Red wine + amazing speakers + mama ocean.
My California photo diary.

written by Bari Tessler May 20, 2018
Gaia Women Lead Travelogue

Folks, it’s a rare, Big Deal when I travel for an event.

I have to leave my Mama Bear Den, my boys, my three kitties, and my beloved hiking trail. Plus, I don’t love flying (that’s putting it mildly). And I’m extremely choosy about what conferences I participate in — because the genuinely inclusive ones are so rare.

No joke: I haven’t traveled for work or spoken live since my book tour, 18 months ago. (I love having an online business that allows me to stay home like this!)

So when I went all the way to California for the Gaia Women Lead event earlier this month, it was incredibly special for me.

Not only did I give my first ever 35-minute keynote speech (wowza!), I also got to hear from incredible speakers and connect with dear friends, old and new.

I came back from my trip so full of stories + inspiration + resources, I couldn’t wait to share some of the highlights and fun with you.

Gaia Women Lead was the event, hosted by Elizabeth Cronise McLoughlin and her team. It’s an “intimate conference for activist women leaders committed to social, political and professional change … bringing together some of the brightest names in women’s leadership.”

I was so happy to get out of the house, hop on an airplane, and enjoy the company of really good, really smart, really inspiring women. I got to meet new colleagues and some women I’d connected with online (but never met in person before). Plus, two of my closest girlfriends were there, and I got to have wonderful, quiet time with each of them, which made me so happy!

Bari beach selfie at Gaia Women Lead

Solo beach selfie!

Can you tell how happy I am to be here?!
I arrived a day early to settle in before the conference started — and to have a hotel room all to myself for the night! (Because I’m a mom and this is a huge luxury!)
The hotel is gorgeous. And I haven’t traveled for work since my book tour so I’m going to revel in all of it.

Hotel at Gaia Women Lead

What a beautiful spot!

The hotel was beautiful and so was the land around it. The landscape was gorgeous … and I loved being so close to the ocean.

Ocean reception with dear friends at Gaia Women Lead

Evening #1: Ocean reception with dear friends

The first evening, there was a reception overlooking the ocean. Lots of wine and good food. And it was so good to connect with my ladies!

Here I am with Becky Levi on my left. We’ve been friends since high school! And on my right is Danielle Cohen: the amazing photographer who did my book cover shot. Becky is the mama of two girls, one named Noa. Danielle is the mama of four, including one boy named Noah. And I’m mama to one boy, named Noah — how cool is that?

It was wonderful to settle in with my gals and have a relaxing evening together before giving my keynote the next morning …!

Dr. Kira Banks speech at Gaia Women Lead

Dr. Kira Banks: Truth 2 Power

The conference kicked off with Dr. Kira Banks: a tenured Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Louis University. Her research focuses on race, racial identity, the effects of discrimination on mental health, and intergroup interactions. Her main passion is helping people and institutions engage diversity.

You can find Dr. Kira Banks on her YouTube channel, Truth 2 Power.

Dr. Banks spoke right before me. While I was preparing in the back of the room for my keynote, I was listening to every word she had to say.

Bari Tessler Gaia Women Lead Keynote Speech
My keynote now has over 10,000 views!

If you haven’t watched it yet, please do, right here. I hope you enjoy! It’s all about what to do when you find yourself in the middle of a big money riddle.
This was my first ever 35-minute keynote. I prepared for months … and then gave it my all. I’m so grateful for all the big and beautiful support!

Collette Flanagan speech at Gaia Women Lead

Collette Flanagan

The final keynote of the first day was Collette Flanagan. Collette founded Mothers Against Police Brutality (MAPB) after her son, Clinton Allen, was shot to death by a Dallas police officer in March 2013. Clinton was unarmed. He was shot once in the arm, five times in the chest, and once in the back.

With the founding and initial work of Mothers Against Police Brutality, Collette Flanagan has emerged as one of America’s most effective advocates for peace and justice.

It was heartbreaking to hear her story, and no mom should ever have to go through this. She is an impressive woman, speaker and advocate. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

You can learn more about Collette’s work here:

Mothers Against Police Brutality

About Collette Flanagan

Nkem Ndefo talk on Gaia Women Lead
Nervous system regulation with Nkem Ndefo

This was exactly what I was hoping to hear on the second day of the conference!

Nkem Ndefo spoke on a panel about regulating your nervous system: noticing stress responses before they get too far and finding breaks in the fight to regulate … and truly settle and calm down.

Potent. Powerful. And essential tools for life, activism, and money work.

Nkem Ndefo is the Founder of Lumos Transforms and creator of the Resilience Toolkit. She teaches resilience workshops — follow her!

“I believe our bodies are designed to protect us and carry us to safety – and then relax into a place of ease, connection, and joy.” ~ Nkem Ndefo

Amanda Steinberg + Elizabeth Cronise McLoughlin talk at Gaia Women Lead

Amanda Steinberg + Elizabeth Cronise McLoughlin

Amanda Steinberg, Founder of Daily Worth and author of Worth It shared the stage with Gaia Women Lead Founder, Elizabeth Cronise McLoughlin.

These two very close friends and colleagues talked openly and honestly about their entrepreneurial journeys, about crisis and loss, about how to survive when things fall apart in business … and how to then step into the the next iteration.

Also — this was funny! — Amanda and I each shared the story of how she called me from the hospital delivery room after giving birth to her second child. She was just creating Daily Worth and was inviting me to join her as a writer.

At the time, I was literally lying in bed with my four-month-old baby myself. I tell this story in my keynote, but after a complication in my labor, I needed time to rest and recover.

I remember being in utter awe that Amanda called me from the delivery room! I was impressed with her new project, but had to say “no thank you” because I had just changed my entire business model so I could spend the next year or so recovering and being a new mom.

Now, almost ten years later, we’ve connected again! I have so much honor and respect for our different-but-related paths of motherhood and business.

Discover Amanda Steinberg’s Daily Worth here.

Learn more about Elizabeth Cronise McLoughlin here.

Fries and wine!
Fries and wine.

Santa Barbara ocean. And two freckly gals from Chicago who have known each other since we were 15 years old, enjoying the sunset, our final evening, and each other.

Final sunset in Santa Barbara, California.
Final sunset in Santa Barbara, California.

Bari Tessler and Tereska James!

Tereska James!

Sometimes, you just have a clear connection with someone. I was so happy to finally meet Tereska Haman James live, in person, and look forward to staying connected.

Tereska is the founder of the Brown Skin Too Foundation, which raises awareness for melanoma.

Bari Tessler and Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick
The return flight — surprise!

Heading home from Santa Barbara, I got to sit next to Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick, the MC of Women Gaia Lead! We got to chat and debrief, for the entire flight, about the whole event. What a gift!

Alethea is a former architect and interior designer who now teaches photography to parents. She’s also the new COO of Gaia Women Lead.


What a fun adventure this was! I loved all of the great company and connections. I need to remember that it’s good to leave my beloved house and Boulder every once in awhile, hop on a plane, and meet with dear humans live.

I can’t wait for the next big, perfect match opportunity that comes along for me to speak at or show up to.

Until then, this introvert is so happy to be back at home, spending some quality time with my boys and kitties!

Thanks for coming along with me on my work-travel-adventure! I hope you enjoyed it … and I hope you connect with one or all of the fabulous women I highlighted here, so you can be as inspired by them as I am.

With my dearest wishes,

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