5 Reasons Earth Day is Every Day For Me

I began my journey to an eco-conscious lifestyle after my Dad died.

He died abruptly from a heart aneurysm and it completely shocked me because I thought he was living a healthy life and he was, to American standards. I know now that American standards are not really “healthy” but i’ll save that thought for another time.

I used to cope pretty horribly when dealing with an emotional turbulence. I’d self medicate with anything that came my way. I lived chaotically in my feelings, or lack there of. But when grief hit, I traded my usual dose of sex, drugs, and alcohol for a vegan, minimalist, zero waste lifestyle.

I was still coping, but at least I was coping in a healthy, positive way.

Every year since 2015, Earth Day reminds me of the important changes I made in my life. I wanted to live with intention, not unconsciously. I’m not saying it was always rational. I would say when I started I was very much doing it for irrational reasons. However, I want to share the first five things I did to embrace an eco-conscious lifestyle and the reasons behind them:

Going Zero Waste

People think I wanted to go zero waste to take care of our planet, but in reality I was doing it for selfish reasons. I chronically looked up health statistics and plastic was one of the most polluting demons to our environment. In my mind, I was inhaling toxic pollution into my lungs which causes health defects which then causes death. Could my Dad have lived longer if he breathed clean air? I banned plastic from my life. No more plastic water bottles. No more plastic tupperware, No more plastic wrapped food. Plastic gave me so much anxiety. But cutting out plastic was relatively easy. So I took it to the next level and went zero waste.

My anxiety got the best of me, and I wanted to control everything around me. Going zero waste was the perfect way to have control. Every day i’d see what trash I made and try to find solutions to my trash problems, but really the solution I was looking for was not going to be solved by trash.

I really had to watch myself as I started to notice the shame and guilt I felt when out of the 7 days of the week, I made a tiny paper bag of trash. I was being mean to myself! Not cool. So I loosened the rains a bit, still stuck to my “no plastic” rule, and if I made a little bit of waste i’d see it as progress, not a huge fucking decline to my health and our earth.

Here are the small things I still do to minimize my waste because a little DOES go a long way.

  • Shop at a food coop or farmers market and bring a reusable shopping bag. This is how I avoid plastic containers of food. I shop in bulk, and i’ll bring extra cloth baggies for produce instead of using the plastic bags they have. On the positive side, most food coops and farmers markets are using biodegradable plastic bags made from corn.
  • Have a mason jar and reusable straw on you. Whenever I wanted coffee or a smoothie, i’d just hand over my jar. I was on the go about 3 times a week. Very rarely I would forget my reusable cup, and if i’m having a “day” i’d forgive myself and just buy a fucking cup of coffee in a paper cup because i’m doing my best and that is what matters. Still pretty good in my opinion, so don’t beat yourself up if there are times you forget 🙂
  • Get a bamboo tooth brush (like this one) and make your own toothpaste. This cuts out plastic toothpaste tubes plus you save a lot of $$ doing this. I mix equal amounts of coconut oil and baking soda, and drop a bunch of peppermint oil to give me that minty fresh breath. I store it in a 2 oz mason jar and it lasts me about a month (and that is between my partner and I).
  • If you shave, I highly recommend getting a reusable razor. I purchased this razor in 2015 and I am STILL using it along with the blades I bought. I spent around $45 and I don’t anticipate running out of blades for another two – three years. That’s a steal imo!

Going Vegan

This was the main lifestyle change I took when it came to my Dad. He ate healthy according to the USDA, but I was skeptical. If he ate healthy, why did he die so young? I did my own research and found a documentary called Forks Over Knives. This film changed my life and I truly believe his diet played a huge part in his health.

I wanted to make sure what I was eating would nourish me, not kill me.

Forks Over Knives explores the possibility that people changing their diets from animal-based to plant-based can help eliminate or control diseases like cancer and diabetes. My Dad had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I went plant-based for 6 months, explored veganism, and after I was diagnosed with b12 deficiency I decided to find a diet best for me.

I cook plant based meals at home but when I travel I will go vegetarian or even pescatarian depending on the source of the dairy and fish. I feel much more aligned this way.

Here is what I recommend for those of you that want to do so for health AND environmental reasons:

  • Reduce your meat consumption. No you don’t need to go strictly plant based or even strictly vegetarian. But is it so much to give up meat for 1 day a week? Meatless Mondays are fun and you can get creative with a meat substitute.
  • Drink non dairy milk. Saturated fats are found in dairy (this is what raises your cholesterol). I stay away from almond milk since it involves a lot of water to produce. Coconut milk and hemp milk are my favorite in taste and are much more eco-friendly.
  • Cook at home. Some people use Sunday as their meal prep day, but what I do is double the meals I cook every day. When I make dinner on Monday, I am also making lunch for Tuesday. I do 30 minute meals, that way I only need an hour total. I’ll make a substantial amount so I can have left overs to munch on during the week. This saves $$, eliminates a lot of waste from take out, and can be healthy if you’re prepping nourishing meals. Minimalist Baker, Forks Over Knives, Happy Herbivore, and Cookie and Kate are my go-to recipe blogs.

