Throughout the course of my life, I have been exposed to the outdoors on a fairly regular basis. After all, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, specifically The Dalles, Ore.
But nothing could have prepared me for the great outdoors I experienced when I became one of 20 cast members on one of the most popular reality shows of all time: Survivor.
I was cast as the "32-year-old nanny from Encino, Calif.," for the 10th season of Survivor called Survivor: Palau. Although I didn't win the million dollars (I made it to the "final four"), I did learn some valuable experiences during my 37 days on the island.
Like making sure to have the right pair of underwear.
Fast forward to my second day on the island of Palau. Even though I was about to embark on the most amazing adventure of my life, I was pretty much left in the dark about what, where and when all of it would happen—like when we would be dropped off at our "secret location."
For the last two days, my fellow castaways and I had been holing up in big canvas army tents that felt more like ovens than sleeping quarters. Although filming for the show hadn't started, we were there to do a scheduled round of press interviews. Our luxuries were already at a bare minimum: tent lights shorting out and fans barely working. The temperature had to be in the high 90s; the humidity felt close to 100 percent. Not wanting to sound like a whiner, I just grinned and carried on.
That second night I had a restless and sweaty sleep.
"Crap, crap, crap," I said, feeling around my darkened tent, on my hands and knees, rooting around in my luggage, sweating profusely, after just being awakened—way too early—for our "press day."
We had already pre-selected our "outfits" that we were to wear for press. There was much thought on what we would wear, and mine happened to be a miniskirt, tank top and flip-flops. I was one of the fortunate ones. Some of the others had to wear suits and ties (because they were the "business" characters), and with the heat, well, you get the picture. I felt lucky. That is, until I couldn't find my panties.
"Where in the hell is my underwear?" I panicked. "Seriously, where in the hell is my underwear?"
That's when I heard someone yell, "The bus is leaving, and you'd better be on it."
"OMIGOD!!! Where is my underwear!!!" I was seriously freaking out. Did I put them in some strange underwear compartment?
After hurling every single item of clothing out of my bag and onto the floor, I felt a familiar fabric with my fingertips. I clumsily stepped into them just as I heard another bellow from a staff member about being left behind. Still in the dark, I didn't get a glimpse of the chosen ones, but knew from the size and fabric—or lack thereof—that they were not my favored "granny panties" that I had planned to wear on the show.
Well, of course, there was no press "interview." This was the day we were (gulp!) being "dropped off" and abandoned (well, save for a film crew and a few hot techies). And I, of course, just happened to pick out the tiniest thong panty that has ever existed: a light-green, lace, SEE-THROUGH Cosabella thong.
So for the next (count 'em) 37 days, I "survived" in the equivalent of a strip of cheesecloth and a miniskirt. Thirty-seven days of blistering bug bites, heat paired with hunger, stifling boredom and thrilling challenges—all with my ass hanging out. On national television. Why I even own one of these articles of clothing is a question I continue to ask myself every day. It haunts me to think that there is footage of my butt cheeks out there somewhere. Lots of it.
So, if your mother ever says to you, "Don't leave the house without a good pair of underwear," just remember the fable of the girl who went into the wild without a "proper" pair. You never know when you might get dropped off on some island in Micronesia with just the clothes on your back.
You can read more about Jenn Lyon at www.jenniferlyon.com.