Nikki van Schyndel never thought she’d end up starring on a TV show.
In the early 2000s, the Lower Mainlander paid someone to drop her off on a deserted island in the Broughton Archipelago, with virtually nothing but the clothes she was wearing. She says she wanted to say goodbye to her American Barbie doll dream life, which included competing in equestrian events. Instead, Schyndel’s goal was to live alone and survive off the land and sea.
She did so for 18 long and often lonely months. Along the way, Schyndel had unforgettable wildlife encounters and found herself in hilarious predicaments. But she also faced many physical, mental and spiritual challenges while learning hard life lessons about survival. Whenever she questioned her sanity or had moments of doubt, she says she would focus on the beauty around her.
Schyndel, also known as Daisy Crocket, says reading My Side of the Mountain as an 8-year-old planted the seeds for her life-long adventure in survival.
“I wanted to be Sam Gribley (a boy who lives in a thickly forested area of New York State) more than anything,” van Schyndel said in a 2019 Vancouver Sun article. “I wanted to live off the land and make my own clothes. Harvest wild foods and be able to totally live out in nature.”
She made her dream a reality and captured her Broughton Archipelago survival story in the book, Becoming Wild: Living the Primitive Life on a West Coast Island.
Though not your stereotypical end-of-days survivalist, Schyndel has embraced a primitive way of life. She has studied and taught under the best earth skills educators and survivalists in North America, and is also a graduate of the Dominion Herbal College in British Columbia.
In 2019, Schyndel put her survival skills to the test as a participant in the sixth season of History Channel’s TV series ALONE. Her season was set on a lake in the Northwest Territories just south of the Arctic Circle.
The basic premise of the show is simple. Give 10 people 10 basic items, then deposit them in the wilderness. Whoever lasts the longest walks to the first hot shower in months with a cheque for $500,000 in their grimy paws. The show aired last year. Schyndel didn’t win, but she came out even stronger.
She now lives off-grid In Echo Bay, in a log cabin she built herself from a how-to book.
Schyndel still forages, hunts and survives off the land and sea while working as a wilderness guide and educator for lodges and running her own small wilderness tourism company, Becoming Wild Ventures.