind of detox.
SR. Did you have a plan in case wild animals got too close?
With wild animals, they’re not irrational. They don’t just attack for no reason like in movies; and so, as long as you’re respectful of their boundaries and you understand about body language, you can generally get wild animals to leave you alone if you leave them alone. Or, if need be, you can make your energy big and mean and aggressive and that can fend them off. They’re not interested in messing around with humans with sticks.
“…I got to experience being a wild human to a deeper level than I ever have before…”
SR. Choosing a pot was a clever decision. If you could’ve chosen something else to take, what would you have brought with you?
Well, if I hadn’t brought a pot, it would’ve been one of the other five ‘Cs’. So, we had a cutting tool, we had combustion with the fire sticks… Um, probably cordage, or some kind of covering, like a tarp or a blanket.
SR. Dealing with the heat and mosquitoes seemed like a nightmare. How did you avoid getting bitten and sunburnt?
Uh, mud, in a word. Mud worked really well. And then, after the first few days actually, my skin was acclimatised to the sun and I stopped having such a big reaction to the mosquitoes. I was actually amazed by how tolerable it was after a while.
SR. Did the mud help with that – with the mosquitoes, as well?
Yeah, the mud was fantastic against the mosquitoes.
SR. Was it a rewarding experience, overall, for you?
Overall, it was an incredible experience. I’m so grateful for the whole experience. I got to experience being a wild human to a deeper level than I ever have before. I had an incredible internal healing process. I came back with amazing gratitude and clarity and yeah, just joy.
SR. Can you tell us about your day job in Jervis Bay?
My day job is training and teaching other people to be at home in the wild. And that takes all kinds of different forms, from family camps to one-on-one mentoring – all different kinds of varied, fun things.
SR. Can you talk a bit about the concept of ‘deep rewilding’ and the type of work that Wild Heart does?
Yeah, so deep rewilding is about going beyond just the skills – beyond just how to make fire, how to build shelter — and recognising that, actually, the hardest thing is what needs to happen on an emotional and psychological level for me to be at home in the wild. So, deep rewilding is about kind of changing ourselves rather than trying to change nature so we can carry on being modern humans. It’s about asking, ‘Well, what would it be like to be a wild human?’