Nicole Apelian: A True Survivor



Nicole Apelian: A True Survivor

Meet Dr. Nicole Apelian

Dr. Nicole Apelian has had an awesome, and at times challenging, journey — a journey she continues to share with others all over the world. Her grateful spirit, strong will, and expertise in the field of wilderness survival and personal wellness has made a strong impact and a permanent footprint for others to follow.

As a scientist, mother, educator, researcher, expeditionary leader, safari guide, herbalist and traditional skills instructor, she has been a strong influence to many people around the globe.

Apelian's journey of wilderness survival began in Africa while working as a game warden with the US Peace Corps, where she tracked and researched lions. She then worked as a field biologist in Botswana. While in Africa, she fell in love with the breathtaking landscapes and the San Bushmen’s way of life, which would have a strong influence on her own life that continues to this day.

In 2000, Nicole received news of a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. She turned the tables and basically did not accept this as part of her future…her life. She made simple life changes in her personal wellness and learned to walk again. She is truly an inspiration to others, including myself.

After her restored vitality, she moved on and founded her own tracking and wildlife safari company, Eco Tours International.


Fast Forward to 2016…

Season 2 of ALONE premiered on April 21, 2016 on the History Channel. The History channel did something a little different this season. There are now female participants — 3 of them to be exact! One of the participants is no other than Dr. Nicole Apelian. On ALONE, each participant is equipped only with limited gear, their wilderness experience, and cameras to self-document their journeys.These brave men and women are completely separated from one another in harsh, unforgiving terrain. To survive, they must find food and water, build shelters and fend off predators. They will face extreme isolation, psychological distress, and treacherous environmental conditions as they descend into the unknown. A $500,000 cash prize will be awarded to the person who can last the longest.

I am honored to have had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Nicole Apelian about her personal journey and her experience on ALONE, season 2.

Who has been your strongest personal influence in your life? My stepfather, who raised me. He took me hiking, camping, canoeing often and we’d bring our field guides and explore. He really instilled in me that I could do anything and to work hard and follow my dreams. As a scientist, educator, researcher, expeditionary leader, safari guide, herbalist and traditional skills instructor, what position has been the most rewarding and why? Probably teaching (and being a mother.) Most of the positions you mention have a teaching aspect to them and I love sharing what I have learned with others  You have spent a valuable amount of time alongside the San Bushmen, which allowed you to develop a strong relationship with them. What aspects of their way life have you incorporated into your own daily life? I think the most important thing I have learned from them is that life is best lived in the present moment. Dwelling on the past isn’t very helpful (though learning from it is.) If you live in moments other than the now you miss out on life! I have also learned a lot about love, speaking your truth and of course, that we are a part of the natural world…not “apart” from it. Yes, they have also taught me many skills, but the most important lessons are life lessons.

You were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000 and made some dedicated changes to your personal wellness by developing a healthy living strategy. I truly believe that personal wellness plays a big role in anyone’s health. What advice, based on your personal experience with your diagnosis, would you like to share with someone that may be going through a similar situation?

Don’t just trust what you are told! Do your own research. Seek alternative medicine. See a naturopath. Talk to a wellness coach (I do this, actually – please see my website at

Remember that what you put in your body makes a difference. Eating whole foods, exercising, and having a positive state of mind also works wonders. Western medicine has its place but don’t rely solely on it. Explore other options!

I read your piece on expressing gratitude on a daily basis. I agree, that rain or shine, there is always something to be grateful for. What are 3 things in your life that you are grateful for?…rain or shine?

My family, my friends and the natural world.

Her experience on ALONE, season 2…

Group Shot

The 10 participants of Alone, season 2. From left to right: Randy Champagne, Larry Roberts, Mary Kate Green, Mike Lowe, David McIntyre, Nicole Apelian, Tracy Wilson, Justin Vititoe, Jose Martinez Amoedo, Desmond White.

The moment you learned that you were one of the 10 people chosen to be on season 2 of ALONE – how did that news make you feel?

Excited! And a bit nervous, to be honest. I had already been reading everything I could about the area and prepped by cutting all caffeine, alcohol and most sugars. I also hoped I would be up to the task. I had the training…but you don’t know until you are really out there alone what will happen.

As a woman survivalist on ALONE, what influence do you hope to bring to the show?

I hope to show young girls and boys that women can perform on an equal platform as men. I also hoped to bring the idea of nature connection into people’s living rooms. I believe that we have lost a lot of that connection and that we are suffering as a society because of this loss. This was a great platform to demonstrate how people can easily deepen their connection with nature. I hope it comes through on screen.

As a woman survivalist myself, when I heard that season 2 had 3 female survivalists I was thrilled! I think women present a unique angle for the show – in the fact that women are just as equal in skillset and do contribute to the art of survival as much as men do. Do you agree?

I do agree. Throughout time women and men have both been necessary for daily living and survival. As individuals we each have our own take on things and different skill sets, but we are of equal importance.  

How has your entire experience on season 2 of ALONE impacted your life?

I’ve always been at home in nature, but it has deepened my connection even further. The ropes I have built with plants and animals have grown stronger and I want to learn more and more. I feel lucky and blessed to have had this opportunity.

Nicole continues her work with the San Bushmen to help them find strategies to preserve their traditions and is currently cataloging indigenous plant uses with a community of Naro Bushmen who regard her as family.

At her home in the Pacific Northwest, Nicole makes her own herbal medicines from local plants and enjoys time in nature with her two sons, partner and wonderful community.

To learn more about Dr. Nicole Apelian please visit her website, To check out more details on her Alone experience visit

From all of us here at Survival Life, thank you for sharing your story with us. We’re cheering you on!





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