Here’s to Health

Here it is, Day One. I slipped up this morning when I had a Quaker Oats oatmeal thing that had whey protein in it – oops! But other than that I’ve had almonds, a banana with almond butter and a nectarine. On the menu is an energy mix made with almonds (can you tell I love almonds?), pumpkin seeds, cashews, dates and I think something else – can’t remember off the top of my head – as well as grape tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers with hummus and veggie pasta for dinner. I’ve started taking flaxseed oil, turmeric and B12 to help with nutrients and I need to throw in some coconut or almond milk for calcium. Drinking just water and so far, I feel awesome!

Here’s a little note of temptation: I’m currently in Orland, CA at the Glenn County Fair. For the next four days I will be surrounded by smells of fried everything as well as ice cream, beer, ICEEs and BBQ foods. So far, I haven’t felt tempted but it’s only been a few hours so who knows how I’ll feel six hours from now when I’ve been sitting in the sun listening to children screaming and telling people to “push the red button” on Sudsy’s a thousand times. 13151406_10154633851811729_3017438794107059033_n

Overall, I’m so excited to try this. I have never really been excited about a “diet” before and maybe it’s because I don’t see this as a temporary thing. I have always loved smoothies and often preferred them over food itself. I know that the hardest thing to give up is going to be pizza (although there are vegan options available) as well as ice cream. I have discovered vegan recipes for brownies (a guilty pleasure of mine) as well as cookies. But I’m actually more excited about trying all these new kinds of juices and smoothies and being able to look in the mirror everyday feeling a little bit better about myself.

For the past probably ten years (maybe more), I have struggled so much with my appearance. While I have never really let it stop me from doing anything or pursuing anyone, I have always felt self-conscious and overly aware of my body. As a performer, I am on stage and in front of people all the time. I walk around fairs in tight clothing resembling that of a ringmaster, cowgirl, pirate and even a flight attendant at times. And when I’m in costume, sure, I’m a hell of a confident girl because I’m a character, I’m not Paige anymore. But there are always the first looks in the mirror in the morning or at night, the moments where you stand 5 feet away because you look better not up close. There are the swimsuit fittings, costume fittings, shopping for makeup and hair products in order to cover up the fact that I’m a chubby girl with a pretty face. And this past week, I finally said that I’m done.

I’m done faking my smile and pretending that I’m not as big as I am. I am done spending a fortune on makeup and skin care and hair care in order to achieve the same results simply by eating right and exercising. I am done shying away from the idea of approaching someone simply because I am not cute or beautiful enough to catch their attention. I am done going into stores and not being able to find clothes that don’t fit me or boots that won’t accommodate my ginormous calves. I’m done being negative, treating my body like absolute shit and choosing food over my health, happiness and general well-being. I have given so much power to food. I have given it the power to cure my boredom, dictate my social events, serve my temporary cravings and distract my feelings of loneliness, self-pity, a bad day even. I don’t honestly really care how long I live – that’s not completely my decision to make. But what I do care about is my quality of life, the happiness that I feel and the depth of my relationships with other people. I care about not letting my body stop me from taking on any adventure whether that be hiking, kayaking, rock-climbing, swimming, cliff diving, ziplining, waterfall repelling or simply being an amazing performer.

So here is to trying something new, something that may or may not work (though the whole not working thing seems completely ridiculous) and something that at it’s very core is going to improve my health. I eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, legumes, whole grains and that’s it. I don’t eat dairy products, meat products or anything that has added sugar (I don’t always win in that department but I’m trying). I’m not here to proclaim my veganism or guilt you for your love of steak, eggs or yogurt. One of the best phrases I have learned as a traveler has been this: You do you, and I’ll do me. I am writing this in search of support and ideas from other vegans as well as a way of documenting this new path that I’m jumping on. This blog also serves as self-accountability. I want to, 30 days, 60 days, a year from now, be able to look back on this post and say “I actually did it, I stuck with it – here’s how I’m doing.” I have had a lot of Day One’s in my life and I’m sure I’ll have a lot more. I have started diets, jobs, relationships and more only to quit within a year or two – sometimes less.

So here’s to trying new things for health!

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My First Grocery Shopping Trip As a Vegan

It only took a few conversations and two documentaries (Unsupersize Me & Super Juice Me!) to convince me that veganism and juicing was not only incredibly healthy but also simple and delivered promising and fast results. I’d like to note that I am not on a mission to lose weight as fast as possible no matter what the method. Instead, I have been looking for a lifestyle change that will get my often unhappy stomach in order, boost my energy level and help me feel confident when I’m on stage performing and on the road. iStock_000016943709_small-824x549

After a chat with a fellow performer at a fair, I was intrigued. I had heard of veganism before and I often dismissed it because of the animal cruelty enthusiasts and over-dramatic evangelism that usually comes with the label. I simply want to be healthier and have incredible skin, a trait I’ve noticed in anyone who calls themselves a vegan or avid juicer. My desire is simple: Be healthy.