Going Toxic Free

Going vegan and zero waste was not enough for me to chill out and cope with. I had to do more. I looked at the products I was using and even cruelty free brands were filled with fragrance. This was just another way to control my health. I really went crazy. Threw away all of my shampoo, make-up, cleaning and skincare products. I did a lot of research and decided my products had to be these three things:

  • 3 or less on the Think Dirty app. This means no fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfate, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), parabens…the list goes on. Here is a great resource from Hello Glow on what ingredients to avoid and why.
  • Cruelty free because why would you want your products tested on poor innocent cute animals? One thing to note: cruelty free ≠ vegan.
  • Sustainably packaged. It has to be within my zero waste guidelines. Can I reuse the containers for refills? Is it recyclable? Do they package using up-cycled materials? Is it biodegradable? These are questions I ask myself before clicking the purchase button.

I do not require my products to be vegan (it’s a plus, but if there is beeswax in a natural lip balm I like, I will suffice). Here is what I use for my make-up, beauty, and cleaning products:

Everyone has different needs so I use beauty blogs like Organic Bunny to help me decide what products are best for my skin type.

Going Minimalist

Less stuff = less waste = more money

That is how I view it. I am very big on “essentials only” but I treat myself from time to time (can a girl get a throw pillow or what?!). When I do treat myself it isn’t a full on shopping spree. I ask myself, what can I buy that will contribute to a minimalist lifestyle? Since I live in a home where every product has an intention/use, I love having something to make the apartment pop, even if I don’t technically need it. Does it bring me true joy? That is all that matters.

When it comes to clothes, I ditch the fast fashion trends and cycle through 33 items every season. Shout out to Project 333 from Be More With Less. This helps me get creative with my wardrobe. I can mix and match hundreds of outfits with the same jeans and still look fly.

Going minimalist also helped me think about what truly matters. As my income increases, my wardrobe and lifestyle remain the same. I know what brings me joy and keep that in my life. Everything else can GTFO.

Going Back to Therapy

Huh? What does mental health have to do with Earth Day?!!! A lot, actually.

A better me means a better earth, because if I can take care of myself I can take care of others, our earth including.

Therapy and yoga (with Adriene specifically) have taught me to nurture myself. Be kind to myself. I practice a lot of self love. I truly believe when we love ourselves, we make better choices, and that inherently makes a positive contribution to the world, to our earth.

Through therapy, I was also able to understand that my initial intentions behind going zero waste and vegan were not mentally healthy. I was trying to find ways to bring my Dad back by taking control of a situation that truthfully I had no control over. What I did have control over was how to live in the present to create a better future for myself. This is why I let go of being strictly zero waste or strictly vegan. I make better choices, live my life with positive intentions, and love myself and our earth through it all.

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How are you celebrating Earth Day? I would love to hear everyone’s path to embracing a conscious lifestyle<3

You owe me 21 cents

Have any of you read the book, Half The Sky? That book changed my LIFE. I knew the wage gap existed (I grew up in Silicon Valley) but I did not realize this was a world wide epidemic.

Photo by Max Panamá on Unsplash

Authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn investigate how to solve many of the issues women face such as gender-based violence, sexual assault, maternal mortality, and sex trafficking. Their discovery?

Investing in women reduces gender inequality and it starts with education.

The World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 217 years for women to reach pay parity, up from 170 last year. On average, women are paid 20% less than men. Hispanic women make 55 cents to the dollar. Black women make 62 cents to the dollar. Mothers suffer a 5% wage penalty for every child they have. Depressing shit, right?

Nay. Women and girls around the world are fighting their right to an education. Malala Yousafzai is a force to be reckoned with. She is a prime example that an educated woman leads to economic empowerment.

Think about it. We can turn oppression into opportunity if we invest in women. THIS is where economic progress is made. Hiring women and paying women can fight poverty.

According to the International Monetary Fund, closing the gender pay gap would increase the United States GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 5%. A 2015 study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.

The greatest unexploited resource is the female half of the population- not just in the United States, but in the world.

Reality is, we as women can only do so much by asking for raises and negotiating salaries. Shout out to Ladies Get Paid for helping women get paid what they deserve. Women cannot be the only ones demanding change.

John F. Kennedy passed the Equal Pay Act 1963, so WHY is there still a wage gap?  Loop holes, duh. (Like almost every law here in the U.S. there is always a damn loop hole!)

We need serious policy change. We need companies to demand legislation that empower women to succeed EQUALLY to their male counterparts. Contact your legislators, be aware of any changing laws, and talk to your company about combatting the wage gap, together. Oh, and ladies, ask for more money. You deserve it.

The entire world economy depends on it 😉

6 reasons Joshua Tree is more than an instagram photo

When I first heard about Joshua Tree, I threw mad shade. I am not proud.

“It is just a place where people go to take Instagram selfies,” I said to a friend. “It will be so overcrowded and overpriced, and for what? To see everyone snap their Instagram photos?”

