What’s it Like to be on "Naked and Afraid"?
Laura Zerra of Belmont, NH, tells us about her experiences on the Discovery Channel Reality show.
“Naked and Afraid” is the name of the Discovery Channel show that brought her to national notice, but Laura Zerra is not afraid of much and while she may have been dropped off naked in the wilderness for her appearances on that show, this young woman knows how to find just about anything she needs in nature.
Zerra travels the world but her current post is in Belmont, NH, where she offers adventure travel and primitive survival training to anyone wanting to appreciate the wild world we all live in. She teaches hunting, tracking, taxidermy, tanning, plant identification and fire starting. “My journey has taken me from freight trains in Mexico to hobo encampments in Chicago, from antler hunting in Idaho to extreme survival in Panama,” she explains on her website.
How did you wind up on “Naked and Afraid”?
I’d been traveling about 10 years, teaching survival skills. When they were casting, my name came up. They Facebook-stalked me, saw my photos and learned a bit about me and then sent a message asking if I wanted to be on the show. Next thing I know I’m on a plane to LA.
When they needed someone to fill in for a “casualty” they called you to come back. You must have made a good impression.
I like to think so. I was unbelievably excited when I got the call. I jumped out of my seat. I had about five days to prepare but I try to live healthy anyway. I cut out all sugar and caffeine. Began eating Paleo, vegetables, meats and healthy fats like nuts and avocados. I really wanted to put on a little extra fat before I left. I try to be a mostly healthy person. I’ve been preparing over the last 10 years. It’s not something you can prepare for in the last few weeks – It’s something you either have or you don’t.
And then you’re being dropped off in the middle of nowhere. What’s the worst thing that happened?
The last night before we hit extraction [going home] we had to paddle to a point where the helicopter would meet us, about nine miles away, in a makeshift raft. The rains came and it was a Biblical storm. We got to shore and put a mat over us and spent about four hours just trying to keep our core temperatures up. When it’s 49 degrees and you’re naked and getting buckets of rain dropped on you, you can’t control hypothermia.
You’re allowed to take one thing with you, what did you choose?
I brought a machete. My partner brought a fire starter.
Is there some item you always carry, just in case?
Nothing. Just myself. I don’t like to be reliant on things. I’m into primitive survival. I want to be comfortable everywhere with nothing.
Have you recovered completely?
Yeah, no scars. But when you’ve been hungry for that long it takes a long time to get your muscle back. Your body just wants to create fat.
What exactly is a survivalist?
There’s the connotation that they just want to survive no matter what, come the zombie apocalypse or whatever. If there’s a zombie apocalypse, I’ll be one of the first to go. I’m more of an adventurist. Knowing how to take care of my own needs means I have freedom.
Does NH offer any adventures to someone who has survived “Naked and Afraid”?
I think you can find adventure anywhere. Once I was stranded at a gas station in Indiana for four days and had the most incredible time. It was funny, intense. In NH you have mountains, woods and the seacoast but it’s the people that I really love. I’m a nomad at heart, always wandering, but more than anywhere else it’s home. I miss it when I’m gone. It’s nice to have a place you miss.
What are you afraid of?
I was scared of vomiting when I was younger, but I got over that. Now I’m just scared of having a boring life. Other than that, I don’t give fear any energy — life’s too short!
You have a quote from Mary Oliver on your web site. Do you take books or poetry on your adventures?
She’s amazing, but no, I don’t. I indulge in front country. I tend to be so in the moment when I’m in back country that I wouldn’t want to read a book.
Laura Zerra has appeared on Naked and Afraid two times and Naked and Afraid XL once. She was partners with EJ Snyder in the Amazon rainforest (they filled in when AK and Tyler tapped out early) and Clint Jivoin in Panama.