Eastern Iowa native Lucas Miller said his “internal compass” directed him to bail out 39 days into his quest for the $500,000 prize in a reality TV wilderness survival contest.
Miller, 32, a native of Quasqueton, said “it’s hard to explain” why he tapped out when he seemed in no distress and actually enjoying his experience in a cold, sodden, forbidding wilderness. His journey was part of the 10-episode summer series “Alone” on the History cable channel.
“I had this feeling of completeness, and it just felt right to move on,” said Miller, who placed fourth among 10 contestants turned loose on Vancouver Island in a temperate rain forest that receives about 13 feet of rainfall per year.
“I did it for myself, not to please or impress other people,” he said. “For me, it was a journey to become a more complete and compassionate person.”
Miller said his self-imposed privations deepened his empathy for people who routinely suffer such privations, at which point, he said, “winning a game show became trivial.”
Miller, who likened the experience to living in a carwash, said that, unlike most of the other contestants, he had little trouble keeping warm, staying dry and finding ample food and water.
Miller seemed in it for the long haul after he fashioned a snug yurt to protect him from the elements, a canoe to transport him to good fishing and clamming waters and a stringed musical instrument with which to entertain himself in idle hours.
“I had the Taj Mahal of wilderness shelters, a foot-and-a-half thick fern bed to sleep on and a log bench to sit on,” he said.
Miller said he was focused on making a comfortable and organized life for himself. “I didn’t want to crawl on all fours and eat bugs,” he said.
“Alone” differed from other similar programs, he said, in that contestants were really alone — so alone, in fact, that they documented their own experiences with video and audio recorders.
Much of the Miller footage aired on the program showed him in tears — scenes, he said, that were not representative of his experience.
“I decided to give it all up for the camera, all my emotional highs and lows,” he said.
Noting that the editors understandably choose to highlight drama, Miller said, “They effectively showed every breakdown scene I had.”
That’s all right with Miller, who said he profited greatly from the experience, even though Alan Kay of Blairsville, Ga., who lost 60 pounds in his 55 days in the wilderness, won the $500,000.
“It turned on my inner Internet, greatly expanding my connectedness with people and the world at large,” said Miller, who recently moved from Albuquerque, N.M., to a self-built small home on the Hawaiian
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island of Maui, where he intends to raise fruits and vegetables and continue his practice of Ayurveda, an ancient Himalayan healing system.