I get it. Joshua Tree is a magical, too beautiful for words, breathtaking place. I decided to erase any assumptions and expectations I had about Joshua Tree from my brain. While there is some truth to what I said, I am so glad I went and was proven wrong. I spent the night in an airstream and I wish I stayed longer. I could easily spend a week in Joshua Tree stargazing, bouldering, reading a book by the fire, or doing literally nothing. It is a place to rewind, reset, and find clarity. (And to meet some really awesome people. Travelers and locals alike!)

So what gives? Here are five reasons Joshua Tree is more than an instagram photo:

It is possible to do on a budget

You can find Airbnb’s for $500+ a night (yikes), campgrounds for $30-$50 a night, and air streams/RVs for as little as $80 a night. It all depends on what season you go. I went in March and split an Airbnb with a friend. We decided to stay in an airstream called The Land Yacht which is perfectly located nearby the park’s north entrance and far enough away from the main road to feel truly immersed in the desert. For one night it was $185 with cleaning and service fees, a bit pricey but it was worth it. Sasha, our host, really put so much love into this airstream. He had loads of books to get lost in, a cute lil fireplace, and plenty of cooking supplies to whip up a home-cooked meal. The photos don not do this property justice.

Here are a few additional places I would love to check out one day:

Hicksville Trailer Palace & Artist Retreat

Mojave Sands

Dome in the Desert

Mojave Green Cabin

Any of these campgrounds that are a dream looking at!

Live your wild west dreams and explore Pioneertown

You know all those Old Western films you watched growing up as a kid? They were filmed in Pioneertown! A group of Hollywood folks lead by actor Roy Rogers, aka “The King of Cowboys,” founded this Old West movie set in 1946 and decided to make it much more than that. Visitors can enjoy a dramatized gunfight, hike through the beautiful canyon trails, and enjoy a bite plus catch some live local music at Pappy & Harriet’s! Robert Plant and Paul McCartney have previously made guest appearances, and I have to say the local musicians I had the pleasure of hearing were a-fucking-mazing.

Gabriella Evaro completely stole the show with her new music and the bands that followed melted my soul. My friend and I jokingly said their music put us under a spell and we had no choice other than to join their coven in Joshua Tree forever. This is the show we went to. If you can catch Gabriella in town, I highly recommend going to see her. She is a straight up rockstar.

Those stars though…

Can I *actually* verbally paint the picture? Probably not. I come from a place where light pollution THRIVES (hi, NYC I am talking about you). I do not see stars. I do not even know when it is night time depending on where I am! NO JOKE. But here, in Joshua Tree, the stars are so strikingly beautiful, lighting up the sky and will most def bring tears to your eyes. I love closing my eyes for one minute, so when I open them and look up at the stars they are even brighter. You will feel so connected to the universe, seeing all the beauty there is that mother nature has gifted us. The desert animals also come out at night. I was woken up by a mama coyote howling with her cute little coyote pups. So surreal for a city dweller like me.

Antique and thrift your heart out

A friend and I walked by a place that had trailer shops and outdoor antique garden. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we decided if we had enough time the next day we would stop by. After all, we did not go to Joshua Tree for shopping. Pfffft. Sadly the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum we wanted to check out the next day was closed, so we decided to pop into the vintage store next door which is serendipitously attached to the outdoor trailer shops!

Even though neither of us bought anything, antiquing is quite literally treasure hunting. We found Elvis posters, vintage typewriters, trendy cowboy boots, and beautiful 70s floral dresses. The shop is called Ricochet Vintage Wears and I shared such a lovely moment with the coolest, weirdest woman working the register. She complimented my jacket I bought from San Sebastian last summer, which opened up a conversation about art, raising kids, and surrendering to the creative guide within you. Which leads me to…

Find the creative within you

Joshua Tree is the place for this if you let it be. Put your phone away, unplug any distractions, and give yourself even just 30 minutes of quiet time. Whether it is taking a walk, sitting by the fire and writing three pages of gibberish (this is what I did), or reading a book. Once I got my creative side flowing I wrote so many little poems. I have not written poetry in AGES. I told this to the woman at Ricochet Vintage Wears. She said:

“There comes a point in the creative process where it is not you creating any more. Something within you takes over. Like a higher power. Once I take a step back and look at what I created, it feels so surreal- I created this? But how? You do not even realize what you are creating in the process because you have finally surrendered.”

She reminded me how important it is to take time for yourself to create. Not just when you go on vacation in Joshua Tree, but daily.

Immerse yourself in the community

Joshua Tree is a weird, funky place filled with colorful people that LOVE their town and what it has to offer. Invest in the locals. It is what keeps Joshua Tree thriving and jiving. Here are some options:

Art

Portrait of Noah Purifoy by Jim McHugh

There are so many local artists, which you can see here. My new favorite museum is the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum which is totally free (but donate what you can in their donation bin!). I got to meet a local who runs the museum on her own since Noah Purifoy’s death in 2004. She was watering plants around the art with her dog and told me how much she adores Noah’s art work, and that she has been working with him for 22 years. I have to say, I fell in love with his art work that day, too. His story reflects so much in his artwork.

