Payge McMahon in red raincoat
Diary of a Storyteller,  Personal Work

Fabulous Women Over 40: Payge McMahon

By Sheri Oneal

Wow, this summer got real busy and I fell behind with my interviews for my Fabulous “Women Over 40” blog series but I have a very inspiring woman to showcase for September!

Fabulous Women over 40, Payge McMahon, adventure athlete and yoga instructor at Percy Warner Park sitting on a wooden bench at a resting area of the park in TN

Payge McMahon is an amazing testament of courage and inspiration and she proves that your life direction can change in the blink of an eye. Her story is a testament that sometimes negative things that happen in our lives can lead us down an inspiring path.

At 16, Payge was in a car accident that broke her back and left her in a body cast. Her mother was her positive inspiration in helping her maintain a good outlook during her healing when she had to learn how to walk again, (she still struggles with chronic back pain). Payge went on to college and earned a B.A., in International Politics and Spanish, at Penn State, she studied at universities in Spain and Mexico and an MBA at California Lutheran University. She worked her way up the corporate ladder, negotiating and managing global contracts for Fortune 500 companies before eventually landing on Wall Street.

When Payge turned 28, her life’s direction would change forever when her mother, a non-smoker, died from lung cancer. Her death crushed Payge to the core. “I literally felt my heart break,” she says. Sometime after, Payge found a hidden notebook in her mother’s nightstand with a list of 20 adventurous things her mom had hoped to do in her lifetime. Payge noticed that only 6 things had been marked off of the list and she felt an overwhelming need to live out her mother’s bucket list, this sparked the journey that would change her life.

Fabulous Women over 40, Payge McMahon, adventure athlete and yoga instructor at Percy Warner Park looking out over the trails through the trees from above

She quit her job on Wall Street, sold all her belongings, divorced her college sweetheart and took off on her first adventure. At 32, she backpacked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it was the first time Payge had ever slept in a tent, gone backpacking or climbed a mountain.

Over the years she has had some amazing adventures: like dog sledding in Alaska, cycling through Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mt. Fuji in Japan and Mt. Sinai in Egypt. She has explored the Sahara desert and Amazon Rainforest, backpacked across Northern Spain, the Himalaya in Nepal and the list goes on. With each adventure Payge sprinkles bits of her mother’s ashes along the way slowly fulfilling her mom’s bucket list. She wears a necklace around her neck that carries some of her mother’s ashes and feels as if her mom is with her every step of the way.

Fabulous Women over 40, Payge McMahon, adventure athlete and yoga instructor wears a necklace that holds her mother's ashes around her neck

Payge created a website Turn the Payge for family and friends to follow along in the journey. As more and more people learned about her story, thank you letters began coming in sharing how her journey was inspiring them to start their own bucket lists. Many looked to Payge for advice on backpacking, travel and gear. National Geographic Adventure, Competitor and other publications contacted her to write about her adventures. ESPN featured her story on their program, ‘Journeys & Victories‘ and it won a Gracie Award, which honors women in media.

Adventure travel and outdoor gear and apparel companies also took notice because they see her story as compelling and relatable. They also recognize that she knows how to reach people and cross-market brands: she is now sponsored by companies like adidas Outdoor, Canada Goose, Wigwam Mills and Taos Mountain Energy Bars.

Payge shares her experiences to inspire others to get outdoors, experience life and step outside their comfort zone. You can see Payge doing just that on “The Raft,” a new adventure/survival television series on National Geographic Channel. When the production company contacted her to do the show, she initially thought to say, ‘No.’ It wasn’t that she would have to spend 6 days, with a stranger, on a small 4X4 foot costal raft, floating in the Bermuda Triangle, without any food or water. “I don’t like cruises,” she says, “and sharks. But, then I thought… what a cool opportunity this would be to test my limits in a worst-case travel scenario.” Check her out in ‘The Raft’s’ premiere, titled, Bump in the Night.

Fabulous Women over 40, Payge McMahon, adventure athlete, motivational speaker, journalist, and yoga instructor at Percy Warner Park in red on a hiking trail

Today, In addition to being a professional adventure athlete, motivational speaker and journalist, she is also a yoga instructor. She took up yoga to help strengthen her back and cross train for adventures. She received her teaching certification in Thailand and has since studied in India and Nepal. Wanting to help others go beyond their perceived physical limits, she specializes in training endurance athletes and those recovering from injury, surgery and/or living in chronic pain. “Yoga changed my life. The way I abuse my body and mind on some of these endeavors, if I didn’t practice yoga, I’d be crippled by now,” she laughs.

Fabulous Women over 40, Payge McMahon, adventure athlete, motivational speaker, journalist, and yoga instructor at Percy Warner Park in yellow looking at a map

Payge now has 3 more adventures and places left to visit to complete her mother’s bucket list, dive Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, ski in Antarctica and run on The Great Wall of China. Her goal is to continue to inspire others to get out and live their lives actively and to try new things, just as her mother inspired her to do. Payge is a true inspiration and testament to living healthy and doing those things most feel are unreachable. She is truly a “Fabulous Woman (barely) Over 40!”

Thank you for reading, see you next month!

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