So on the road I was due for a grocery trip and I wanted to jump on this vegan bandwagon and at least try it. I’m not saying this will be for a week, month, year or forever; nope, just giving it a try. So between a trip to Walmart and Grocery Outlet (which by the way, where has GC been all my life?), this was what I walked out with:

Grape tomatoes
Cucumber
Celery stalks
Bananas
Apples
Blueberries
Nectarines
Oatmeal
Whole Wheat Tortilla Wraps
Almond butter
Oatmeal
Mustard
1 vegetarian salad mix (though I’m not positive the dressing is vegan…)
Bolthouse Farms Daily Roots smoothies (the label seemed to follow the rules but again, still learning)
Roasted Pepper Hummus
Raw almonds
Seed mix (checked label, strictly nuts!)
Vitamins: B12, Flaxseed Oil & Turmeric

The total came out to just under $60 which I was pretty happy about and was within my grocery budget. Because I don’t have my NutriBullet with me I won’t be able to do any juicing or smoothie making but that will be a definite addition at my next fair.

So fellow vegans and health enthusiasts: How did I do?

Photos courtesy of News USC and The Balanced Blonde.

The Cutest Show & Sudsy’s Barn Girl

As a traveling performer I have encountered my fair (no pun intended) amount of characters in this world. I’m lucky to be part of a team that travels around the country performing shows for kids as well as running what we fondly call “A Disney-esque hand-washing station.” I have acquired labels such as “Cutest Show Girl,” “Sudsy’s Girl” and “That badass girl driving a truck and trailer.” These labels have wormed their way into my self-identity and I gotta say, I’m a fan.

For those of you reading this and already lost – let me slow things down and tell you a little bit about this crazy life I’m actually living.12801318_10154452117601729_186926494475646777_n

My name is Paige McDaniel and I currently work for Fusion Talent Group. This umbrella of a production company owns, among many other amazing acts, Sudsy’s Barn and The Cutest Show on Earth. These two “acts” were acquired by Fusion Talent Group in late 2014 after a tragic accident limited the previous owner, Elisa Hays, and required her to hand over the gloves to someone else. I was with Elisa off and on since 2012 and when she passed the torch to our courageous new leader, I followed. This year I am a lead tour actor with The Cutest Show on Earth and I lend a helping hand for Sudsy’s Barn when needed.

So what do I do exactly?

The Cutest Show on Earth is, at its rawest form, a kid’s dress-up show. We have four shows – Circus, Wild West, Pirate & Farm Time – and we begin recruiting kids before our shows, get them in costume and perform a live show for audiences at fairs and festivals around the country. As the leader of the show, whether that be as a ringmaster, cowgirl, pirate captain, or flight attendant, I have the pleasure of watching kids come out of their shell and show off to their friends and family on stage. We do anywhere between one and three shows a day and it’s an absolute blast and amazing way to travel. Check out more about The Cutest Show on Earth here.

Sudsy’s Barn is, like I mentioned before, an interactive “Disney-esque” hand-washing station. Fairs around the country have struggled repeatedly with E. coli breakouts due to livestock and people not properly washing their hands after interacting with animals and other things at the fair. Elisa Hays came up with this brilliant idea to make handwashing a fun experience that kids and adults would actually look forward to. This 2-ton trailer transforms into an actual experience where you can get water from a goat, cow, alpaca or donkey who will also talk to you! All I can say is – you have to see it to believe it!

Thanks to these two acts, I am able to travel around the country 6-8 months out of the year meeting amazing people, seeing new things and having quirky and amazing experiences. I have discovered a true family made up of hypnotists, jugglers, tractor-pullers, animal trainers, trapeze artists, comics, clowns and more because of choosing to be a touring actor.

When I’m not on the road with Fusion Talent Group, I try and explore different places around the world. I recently spent a three-week gap in Costa Rica volunteering at a Spanish immersion school called Tico Lingo. Before my last tour I was in Europe backpacking for three months. The opportunities are out there and jobs exist that you may have never thought of that allow you to travel. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities wherever and whenever you can!

A Weekend In Jaco

I originally wrote this post for Tico Lingo, a Spanish immersion school located in Heredia, Costa Rica, as part of a WorkAway program. I wanted to share this adventure as well as some tips about a weekend adventure you could have while visiting Tico Land! 13102866_10154612081706729_5779748262555390554_n.jpg

Wanting to step outside of the valley for the weekend, I ventured to the quirky town of Jaco in search of sandy beaches, pina coladas and a little spontaneity. What I found was so much more than I had originally expected. I’ll preface this by stating that the original plan was to spend a short time in Jaco simply as a stopover to Manuel Antonio. I’ll cut to the chase, however, and confess that one night in Jaco quickly turned into three with absolutely zero regrets on my part.

