Throughout her 17 days lost in a dense Hawaiian forest, yoga instructor Amanda Eller said a “voice” guided her throughout the area, leading her further and further away from her vehicle.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Eller called the more than two weeks she spent lost in the Makawao Forest Reserve a learning experience that brought her closer to nature — even if it almost ended her life.
“This whole journey was extremely spiritual for me, and I never felt alone, and I never felt fearful. It was an opportunity to overcome fear of everything,” said Eller, 35, according to CNN. “There was so much beauty in that.”
While she did her best to stay optimistic, Eller said she began to lose faith that she would be found when the helicopters she heard flying over her location were unable to see her through the thick vegetation.
“The helicopters are passing over and not seeing me, I’m invisible,” she said. “You lose hope. And you’re — you know, your hope meter starts to decline a little bit.”
Eller went missing on May 8 while hiking in the reserve, and her boyfriend, Benjamin Konkol, reported her missing the next day. Eller’s white Toyota RAV4 was found in the parking lot of the reserve shortly after she was reported missing, and her phone and wallet were still inside.
As she started her journey into the forest that day, Eller recalled, she said a “voice” guided her through the woods, taking her deeper into the reserve.
“I don’t really know what happened,” she said. “All I can say is that I got out of my car, it’s like, you know, I have a strong sense of internal guidance, whatever you want to call that, a voice, spirit — everybody has a different name for it, heart.”
“My heart was telling me, ‘Walk down this path, go left,’ Great. ‘Go right.’ It was so strong,” she continued. “I’m like, great, this is so strong that obviously when I turn around and go back to my car it will be just as strong when I go back, but it wasn’t.”
At one point, Eller said she was able to keep warm by seeking shelter inside the den of a wild boar.
“This is the Chinese New Year, this is the year of the boar, I’m a boar,” she explained to reporters. “So I’m like finding myself sleeping in a boar’s home. And they were like trailblazing for me.”
Eller was finally spotted on May 24 by a group of rescuers in a helicopter, who had been hired by her family to help track her down. Injured and suffering from dehydration, Eller was quickly transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center.
While many have questioned what may have influenced her to travel so deep into the forest, Eller shot down the notion she had taken drugs or alcohol.
“Everybody can have their little theories,” she said. “I get high off of life, and I get high off of people and heart.”
The press conference came the afternoon after Eller — who was in a wheelchair — reunited with her rescuers to thank them for their efforts.
“You guys are the heroes,” Eller she told them, according to Today. “I am not the hero, I am just the girl sitting here healing my ankles… I am so blessed for every breath that I take.”
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