by Katie Sunshine
Meet Jaclyn McCaffrey. She is a hooper who embodies everything good about the hooping community: she is insightful, free-spirited, confident, and peaceful. Oh, and did I mentioned she survived for 21 days in the jungle of Nicaragua without food, water, shelter, or clothes? Yeah. She is one bad ass nature goddess.
Jaclyn was working for a wilderness therapy program teaching primitive skills and how to live off the land when she was contacted by Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid reality television show. Up for putting her survival skills to the test, she agreed to be dropped, or more like abandoned, in the dense, relentless jungle of Nicaragua for 21 days with a complete stranger, Adam Young.
I had an opportunity to ask Jaclyn some questions about her experience and get to know her a little better and I have to say, I was even more amazed by her afterwards than I was before! So join me for a very special interview with one remarkable hooper.
Katie: How did hooping help prepare you for this challenge?
Jaclyn:: I have such a deep love for my hoop- the beautiful circle. I have been taught so much by it – but above everything my hoop reminds me to be present. The mental game out in the jungle was really tough, especially when real hunger set in. I often had to remind myself to ‘Stay Present!’ I believe that my love for the circle, and the lessons I’ve learned from it, helped pull me through.
Katie: What would you say was the most difficult part about surviving in Nicaragua for 21 days?
Jaclyn: Beyond the exhaustion, bug bites and even hunger, the cold was the most difficult aspect of my 21 day experience. The ground was constantly wet, air damp, and the temperature would drop significantly each night – leaving us to our sleepless shivers. We proactively made decisions to better our night situation and eventually we were able to keep a fire going all night long. A lot of preparation and shifts were necessary, but we made it happen.
Katie: Was there anything about your journey that you didn’t anticipate?
Jaclyn: I did a lot of research before going out on this journey – learning as much as I could about the area I would be going into. I had kept an eye of the weather of the area, and I thought I had a good idea of the what the temperature would be. But noooooope – I was misinformed. I did not anticipate how cold it would be in that cloud forest. And I mean cold!!!
Katie: That sounds harrowing. You mentioned before that you are a vegetarian and how important that is to who you are. However, there was a scene in your episode where you had to eat a lizard for sustenance. Looking back on that experience, do you have any regrets?
Jaclyn: I honestly have no regrets. My experience in Nicaragua was life changing – I would change nothing. I knew going into this challenge that I would have to do whatever was necessary – and that I did. I choose not to eat meat because I want to know the animals life was taken respectfully, and that the meat isn’t pumped full of chemicals – and the system of meat production does not allow me that. Out in the jungle was different. I did know that lizard’s life was taken respectfully and that it was clean and fresh. I am happy I made the tough decisions necessary to complete this challenge.
Katie: I am personally a fan of “Naked and Afraid” and on many of the episodes I’ve seen, the contestants don’t get along so well, especially once hunger, exhaustion, and frustration sets in. However, you and your partner, Adam, really worked well together as a team. Do you still keep in touch with him?
Jaclyn: Adam and I are great friends – and I feel that will remain true for the rest of our lives. That experience I had with him was beautifully unique, and we had each others backs the entire time.
Katie: So you survived the entire 21 days in Niagara and came out a stronger person than ever. Do you think you will continue to test your survival skills like that in the future?
Jaclyn: I will always continue pushing myself to grow and succeed – and I do foresee myself continuing to do awesome primitive survival excursions. I would love to continue to teach primitive skills and take people out on back packing trips. This 21 days stretch in Nica was the craziest and most difficult challenge I’ve ever taken on. As of now I am not sure I ever want to do something that extreme again. The extreme dehydration, hunger, exhaustion, bug bites, freezing cold, etc- it changed me.
Katie: In your post-interview on the show you mentioned hooping as one of the first things you did when you got back to civilization. What was it like to hoop after an experience like that?
Jaclyn: As soon as we were dropped off of that banana truck, after an amazing meal and an epic shower, I hooped like a mad woman! I was so high on life – the accomplishment mixed with pride for completing the most difficult challenge of my life! I put my headphones on and made love to my hoop after not being in the circle for almost a month! I missed my hooping meditation – I needed it. I wish I had film of that first hoop sesh – I probably turned into a rainbow for a bit.
A hooper since 2011, in addition to hoop dance Jaclyn also loves acrobatic yoga and traveling the world. Her favorite spots that she has hooped to date include Burning Man and on top of a mountain in Kauai. But her all time favorite is right on the beach, as she says, “Sun a shinin’, waves a wavin’, and Jaclyn a spinnin’.”
Columnist Katie Wilson, better known in the hooping world as Katie Sunshine, is a teacher, a painter, a performer, and above all a proponent for the powerfully positive change hooping brings to one’s life. She picked up hooping in 2009 at a music festival and she hasn’t put it down since. A Hoopie Award winner with many YouTube viral videos, Katie lives in Conway, Arkansas, USA, with her wonderful husband and her two lovable dogs.