By Chelsea Karnash
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If the idea of being dropped in the jungle –- naked — with a complete stranger is the stuff of your nightmares, you’re not Dani Beauchemin.
The 25-year-old, who was raised in Mt. Laurel, NJ; competed on Season 4 of the television show “Naked and Afraid,” which is currently airing on the Discovery Channel. The program’s premise? Contestants are dropped in a remote location with a complete stranger and told to survive for 21 days. And they’re completely naked.
“I was contacted to be a contestant [on the show] through a wilderness medicine institute I attended,” Dani explained. “I had never seen the show, so I watched a few episodes and right away wanted to take the 21 day challenge myself.”
Those skills include her background in wilderness survival and rescue. Beauchemin, who is single and travels frequently with her three-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Xena, volunteers in wilderness search and rescue, teaches “primitive survival skills” and is a rock climbing instructor at a gym in Maple Shade, NJ – when she’s in town. Right now, she’s living in Alaska and working as a wilderness guide in Chugach National Forest.
“The best part [of ‘Naked and Afraid’] was that it is a true, authentic survival situation,” Dani said. “You’re stripped of everything and paired with a complete stranger. Each of us only got to bring one item…Everything we had to do was based on our knowledge, skills and mental strength. I truly got to put my skills to the ultimate test.”
Of course, Beauchemin admitted her experience wasn’t all sunshine and roses.
“It is hard to keep a positive mindset when you are in 120 degree weather with no tools and clothes, and with a stranger,” she said. “On top of that, you’re stressed, tired, dehydrated and unfamiliar with the environment.”
And the worst part? The bugs.
“We were put in the Colombian jungle – and the bugs were definitely king of the jungle.”
As for the idea of being nude, Beauchemin looked at it only as an additional challenge.
“You have to realize your clothing is your number one shelter. Without it, you are facing all the harshness of the elements. Not having shoes was terrible, because you have to worry about getting a cut or facing an infection,” she explained. “Luckily, I was able to source my environment and [create] my own pair of shoes just by weaving plants and vines and tree bark together.”
Overall, Dani says the experience was something she’ll take with her for the rest of her life. And while she can’t give away too many spoilers in advance of the airing of her episode on June 7th, she says she “thrived” in her challenge — so much so that she ended up competing on an additional version of the show called “Naked and Afraid XL” which spans 40 days and will “start sometime in July.”