By Edward Henderson
Fiji is a dream destination for many jet-setters and individuals looking to escape the day to day grind life can give us. Simply thinking of the name ‘Fiji’ conjures images of sandy beaches, resorts, tropical climate and solitude. However, if you ask San Diego resident Elaine Swann about her experience in Fiji, she’ll mention eating insects, sleeping outdoors, rafting dangerous waters with coconuts, and doing it all with a travel partner who was a stranger and the complete opposite of her.
She’d also mention the circumstances of her trip were a little out of the ordinary. Swann was recently featured on Fox’s reality series ‘Kicking & Screaming’.
The show teams 10 expert survivalists with ‘pampered partners’ to face the toughest challenges of their lives. Hosted by Hannah Simone, the series drops these unlikely duos into a tropical jungle in Fiji, where they must overcome dangerous animals, raging rivers, hunger and extreme weather. Winners of the competition take home a cash prize of $500,000.
Swann was scouted out by producers of the show after seeing her work as an etiquette expert on news and talk shows. Their goal was to discover the individuals least likely to want to be in the environment the show created along with the survivalists.
“It took me about a couple of heartbeats of a second to give it some thought, but I almost immediately said yes,” said Swann. “This show and this whole idea of going into the wilderness is something that I would never ever do intentionally. To be asked to do something like this I thought was something in life I was supposed to do.”
After a series of screen tests, psychological and physical exams including a swim test, Swann and the other contestants were shipped off to Fiji last May to endure the obstacles created in the competition.
“The thing that stands out most is having to eat a bat wing and live worms. It was horrible. Something I will never do again. The bat wing was very rubbery, there was hair on it. The worms were kind of an oily substance. It was really bad. But I was trying to win half a million dollars so I did my part in the competition.”
Swann’s partner was Jason White, a reconnaissance marine. Producers paired the two together because they thought they were exact opposites, but Swann grew up near Camp Pendleton were White was very and was familiar with the marine culture, so did White. The two worked together so well that they made it to episode 7 out of 8 before being eliminated.
“I’m glad we made it as far as we did. We were both in it to win it. We really had to survive. No sleeping bags, no shelter or tents. We cut down trees, built fortresses, slept on bushes, got eaten by bugs, and whatever we needed to eat we had to find our food. When I came home I was 103 pounds. I lost a lot of weight.”
Despite the hardships, there were some highlights for Swann and White during the season. On episode 3, the paring was tasked with building a raft out of bamboo and loading up scales with 50 pounds of coconuts. They won the challenge a long with arguably the best prize offered the entire season.
“We took a sea plane to a private island. We stayed in individual bungalows, had a personal butler on call for 24 hours. We got massages, pedicures, manicures and private chef. As much I wanted to gorge and go crazy on the food, I didn’t do it. We’d been on 200 calories a day. (White) encouraged me to not overdo it.”
While Swann admits she’d like to go back to Fiji and experience it as a tourist instead of a survivalist, she was glad to experience the show and be part of a special moment in her life.
You can watch Swann and the entire season of Kicking & Screaming on Hulu and Fox on Demand.