California Calling


Is there a more appropriate place than California to mix my love of nature, a healthy lifestyle and exploration with the talents of story coach, Katrin Sandberg? A more perfect setting to expand on the idea, “If you can dream it, you can do it!’? We didn’t think so and set out to create something very special, to share with likeminded women.

Katrin and I offered a seven-day retreat to a group of Swedish entrepreneurs, from various business backgrounds. These strong, brilliant women were interested in taking the next step in their personal and professional development and exploring their impact on the world.

Our schedule was intense but balanced; story coaching, deep encounters and interactive talks, with L.A. based entrepreneurs, and open discussion, within the group, during organic “family style” meals. SoCal activities included hiking, yoga, riding bicycles and swimming; always returning to our home for the week, Greenleaf Oasis, a magical house in the heart of Topanga Canyon. The incredible mountain views and surrounding natural beauty seemed to imbue us with the power and energy to stay connected to our higher purpose.

So, what happened?

During the week, Katrin helped us improve our creative and communicative expression. What a story coach she is!! She worked with the women to make them as she calls it ”story strong.” This strengthens your story, your brand, your lectures and presentation. It leads to further development in your business and weighs where you are in your personal life. The group kept their notebooks within reach for the activities we explored each day!

We had a personal Eco-chef, Emily Glarner-Chan, staying with us the entire week! She became a huge part of the experience with her positive energy, beautiful soul and inspiring personality. Emily is Swedish, lives in Los Angeles and recently started her own catering company.  Food by Emily has developed at a truly impressive pace. This amazing woman entrepreneur is an artist with food! Emily generously shared her story with the group…

“Food By Emily was started to share my love for foods, especially chocolate. Everything is handmade with love, attention to detail and with a desire to create a mesmerizing experience for my customers. Having my own boutique catering company, specializing in organic foods and chocolates, is a dream come true. It all began in the woods of Sweden, where I started my first bakery-ordering firm at the age of 11. Since then, I have had a corporate career in training and education but have always had a passion for anything related to food and have kept exploring the culinary arts. 

My philosophy is to let ingredients shine for their true beauty and play with flavor combinations to highlight each one. My style of cooking is seasonal, mindful, intentional and preferably organic. Sustainable. Everything is made from scratch. I source out the best tasting and highest quality ingredients, venture out to the local farmers markets to find what is in season and buy the best produce locally. Then the fun begins! I play in the kitchen to create delicious, culinary and authentic experiences for you. 

There are no limits in my kitchen. Truly. This is my handicraft and I want to share it with you.”

And, share she did! Every morning when we woke, Emily had been in the kitchen since before sunrise, preparing healthy breakfasts like chia pudding, home made granola and green juices. For lunch, we might enjoy one of her amazing organic salads. On our last night, Emily outdid herself. She served one of the most incredible Thanksgiving dinners I’ve ever had!! It was a special treat for the group in honor of a beautiful American tradition.

Our stunning, al fresco dinners, at Greenleaf Oasis, were often shared by local entrepreneurs, authors, coaches, trainers, journalist, designers, speakers and healers. These inspiring women told us their stories of making their personal dreams come true. Joining us were Ingegerd Landstrom, a Swedish journalist, who writes about Los Angeles from her perspective, in articles and for her own online magazine, Holly Hallberg, owner of the Scandinavian store, Huset, on Abbot Kinney, Lotta Dahl, jewelry designer and maker for her own website, , Marita Karlson, author of Hälsokick, a book devoted to smoothies and CA juices, as well as, working on her second book, co-written with Stephanie Bjelkstam, of The Daily Good, and Rebecca Walker, daughter of Alice Walker (The Color Purple), who touched us all with her wisdom on knowing yourself, finding your true story and living it.

Did I mention our Topanga getaway had an outdoor yoga studio? I know, unbelievable! Tanja Djelevic, personal trainer, health coach, author, with a masters degree in psychology, was one of the entrepreneurs we invited to our house. She is a fellow Swede who has lived in LA for almost twenty years. With her exuberant energy and a feeling of seeing each individual for who they are, she is a true inspiration in fitness and health. One of her philosophies is to find a balance in mind, life and dynamics. Living Life Loud, is her statement. Tanja shared her story and gave us an amazing class in what she calls, Bendable body. Tanja combines her psychology training with fitness and health. It was unique, interesting and much appreciated!

While this wasn’t a fitness-training trip, we used our bodies, as a tool, to get in touch with ourselves. It helped us connect with nature and keep ”the bigger picture” in mind. I guided the group to some of my favorite spots with magnificent scenery. We hiked in beautiful Malibu Creek Park and explored some of the wild Malibu beaches. We walked, ran and swam in the Pacific Ocean! We went to the top of Eagle Rock, in Topanga, where ”Flow coach”, Anna Linda Hultstrom, treated us to a session on how to live life in balance with creativity by listening to your intuition. The ”flow talk” while perched high in that breathtaking setting was…inspiring.

Early one morning, we left for a day trip to mythical Joshua Tree National Park, in the Mojave Desert. The landscape of Joshua Tree is something beyond anything else I’ve encountered. I led a hike, through an environment of cactus, rocks and spectacular boulder formations. We explored the vast desert with open minds. Katrin gave the group a story coaching then we all dug in and enjoyed our organic picnic lunch provided, of course, by our personal chef, Emily.

Inspiration seemed to find us wherever we went. A quick trip to see the famous Hollywood sign turned into a lecture at Saba Theatre by Marianne Williamson. Marianne is an author and one of the world’s best inspirational speakers! It was amazing!

While having lunch at Malibu Farm, Helene Henderson, the Swedish owner and inspiration shared her story about how she made it happen. In five years, she went from cooking classes for friends, pop up farm dinners and a dream to having a hugely successful concept restaurant on the Malibu Pier. Her entrepreneurial advice is ”Trust yourself, stay true to you!” Helene no longer adapts to the market/customers. It was when she began cooking from her heart that her business grew and really popped!

Story coaching, lectures, hiking, …….time to chill. Enter, Diane Zagoria. She shared her journey, of becoming a yoga teacher and life coach. This isn’t your typical yoga. It’s Yoga Nidra and Diane has the magic touch… or is it the magic voice? Presence? Whatever she possesses, she led a group session and we all fell into a deep state of relaxation. After 45 minutes, we felt, as though we’d slept peacefully for three hours! No one in the group will soon forget her soft, beautiful voice telling us to ”let it go…”.

We ended our theme of ”sharing your story” with a visit to Mariel Hemingway and Bob Williams Malibu ranch, ”The Willing Way”. Together, they created a company called Running with Nature! They have embraced a different path – one full of athletic adventures, herbal epiphanies and alternative solutions to live a healthy, happy life. A meeting that was supposed to last less than one hour went on for almost 2 ½ hours. We shared true inspiration with lots of laughter, interesting talks and an insight into people living life on their own terms.

When you produce a trip of this scope, you must have a little bit of a ”flow baby flow” attitude. Interestingly, this became our mantra during the week and led to exactly the ”flow” we needed. An important aspect of any travel experience is YOUR decision, to open your mind. As a travel producer and guide, my best advice is to go for it! Share in the experience, open your mind and heart to your fellow travelers, the culture and beauty surrounding you. Soak it in. This group did all that and more! Go with the flow – a lot more is going to show;)

Thanks to everyone who shared their stories, talent, time and effort! You all contributed so much to this ”dream trip”. I know dreams come true if you believe and stay true to yourself. This trip was proof. So, stay tuned… Maybe, you’ll be part of the next trip I dream up!


Maria Soderholm



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