Another museum I did not have the chance to check out is Bob’s Crystal Cave, which looks like a world of its own. Apparently it is close to impossible to find and experience but it makes for a adventurous journey. If you are lucky, you can meditate in the cave surrounded by a colorful array of crystals.

Restaurants

I’m vegetarian, and surprisingly Joshua Tree had plenty of options for me! I ate at Crossroads Cafe, which had the best vegan tacos of life. Another spot I wanted to check out is Natural Sister’s Cafe, which also has some great veg options.

Markets

Check out Joshua Tree Farmer’s Market on Saturdays to grab some fresh produce for your weekend away. If you’re looking for handmade, eco-friendly, desert finds head to Grateful Desert.

And everything else in between.

Lastly, go to Joshua Tree National Park (it’s open 24/7!) and make sure you read up on safety tips and rules. Keep the wildlife WILD, pick up any trash (yes, even if it is not yours), and stay hydrated. My favorite part? No cell service 😉

So, I get it. Instagram away! But, do take time to unplug, admire Joshua Tree in all its’ beauty, and support local businesses. See what happens when you put your phone down. You will get more out of it than a bunch of likes on Instagram. TRUST.

Dear Diary 1/29

No money, no problem. Seems counterproductive, right? Money is supposed to be the what empowers us to go after our dreams. I would not have started ACE if it were not for my father passing away. I received just enough to start my business…until I ran out of that money and decided to go into debt. I would not have been able to go into production without my Kickstarter campaign. Why? Because I got funded. I got the money!

And now I am here. With no money. In fact, I have negative money. (Thnx debt). I’m trying to be fine with it. I really am. But it has been a struggle.

Money never really meant much to me. I was always a hippie about it saying, “Money has no meaning unless you give it meaning,” or “Love is all you need.” I miss my hippie self because now I’ve been saying things like:

“You’re in debt Danielle, and interest is destroying you and your business.”

“Ok, yes, you can pay off the debt. You got two jobs, but what about after the debt? It’s not like you have any money left over from Kickstarter. You’ll just go into debt again.”

“How are you going to sustain your business when you don’t have any money to put out a second product?”

“How are you going to sustain your business when all your time is being sucked up by the two jobs you have?!”

“You’re stupid for putting the second half of your business onto a credit card. Only dum dum’s do that.”

Then I compare myself to all the boss ladies out there making a killing after being launched for one year, and then I go cry in the shower. Cue the sad violin!

It is hard. Starting a business isn’t all money and success and amazing vegan leather heels, like these ones.

I have to remember that no matter how successful someone appears to be, there was and probably still is a lot of sad violins cueing in the background.

I’m 26 years old. Five years ago, I thought by now I’d have my shit together. But I am still in survival mode. I go back and forth being in abundance vs poverty thinking.

The thing is, I ran out of money for ACE last August. Everything since then has been put on a credit card. I picked up a second job to help pay off the debt. And so far, everything has been fine. I launched The Daniel on Kickstarter, which was successful. I am able to go into my first production run. I pay all my bills without having to scramble for money. I can still a night out with friends. I can save money for travel or have an emergency fund. I have money to pay OFF my debt within the next 6 months.

So why am I so anxious about not having money, when I DO have money and when I DIDN’T have money- everything turned out okay?

Louise Hay (bless her) said, “You can never create prosperity by talking or thinking about your lack of money.” She believes gratitude thinking is what brings abundance.

I believe that too. But, easier said than done right?

We are all here doing the best we can. Those women I compare myself to are doing their best, and I applaud them. I’m proud of them. Inspired by them. I need to start seeing myself as one of those women.

I’ve lost trust in myself to do good. Life constantly puts good in front of my face and I’ve chosen to see the bad or the lacking. My friends and family who show me love every day. I work on a business that is being built from the heart. I eat healthy foods and have the time to cook myself a loving meal. I am surrounded by beautiful, bold, successful women that lift me up. I have a beautiful home that I share with my amazing partner. I live in a place where opportunity is all around me.

Starting a business might not be all dolla billz and vegan leather heels. But it’s about waking up, doing the work (probably in your pj’s on a couch like i’m doing right now), and putting all your heart into it.

I have the track record for it. 😉 Sometimes, I need a little reminder from myself that no matter what my bank account looks like, my life and business look way better.

That is all that matters.

***Dear Diary is my little way of creating an honest, brave, vulnerable way to vent and share what’s in my heart with you. It’s more for me than you – but I do hope it helps you feel less alone in whatever it is that you’re going through in this beautiful, messed up world.

ACE gives thanks

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

For the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about how to get in on the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday deals. What could I offer? A discount like everyone else? A gift with every purchase? 

Sales and offers don’t necessarily feel inauthentic to the ACE Brand, however mindless consumerism does.

I shared my concerns to my dearest soul sister of a friend, Gaby.

“I don’t want to give some flashy discount to my customers. I want to do something more meaningful,” I told her. 

