What started as a search through Craigslist for an extra hobby turned into the adventure of a lifetime for Philadelphia software engineer and Drexel graduate Eric Martin.
The part-time ski instructor and EMS volunteer is a contestant on tonight’s episode “72 Hours” a reality competition show on TNT that drops off nine strangers in teams of three in the wilderness with one bottle of water, a GPS and 72 hours to find a briefcase stuffed with $100,000 cash. For the show, Martin, 34, who lives in Harleysville in Montgomery County and is working on a consulting assignment at the Cira Centre, was dropped on the Lost Coast of New Zealand.
Watch Martin on the show tonight on TNT at 9 p.m.
Below, the self-proclaimed geek talks to us about the unexpected physical challenges of the show, his love of the outdoors and where he would like to be dropped off to survive in the wilderness.
How did you get involved with the show?
About this time last year, I was perusing Craigslist for local theater and independent films to audition for. It’s kind of one of my hobbies, the acting thing, and I just happened to come across the TV/Film section of Craigslist that basically said, “Are you tired of sitting behind a desk all day? Do you like to hunt, fish, camp? Do you love the outdoors? Are you all for adventure or something different?”
So I’m like, yes to all of the above. Check, check, check, check. I did the application, sent an email and a couple days later I heard back from the casting agency saying, “We’d like to continue on in the process.” And ultimately, I ended up on the show.
Did you have a lot of outdoors experience before the show?
Ever since I was little, [I’ve been] fishing. I’ve done week long expeditions to northern Quebec, where we only have what we carry in and carry out, three and a half hours from the closest civilization in some cases, so definitely I’ve had a lot of outdoor experience.
I like to locally go hiking and fishing in streams for trout and stuff like that. I definitely had the experience. Going into it, I was thinking, you know, I thought I was really prepared for the survival aspects of it, I wasn’t too worried about finding food, shelter, water, things like that. I was more concerned with how I was going to get through the physical challenges that were going to happen. It was a lot more physical that I expected it to be. It was definitely one of the biggest physical challenges I’ve ever faced.
You describe yourself as a geek “who enjoys playing with everything from Arduinos to tesla coils in [your] spare time.” Tell us more about what being a geek means to you.
A lot of my hobbies that I have — I play with electronics. I spend a lot of time with computers at my desk job, so you could consider me a computer geek because I spend so many hours a week on computer programs. I’ve always been interested in the sciences, things of that nature. I have different kinds of interests in different subcultures — not something that jocks and sports guys would be messing around with, definitely.
Were you able to apply any of your tech skills to the challenges?
I mean, mainly, I found myself really taking somewhat of a backseat role to my teammate, Michael, who did a lot of the navigation aspect. I think my input was necessary, I did work at a mapping company for four years at one point in my career, so I definitely felt that I had something to contribute on that front, but the physical challenges, just getting through that, was taking everything I had.
If you were going to be dropping to survive anywhere in the world, where you want to be dropped?
I would have say the Himalayas. Being a winter person, spending a lot of time outdoors in the winter, I definitely think I would be OK as far as hacking it in the cold weather. I could definitely see scaling Everest as the ultimate challenge. It’s definitely something that I’d do if I felt physically that I was able to do it.
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