HOW TO GET THERE

I was able to catch a local bus to San Jose for a mere 550 colones (roughly $1) directly to the Coca Cola station. From there, I asked a few locals where to catch the bus directly to Jaco. (Side note: Always try and get on a “directo” bus. This will be the quickest route to your location.) Many locals recommended I get a taxi directly to the new 7-10 station since the area was a little sketchy and I had a backpack worth of goodies on me. So for 2000 colones I jumped in a red taxi with a yellow triangle (super important!) and got dropped off in front of the station. It looks just like a mall with the tickets being sold upstairs and the boarding downstairs. Cough up 2335 colones for a one-way ticket and jump on the 2- hour ride to Jaco!

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At the base of a waterfall 20 minutes from Jaco Beach! 

The bus will drop you off at the main Jaco station directly across from the Best Western hotel. Take a left and begin your journey down the main drag of Jaco town!

WHERE TO STAY

As I mentioned before, the original plan was just to crash in Jaco for the night and then head out to Manuel Antonio. However, it wasn’t that long before I realized I wanted to spend more than 24 hours in this hippie beach town.

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ROOM2BOARD HOSTEL – Starts at $18 a night

I was ridiculously impressed with this hostel. Not only was the price definitely affordable but this place was literally right on the beach! This boutique hotel offered a luscious pool with a waterslide and plenty of poolside seating as well as a bar that offers $5 cocktails, woodfired pizza and a talented and helpful staff. They also have a giant wall where they project movies or hockey games until 11 p.m. The final icing on the cake? Rooftop hammocks overlooking beautiful Jaco beach and the Pacific Ocean.

BUDDHA HOUSE

A friend and I splurged and booked a private room in this boutique hostel kitty-corner to Le Loft and The Green Room. The weather in Jaco can be brutal in terms of heat so having a room with a private shower and air conditioning was well worth the $25 each. Also, having a private hammock and bean bag chair wasn’t too shabby either.

WHERE TO EAT

THE GREEN ROOM – $6-$10

There are tons of small sodas, coffee houses and bars that offer some delicious quick bites but for slightly above your normal Costa Rican fare. Friends and I stumbled upon The Green Room and we were immediately hooked, eating there three times during our stay! This place offers many delicious and fresh choices such as banana pancakes, vegetarian breakfast burritos and fizzy berry mojitos. Even their water is great as it is infused with mint, basil and cucumber before being served cold. This place has amazing live music every night, plenty of art for sale and fair prices for the high quality.

WHAT TO DO

Jaco is a fairly tourist town so the main strip is covered in choices for ATV, zipline, waterfall, crocodile and biking tours. A friend and I chose Costa Rica Waterfall Tours for our Explorer Tour climbing 10 waterfalls and jumping off a few of them! This adventure took us 4x4ing through the jungle to a serene waterfall where all you could hear was the sound of water and birds. With the help of a local Tico guide, our group hiked down to the bottom of this 10-waterfall canyon and hiked our way up, stopping to jump off cliffs as high as 20 feet! I’ll admit my knees were a little shaky but it was well worth it!

The Travel Blog Attempt – Day One

Many people have suggested that I start a traveling blog. I don’t disagree with them. I thrive off the idea of writing about my random adventures that I either stumble upon, impulsively buy plane tickets for or go as far as to actually plan a stay in another country. Of course I dream of being the next Cheryl Strayed or Elizabeth Gilbert, maximizing my Instagram followers while having people live vicariously through my posts and words. The idea sounds nice, exciting, ideal.

So here is me attempting to start a travel blog. I can’t guarantee I’ll post regularly, not yet. I can’t promise that I will always have brilliant insight on what to eat and where to stay. Sometimes, it will probably just be me hashing out my feelings about the latest thing I read on Thought Catalog or The Bolde. Other times it might be about a recent discovery I made as a person in her late twenties who is terrified of growing old and has a strange inclination that she will die young. Something I may have gotten from my mother (who is still alive and very much kicking by the way). But I hope, whatever the post is, that you will read and enjoy it. That you will find something to relate to or be able to respond with insights that I completely missed while trying to identify a certain event as life-changing when it really was just a fun memory.

This past year has been an incredibly life changing event one right after the other and I hardly recognize the person that I was shortly before my 26th birthday. I’ve started blogs time and time again but it was mostly me just whining about how I wanted to travel and do things but I couldn’t because I had a boyfriend or a job or [insert whatever other excuse here]. But now I feel that I have somewhat gone and made something of myself, or at least begun to. I feel accomplished despite my lack of increased financial stability or impressive career or perfect-on-paper husband. Life is good. It’s challenging and surprising every single day. For that, I feel lucky, blessed and incredibly thankful. I was never meant to live an ordinary life, nor do I condemn those who do. One of the most popular phrases I have heard while traveling, whether it be serious or not, has been “You do you.” And I hope that you will do you, let me do me and together we find a way to make an impact on this big world of ours.

So here is to adventures, small or big, life-changing or simply funny moments, and to life itself. Always have courage and be kind – these two qualities will take you incredibly far and give you the power to do things you never even thought possible.