She responded, “Then donate a portion of your sales. Pick a Native American organization that focuses on education, because they are the ones we need to remember this week.” 

She was right. My heart filled with warmth. I was so thankful for her guidance.

I started to do my research on local organizations and decided on the American Indian Community House (AICH). It’s local to NYC, and I very much want to be able to get involved myself.

From their website: 

The mission of American Indian Community House (AICH) is to provide an urban oasis for the Indigenous Peoples of the western hemisphere who are in the greater New York area, empowering them with skills and education in order to compete in 21st Century urban living. We strive to build bridges of cultural understanding and strengthen community ties.

AICH was founded in 1969 and has grown into a multi-faceted social support agency and cultural center with a staff of 35 that serves the estimated 27,000 Native Americans in New York City. They provide programs in job training and placement; health services referral; HIV referral and case management services; and counseling programs for alcoholism and substance use. How amazing is that? 

Unfortunately this past summer, the AICH lost their annual $1 million dollar funding from the Indian Health Service. Despite this, members are determined more than ever to continue their mission in serving the indigenous population of NYC. 

I see this as an opportunity to rise up.

In honor of giving thanks, ACE will donate 10% of every purchase to the American Indian Community House from November 22 until November 27. 

That is $21.50 each sale of The Daniel backpack.

Buying The Daniel this weekend isn’t just about getting a handy, minimalist, vegan, and eco-friendly backpack. It is taking a fabricated holiday opaqued by consumerism and honoring Native Americans.

Gift yourself a little love, get yourself a backpack you can really be thankful for (and proud of), and actually pay it forward. So those in greater need can have something to be grateful for, too.

Stay Shiny,

Danielle Magee 

Dear Diary 11/07

Let’s just rip the band aid off right here- on November 7th, 2015 my Dad died unexpectedly while I was traveling in Vietnam. I can still feel that same exact pain I felt that day receiving the worst phone call of my life. If you’re reading this, and you’ve lost someone- you know that pain. Let’s just say for the lack of better words…..it fucking hurt, and it still hurts.

I had the idea to design a backpack two months before he died. But how to start was always the question. For two months I drew different designs, wrote a one page on the mission of ACE, and just kept crossing it all out because who am I kidding? I don’t have any money to do this.

When he died die, I received a small beneficiary. I had 12k to my name and this idea just waiting for me to say YES to. I thought, if i’m going to use his death money to make my dreams come true- it had to be in honor of his life.

His name is Daniel Joseph Magee. Cue The Daniel. Growing up he’d always rock pink shirts and my classmates would totally make fun of me. I didn’t care. He was so cool in my eyes. He raised me on rock and roll music. He knew everything about history. He’d always drive me around to school, my art class, or to hang out with friends. Being in the car with my Dad was always the best. He’d let me pick three CD’s to play in his collection. I remember at 11 years old, I was REALLY into Linkin Park.

I had so much anxiety using that money to build my dream come true company. 12k was all I had left of him. Every time I spent money on fabrics or product development, or web design my heart was sinking as 12k turned into 10k and 10k turned into 8k, and 8k turned into 4k, and now zero.

I swear, there has to be an afterlife somewhere because i’ve experienced moments where i’d feel so far from him but he’d show up in his own little way just to say hi. There was this one time where I was feeling so behind on ACE and I was so angry stomping around East Village like a cartoon character, swearing under my mouth. I said, “Dad, can’t you just fucking show me i’m doing something right?”

I opened the door to a bar seconds after that thought and look onto the tv screen. There he is. Detroit Rock City. Playing on tv. That was his favorite movie. Kiss was our favorite band. I was so shocked. I couldn’t move. But it was the first time since he passed where I felt everything was going to be okay, no matter what.

He always shows up when I need him. In Spain I had such a horrible day and went for a walk on my own. Someone passed by me wearing a KISS t-shirt. Or, when my sister went to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and on our last night there, while we were close to giving up…we decided to talk to our Dad and say “I believe in magic” three times before opening the door of our cabin to go outside. I swear, that moment is when I felt the universe is, indeed, fucking magic. We opened the door and look up at the sky and the green lights start dancing for us and we are just sobbing at how crazy this is. How beautiful this is. How our Dad is here with us, telling us he has always been with us.

The other day I texted my sister how much I missed our Dad, and she sends me a photo of the cross streets she just walked passed. Mallorca and Beach street. Mallorca was, in his words, “The most beautiful place he’s ever been to.” She told me he still says hi, too.

Now that i’m launched on Kickstarter, my backpack and my story out there for the world to see, using that 12k to make ACE happen doesn’t hurt anymore. I did it. I fucking DID it. I named my first backpack after him, and people are going to be wearing this backpack on all of their adventures. I can’t wait to see where you take The Daniel. All I know is, I designed this backpack to empower women to believe their wildest dreams come true. That there is magic everywhere we go.

ACE helped me get through the grief and heal my broken heart. It also gave me a backpack that works for me. A woman. It gave me new friends (hi Vanessa, Kendall, Shannon, Nicole, and Emily!) and adventures to new cities. I cannot wait to bring you all the magic this backpack has brought to me.

