Chris and Brody Wilkes overcame some tough challenges on Vancouver Island but, in the end, were forced to tap out. Here’s their experiences, in their own words.
1. Explain your reasoning behind selecting your partner.
Chris:My brother was a logical choice for such an adventure. In fact, he’s the only one I considered actually. He and I share many of the same interests and are both outdoorsmen. We’ve shared some extreme camping experiences together, and going to the island with him was a chance to spend some quality time together as well. He was a great choice.
Brody:My brother started joining me on primitive camping trips years ago and continued to show interest, so it would only be natural to choose him for this type of journey.
2. How did you prepare physically and emotionally for this challenge?
Chris:I prepared for this this journey by practicing bushcraft and studying indigenous fishing methods, but truthfully, once I knew I had been chosen for “Alone,” most of my time was taken up preparing for being away from my life for up to a year. Getting lose ends wrapped up was an important part of knowing my family would be OK in my absence. I knew that as long as I felt they were taken care of I could focus on my experience on the island.
Brody:I primarily practiced bushcraft skills like building shelters, starting fires and crafting traps. I also tried to increase my weight as much as possible without increasing carbohydrate consumption.
3. What were the most challenging moments throughout your experience?
The most challenging moments of my journey was knowing how hard my wife and children were struggling with the reality of my absence. Day three was my oldest daughter’s birthday and I knew she was upset that I wasn’t there, and that I may be gone for up to a year! The other major challenge was the amazing wetness of Vancouver Island that time of year. Everything was completely soaked, which, when combined with the rugged terrain, makes for a difficult environment.
Brody:The most challenging moment by far was the hike; there were no easy days or easy moments. The terrain was always unforgiving with mud, downed trees, thick brush, and steep elevations. I would pick my pack up shortly after daylight and didn’t take it off till just before dark every day. If I rested, I would place my pack on a log, but never took it off unless I had to. Being soaking wet during the entire hike, I never knew if it was raining or not until I stopped for the day.
4. Why did you decide to tap out?
Chris:I made the decision on my daughter’s birthday, day 3, that I wasn’t going to stay until the end. The reality that my daughter was stressed out by my absence, and the knowledge that she would likely solve that stress by emotionally detaching from me, made leaving early the right choice for me. When I came to this decision, I didn’t want Brody to miss his daughter’s first birthday either. The gift I chose to give my family, instead of my half of the prize money, was the experience of being chosen over money. In the end, my half of the prize money didn’t seem like a fair trade off for what they were experiencing. I hoped that by leaving early they would see themselves as my greatest priority, and it worked. The first 1-2 months after I got back home was absolutely heavenly. We were walking in the clouds and full of gratitude for the love we had for each other. If I had chosen to stay on Vancouver Island for a few more weeks, which I seriously considered, the impact of “feeling chosen” would possibly have been lessened.
Brody:I was looking forward to resting once I got to the base camp, but the conditions there were not very good when I arrived. My brother had already decided that he wanted to leave and was waiting for my arrival to do so. This made it clear that staying on the island long term was not going to happen, so I decided it was best to compromise and let him push the button.
5. What did you learn about yourself during this entire experience?
Chris:One of my main goals was to go the island and have the experience I was meant to have, and I think I did. I believe I saw my life with the greatest clarity during my time in the woods there. The biggest thing I learned was that love is all that really matters in life. If you have people who love you then you are a very rich person. This is a gift of life much more precious than money. It was a big epiphany and I could hardly think of anything else when it hit me. I knew that the island had an experience for me, but I didn’t really know what it would be. The love you share with others is one of the most powerful experiences in life.
Brody:This is not something you want to experience with a family member as this was not a family
vacation. After the first day, the adrenaline had slowed down and I became very calm and focused on the task at hand, so I became very comfortable with being alone in the mountains. This is when I had the best rest and reflection of my experience. When I arrived at the base camp, my reflection was distorted by my brother’s experience. Your partner can really have an effect on various components of your own journey including your mood.