The mastermind behind The Amazon Adventure, Nico is also the raft’s captain. Originally from Long Island, NY, Nico joined the military at age 17 and spent the next 7 years operating nuclear reactors on various aircraft carriers for the US Navy. After being honorably discharged from the Navy, he left for an adventure that would forever change his life – a 4,000 mile bicycle journey across the United States and parts of Canada – unsupported. It was on this adventure that he realized two things: that the world was far greater than the small town in which he grew up; and that anything was possible once you put your mind to it. With the latter in mind, he went back to school full-time while working 3 jobs simultaneously and cycling across 17 more countries on his summer breaks. He finished undergrad in 3 years at one of the toughest schools in the nation, and graduate school in under 2 years – both with a near perfect 4.0 GPA.
With his graduate diploma hot off the press and fresh in hand, he was faced with two options – the latter of which far too few people ever realize they have: Enter the workforce and start living “like an adult”, or hit the road and not look back. He sold or gave away everything he owned except for a compass, a tent, and a surfboard (which he mounted to his bicycle), and set off from San Diego toward South America. 18 months and 14 countries later, he would trade the bike for a dugout canoe and find himself deep in a Peruvian section of the Amazon Jungle spear-hunting for caimans and piranhas and learning to live off the land.
Lazily floating down the Amazon using only the river’s current, he noticed large pieces of wood – entire trees – washed up along the side of the river, and couldn’t help but think (and say aloud), “Someone could totally build a raft out of all this wood and float all the way to the Atlantic!” It was a hypothetical suggestion to an non-existent or otherwise unknown third party. Nonetheless, after hearing me suggest it numerous times aloud, someone put the question to me, “Why don’t YOU do it?” And thus The Amazon Adventure was born. Nico has since returned to the US where he is tending bar and living in his car to save money for the trip.
Relevant qualifications include survival training, rafting experience in class 4+ rapids in over a dozen countries, proficiency in English, French, and Spanish (in addition to beginner-level Kichwa (Quechua) and Portuguese), thorough training in first aid/CPR/emergency response, lifeguard training, combat training (wrestling, boxing, MMA), extensive camping, and most importantly, not knowing the meaning of the phrase “I give up”.
Anastasiya should wear a shirt that says, “No humdrum”. Despite being born in the USSR – the kingdom of atheism and uniformity – she is a believer in God, coincidences, and infinite freedom. Her weakness is the seduction of the mountains, and she blindly follows their attraction. She loves people – their souls. What is more thrilling – people or the mountains? Or is it the people of the mountains? Either way, she has had a special kind of luck since birth – a luck for meeting kind people.
Anastasiya doesn’t like talking about studying or work, so here are the Cliff’s notes on those topics: She grew up wanting to be an indian, and later a spy. When the time came to enroll in a program at the university, however, she was saddened to learn that they offered neither of the two. Thus she settled for a program in Information Security Systems, which is a little like being a spy, but nothing like being an indian. She has since worked as a baker, a courier, a waitress, a teacher, a system administrator, a gardener, an installer of outdoor advertisements, and an internet marketer. She loves her mother tongue (Russian), speaks Ukranian, some English, and is learning German.
In February 2014, a random internet search led Anastasiya to a one-paragraph description of The Amazon Adventure that Nico had published hoping to find someone who had attempted a similar journey, or better yet, somebody interested in joining. The piece was published only minutes before she had stumbled upon it. She felt it was her destiny, and throwing caution to the wind, she wrote back within minutes and became the first crewmember/partner on the voyage.
After had such experiences as traversing 3,000 KM across Russia with absolutely no money, learning to survive brutal winter snowstorms with only summer clothing, and being lost in swamplands, she is a solver of unforseen problems. She believes that with enough belief and trust in one’s self, anything is attainable, and is 100% committed to seeing this next journey till the end – wherever that may be.
With one crew member having backed-out only four months prior to the start of the trip, the group threw a hail-Mary and wrote a Facebook post seeking a fourth person to join the team. They knew the trip would be treacherous, and having a second strong and capable male would prove invaluable to the success of the journey. Within six hours of writing the post, the team had their answer – Sam Carrick. Shocked by the speed of Sam’s response, Nico asked Sam with what percentage certainty he would ACTUALLY make the trip – was it 60%, 70%, 80%, or more like 90%? Sam responded with 100% – the only thing that would stop him was death or hospitalization. The Amazon Adventure now had its fourth member.
Sam grew up with 13 brothers and sisters in the northwest suburbs of Chicago IL. Living with such a large family in a small house, privacy was a luxury. The ability to cooperate with others has since been one of his strongest attributes. Problem solving is another strongpoint for Sam; when presented with challenges – either at work or at play – he always finds a way to get the job done. Sam grew up camping and going on 4-5 day canoeing trips down the Wisconsin River with no civilization in sight. During his college years, sleep and a bed were seldom an option as he worked 60-hour weeks and attending classes full-time. Sam has lived in Chicago, New Jersey, and San Diego, and has visited Canada, Ireland, China, Japan, Singapore, Caracas Venezuela, Phuket Thailand, Malaysia, the BVI’s, Mexico, and Hawaii.
When he’s not working, you will find him crewing on a racing yacht off the shores of San Diego, designing the next best electronics gadget, or gathering a crew of his own to have fun on his 25ft Catalina sailboat. Sam’s additional skills include +10 years of scuba diving, snorkeling, free diving to depths of over 80 feet (holding his breath for 2+ min), and 4 years racing on two 1st place 50ft sailing yachts (including 5 day races through 36 knot gusts and storms in the open ocean). In addition, he has experience white water rafting, camping, using hand tools, climbing, tying knots, hunting, cooking, and swimming. And while he’s not yet proficient at speaking Portuguese, he has 2 Brazilian neighbors, and is learning fast.