***Dear Diary is my little way of creating an honest, brave, vulnerable way to vent and share what’s in my heart with you. It’s more for me than you – but I do hope it helps you feel less alone in whatever it is that you’re going through in this beautiful, messed up world.

Why #TheDaniel is the perfect travel companion

When I first came up with the idea to design a backpack, it started with my first love: traveling.

Little seeds were planted in my brain way before that, though. I went on my first solo-travel trip to Norway in February of 2015. I fell in love with Norwegian culture because everything was so simple. Norway was my first look into minimalism – as a lifestyle and as a way of design.

Everything about Norway was beautifully simple.

I became obsessed with saving money after that trip because I immediately wanted to get back out there and see more. Experience more. Learn more.

I saved 2k from February until August, and first on my travel itinerary was Uganda. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to also make some tiny cash flow (lol $50 to be exact) every week abroad with my social media gigs. So I brought my college backpack along with me to carry my “everyday work” essentials.

But my college backpack wasn’t a travel backpack. It wasn’t even a work backpack, and it definitely wasn’t a women’s backpack.

Serendipitously, I ended up having my “a-ha” moment in Uganda which you can read here!

So if you’re on the go like me, I designed The Daniel for women like us. Here are 5 reasons why The Daniel is the perfect travel companion!

Fits all your sh*t for the day!

Are you a digital nomad? Need a backpack that holds all your tech needs? The Daniel’s got you covered. Here’s what you can fit:

  • 13″ laptop
  • camera (I have a Sony a6300, so it’s on the smaller size)
  • GoPro
  • Selfie stick
  • laptop charger, mophie, and phone charger
  • Klean Kanteen
  • wallet and passport
  • glasses case
  • a snack!
  • plus, a little makeup bag for those on-the-go touch-ups 😉

Water-resistant and easy to clean

The shell of the backpack is made from a vegan, water-resistant canvas that is intended to LAST. Sailors used to use this type of fabric in the 1800s durability and to stay warm.

You can’t drench this backpack in a pool of water, but if you’re walking around exploring your new favorite city and it starts to rain, you’re good.

It’s easy to clean, too! Blogging in the sandy dunes of the desert? Don’t worry, just take a wet cloth and wipe off any dirt. No soap or any other cleaning supplies needed. In fact, that will damage the wax canvas!

If you find after extensive trekking, sight-seeing and soul-searching that your backpack is looking a little dull, you can spruce it up with Martexin Original Wax*. Like high-quality leather, waxed canvas ages beautifully. It LOOKS better the more you use it.

But just like leather, waxed canvas needs it’s TLC touch ups occasionally. You can ALWAYS restore your bag to its original pristine conditions no matter how hard the ride.

Small and simple

My main issue in packing my day bag was that it had TOO much room. The weight buried to the bottom of my backpack, causing me MAJOR back pain. But I packed sh*t that I “may or may not” need just in case. The Daniel is designed to be minimal. It will help you control the need to overpack for the day and won’t put unnecessary weight on your back when you need to be light on your feet! You can also use The Daniel as your extra carry-on item on your flight!

It’s small, compact, and better for your back than a tote or over the shoulder bags. Now you can bike around Amsterdam and feel liberated from the baggage!

Doesn’t compromise functionality over style

As women, our backpack options are pretttty slim. You have the choice of buying a utilitarian backpack made for dudes, by dudes. OR, you have some cute purse like backpack that doesn’t fit ANYTHING. I got sick of tactical backpacks and tote bags/purses because I wanted something that works for ME, a twenty-something year old woman who’s trying to make her mark on this world.  

The Daniel is made for comfort – padded, with adjustable straps. In addition, The Daniel equally distributes weight across your back because of the suitcase style opening to keep your back happy and healthy.

There are also pockets to keep your everyday essentials organized and in place. There’s a sleeve for your laptop, two front pockets, a sleeve for an iPad/tablet/or planner, and a quick access pouch for your chargers, featuring a key clip because I hate fishing around for my keys. Plus, as solo travelers- safety first. A key clip can be the difference between getting in quick and someone mugging you in front of your Airbnb.

Guilt-Free

As a traveler, I’m sure you have fallen in love with mother nature like I have. Why create products that hold her down, when we can create and invest in products that lift her up? I wanted to design something with mother nature, humanity, and empowerment as part of my mission.

The Daniel is vegan, sustainable, made in America, and designed to empower women.

Now lock it up! You’re travel ready babe.

Pre-order your backpack on Kickstarter now and get the very first edition of #TheDaniel, designed for revolutionary women: http://kck.st/2kR7yJb

* I will be offering Martexin Original Wax for a discounted price to sell on my online store once pre-orders are confirmed by November 15th!

Dear Diary 10/26

I’m sitting here in the basement of my coffee shop, crying my eyes out over this incomprehensible void I feel. I’m nauseous, my head is throbbing, my eyes sting from the tears. It’s been two days since launch and i’m already half way funded on Kickstarter…but the grief is hitting me all over again to a point where I can’t even feel good about it.

