When it comes to home comforts, I’m luckier than most. But as we hunker down into this period of social distancing and quarantining, I’m scared y’all. I’m no survivalist. I’m scared for my young adult children and my elderly parents. I worry about the economy. I’m on high alert for what’s next.
Today, watching a video interview with this guy was just what I needed to soothe my stir-crazy spirit.
Yeah, that guy. He’s the balm for my troubled spirit. He’s Matt Wright, survival instructor, knife maker, and veteran of the Amazon episodes of Naked and Afraid. From the comfort of his own home, he sat down with Amber Hargrove to talk about their Amazon survival experiences—and what they both learned about the mindset we need to survive each new day, no matter where we find ourselves.
Before he auditioned, Matt would watch survival shows like Naked and Afraid on TV and think, “These people look like they’re dying—looks like they’re going through hell,” he tells Amber. “I thought, ‘You know what? I would like to test myself.’”
“I like to follow my passion,” Matt tells Amber. “And sometimes it brings me to the crazy stuff.”
Matt wanted to do more than just survive the Amazon. He wanted to thrive. “Going after that wild boar—stripped of everything—was a bucket-list dream I wish I had worn clothes for,” he quips.
He felt like he was living high on the hog when he bagged a tasty jungle pig. ““It was delicious,” he remembers. “And I was like, this is it! I’m not going to be hungry. None of us are going to be hungry. We’re all going to be fat by the time we get out.”
A Little Bug Brings the Boar Hunter Down
“All of a sudden, something as small as a little cut on my foot started burning,” Matt continues. It was a very rare—lucky me—flesh-eating bacteria.” The crew removed Matt from the jungle and brought him to a hospital in Ecuador. “I learned later I was 36 hours away from losing my foot,” he reveals.
Chicken Feet for the Soul—and Body
“I’d been eating well. I’d been eating jungle pig and fish in the Amazon,” Matt recalls. What the Ecuadorian hospital fed him wasn’t nearly as appealing: chicken feet in broth. After eight days of this diet—along with some hefty antibiotics, Matt was out of the woods.
‘We All Have the Ability To Become Survivalists’
These days, Matt and his wife Brooke (also a Naked and Afraid veteran) teach people to hunt, fish, trap, survive, and thrive in the Colorado mountains and in the coastal environments of South Florida.
Matt says it’s always been his passion to teach people what they need to know to feel comfortable in the wild—“to help them learn skills they never thought they could master and will be there for them forever.”
“Survival starts with everyday life—your mentality, your mindset,” Matt stresses. “You can prepare for anything by literally getting your mind in the right place.”
“We all have the ability to become survivalists,” Amber agrees. Some of the survivalists on Naked and Afraid “used to work at the mall,” she observes.
“What I always tell people is ‘make every day better,’” Matt says. It could be making yourself a pair of shoes in the jungle or making yourself a pillow to lay your head. It could be doing something to make your house a little more comfortable or to make yourself a little less stressed.”
“You can go farther than you ever thought possible,” he adds. “We’re all going to get knocked down, but we’ve got to stand back up and get going.”
Today, Matt and Amber inspired even this couch potato to stop stewing in my own worries. I put down my mobile device and I went out into my garden to dig in the dirt and plant carrots and beans.
So the next time you feel anxious, curl up on the couch with this video. It’s chicken foot soup for the soul—nourishment for the uncertain days ahead.