Why am I here? When I found out my Dad died, I told myself I could never do the things I pictured myself doing with him there. No father daughter dance. No wedding. No children. I spent so many moments envisioning him holding his grandchild in his arms, taking my future children to ice cream and awesome rock shows just like he did with me growing up.

Everything I expected him to be there for was ripped away from me when he died. All I had was 12k, a dream, and grief. I kept trying to make up reasons as to why he died…was it to be reunited with my long lost sister? Was it so I could make this dream of building my “ACE” empire? I thought – I have this dream, and if I can truly build this empire, it means I can keep him alive.

Spending the last two years building ACE has been so empowering because I was actually DOING it. I saw my progress. I changed my backpack design like five times. I tested out hundreds of fabrics. I went through four prototypes until I got to the final sample. I was making momentum, and I was so, so happy that I found the courage in my heart to go after my dreams.

Now i’m here, launched to the public. I’m exposed – feeling like my grief is naked for everyone to see. My heart is aching. My eyes burning from the tears I can’t seem to stop crying. Another chapter in my life without him. I thought every birthday, Christmas, and family trip hurt without him….but he always told me he just wanted to be here “long enough to watch me grow and see what I make of myself.” I’m still growing, trying to make something of myself…and he’s not here.

I thought by being here – i’d be so, so happy. I created a fucking backpack and built a brand! But why is it so hard to be proud of myself?! Why is it so hard to celebrate? Because to be honest, the minute I clicked the launch button, all that excitement turned into a loneliness that has consumed me the past couple of days.

So what happens next? Do people even care about my story? Am I deserving of success? Why haven’t I reached my goal yet? What if I fail? How will I ever be able to get over that when this was all to keep my father alive in my heart and soul?

Honestly? I just keep going. I’ve been continuing on with my PR pitches, writing as much as I can, working that good ol’ barista job to pay the bills, and basically anything and all things that have to do with ACE.

The only way to get through grief is to embrace it head on. Because life doesn’t stop when someone dies.

***Dear Diary is my little way of creating an honest, brave, vulnerable way to vent and share what’s in my heart with you. It’s more for me than you – but I do hope it helps you feel less alone in whatever it is that you’re going through in this beautiful, messed up world.

ON TAKING RISKS: AN INTERVIEW WITH CONSCIOUS LIFESTYLE BLOGGER VALERIA HINOJOSA

Valeria Hinojosa is nothing less than amazing. She has a heart pure of gold, a fierceness to her soul, and a determination to set the world straight.

The world can be too much sometimes. It is so hard to have hope when every day there is a new tragedy to mourn for: mass shootings, nazis, hurricanes on hurricanes, rape culture, bombings, wildfires…the list goes on.

But it’s knowing people like Valeria, the founder of Water Thru Skin, that it is impossible to not have hope. Her blog has empowered me to speak up against injustice, take action in living more consciously, and most importantly – practice self-love every day.

Valeria shares her own personal story in taking risks, living authentically, and finding the light in the darkness of the world.

Tell me about who you are and your transition from your previous career to starting Water Thru Skin?

I used to be a Private Banker doing the frustrating and monotonous 9-5. In between that 5-year career, I decided to start a blog where I could put my emotions and thoughts in writing and connect with like-minded individuals. That’s how WaterThruSkin came to life.

Slowly, and with lots of dedication and love, my blog grew a personality of its own and I took the step of risking it all to pursue this new “career” fully.

I left the banking world 2.5 years ago and have been dedicating myself fully to blogging and the new company I founded, WTS Connect. An agency that represents worldwide influencers that are using their social media channels to change the world for the better.

When was your “A-HA” moment?

The day I got promoted to the position (and salary) of my dreams. I realized that accepting that role meant staying in banking for another 3-5 years. I resigned that same day and made WTS my life, work, and passion.

We all share fear when deciding to go after our dreams. What fears did/do you have? How do you overcome those fears?

I feared losing my financial stability, which was exactly what happened a few months after I quit my job. I lost my home, my credit cards, my car, and all the fancy perks that came with being a Private Banker. That was a rock-bottom moment in my story that, thankfully, reshaped the way I view life completely. Once there, sleeping on my mom’s couch and living of a suitcase, I realized that the only place left to go was… everywhere!

Possibilities are endless when you choose to start from scratch and recreate yourself.

That same positive attitude was what pushed me towards, and attracted, all the opportunities that have been opening for me, my blog, and the agency I founded.

How do you define success?

Simple. Waking up with a smile and doing what you love every single day of your life. With all of its ups and downs. They are part of life too!

What has been your greatest challenge as an eco-activist and starting Water Thru Skin?

People’s perceptions and the movement itself. It wasn’t that big, or “in trend”, three years ago when I started WTS. Nobody believed in what I had to say or the life I had chosen to pursue, yet something in me told me this was the only way humans should live life. I kept going despite of it all.

How do you start your day with intention? Any morning rituals?

By being present. From the second I wake up. I make myself a hot cup of organic and fairtrade matcha or coffee, and sip it mindfully. Enjoying every single sip. I then practice my breathing techniques and mediate with crystals, or roll out my yoga mat and stretch for a few minutes. After that I get ready for meetings and conference calls with fresh energy and a positive mindset.

Sometimes when work is doing what you love, boundaries can become blurry. How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

Yoga, a healthy vegan diet, me-time, loved ones and friends. I make sure I include them in every day of my week.

Have you achieved all your dreams? if not, what dreams do you have for yourself?

Two dreams I’m currently working on are publishing my book, and finishing a big project related to WTS Connect.

However, I don’t think there is such thing as achieving all dreams in life. As I accomplish a dream, I continue to dream bigger and push further.

How about with Water Thru Skin?

When I think of WTS, I immediately connect it to myself. It carries my story, my personal growth, my struggles and my dreams. I feel I’ve managed to create a great brand and can only hope to grow it further and keep inspiring readers.

Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or affirmation you live by?

Be raw, be you and risk it all when it comes to pursuing your dreams.

If you could say one thing to a woman who has a dream but is afraid to take the jump, what would it be?

There will never be a “right time” or moment to pursue your dreams. For some reason, we all wait for the stars to align or for a door to magically open for us. It doesn’t work that way. You have to go out there, step outside of your comfort zone, and transform those dreams into reality. That’s the only way. That’s the key.  

Want to live a more conscious/impactful lifestyle? Check out Valeria’s blog Water Thru Skin for some inspiration on how to get started. You can also find her on Instagram here.

Why ACE is Made in America

We’ve been conditioned as consumers to believe that the products we buy are dehumanized. That there is no face behind our clothes, or our iPhones, or the food we eat. We are told to spend money, consume, and be so instantly gratified to a point where we don’t even care about the “who” behind our products.

Or, we’re convinced that we don’t have a choice. For some people, that does hold true. Not everyone has the luxurious choice of buying organic or buying local. It’s cheaper having things made across the ocean! But I’m not talking about those people. That is a whole other blog post I need to write about.

For now, I’m talking to YOU.

From Day 1 of my ACE journey, I’ve made it a part of my mission to produce a backpack that is American made. A backpack where I can see the faces and hands of people that make it. I wanted to talk to those people. Know their names. I wanted a factory so close to me that I could literally hop on a bus and be there in 20 minutes.

I remember walking into my first fabric supplier meeting. I was with my partner Sean and one of my best gal pals, Alanna. My hands were sweaty, my heart was racing.

I was a newbie on the block and prepared to be treated like one.

However, when I walked into the studio, I was greeted with a warm smile. Nicole from Carr Textile was so excited to have me there and even MORE excited that I was a new designer. She asked me if I was going to be “American made” and I proudly told her, “You know it.”

She then told me about a beautiful factory that had been in business for over 30 years that is moving from the Garment District to Union City, New Jersey. “You’ll LOVE Arturo. He’s so skilled and he just wants to help you. You need to meet him and see the space,” she said. This conversation took place last, last June on my 25th birthday – almost a year and a half ago.

A year after that conversation, I e-mailed Christina, the Chief Operating Officer of Leatherworks by Arturo. The straps of my most recent sample had ripped off (yay for weight/strength testing) and I was panicking as it pushed back my timeline by 3 months.

I went on their website and it said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day but it was worth the wait!” Her response put me at ease. “Don’t worry, I will make sure your backpack is worth the wait!” I decided to meet with her with the intention to make Leatherworks my production partner.

When I stepped into the factory I was in awe. The space was beautiful and exactly how Nicole described it to me. The factory had an openness to it, high ceilings, lots of windows with beautiful light peeking in. But that wasn’t what made me decide to partner with them.

Christina gave me that same warm welcome I received from Nicole. She gave me a tour of the factory and introduced me to some of the workers there. She knew them by name. I watched them smile with one another while they worked with fabrics. Here I was, sharing this space.

A space that looked and felt like a home for artisans and crafters.

That’s when I knew Leatherworks by Arturo was the production partner for ACE. I believe in a fair wage and sweatshop-free work environment. I believe in the humanity behind products.

The story behind your backpack matters, and by being so close to the factory I am able to share that story with you. I’m able to SHOW you.

Where #TheDaniel backpack is made

Say hi to Domingo! He is one of the many skilled artisans behind The Daniel. He specifically produced my final sample aka he brought my dream to LIFE. These amazing humans are the reason why The Daniel is even a reality.

I am so, so proud that The Daniel is American made but even more proud that it is with a factory that has been in business for over 34 years and run by such an incredible woman. I knew Christina and Leatherworks would be so integral to ACE’s story.

THIS is why being made in America and BUYING made in America is worth it. So don’t be cheap. Don’t listen to those gaudy advertisements. You’re better than that.

You deserve a backpack that is ethically made, cruelty-free, and good for the planet.

I want you to #KnowWhoMadeIt.

To learn more about Leatherworks by Arturo, check out their website here.