Girl Gone International is celebrating its 10 year anniversary. So in honor of 10 years of GGI, we’re offering up answers to the 10 questions most commonly asked in our communities!
1) Loneliness is what sparked Girl Gone International
GGI was started by one woman’s quest to find friends while living overseas — Anne Scott.
“I started in 2010 in the midst of a personal crisis.. I had just moved to Hamburg, which was my 10th city move in 10 years and I felt really disorientated, disempowered, deskilled and deeply socially isolated. I started the community as a way to throw myself a lifeline and as I grew and skilled up so the community has grown and scaled and now we are a deeply diverse global community of 500,000 who share a vision of a world where no woman has to feel alone wherever she goes. We believe that together we can go much farther in every area of life.”
10 years on and Girl Gone International has local communities in over 200 cities on every continent, over 70 book clubs, over 8 million organic reach per month on social media, and more than 15,000 organised events to date put on by a team of over 1,000 incredible individuals.
Girl Gone International has been recognised by Facebook in 2018, 2019 and 2020 as one of the most meaningful communities in the world on its platform.
And friendship is still at the heart of absolutely everything we do!
Photo | Anne Scott, founder of Girl Gone International, not feeling so lonely anymore!
2) We weren’t always called Girl Gone International
Girl Gone International was not always called Girl Gone International! We first launched as Hamburg International Women (HIW then HH:WIN) back in 2010. But as the community grew legs and started moving across the world, it wasn’t a name we could call new communities in different cities. So in 2012 we chose a new name.
Our original name and logo
Anne says, “The name came about because people had been trying to label me for years. First as an expat but I didn’t identify with that word. My first experience of “expat” life was when I lived in Caracas and the people I met who called themselves expats were very well off, Western (read: white), had relocation packages, didn’t speak the local language, their children were in private schools, and they very much lived in their own bubble.
Whereas here was I, 19 years old getting the packed bus in the morning to go to work with Venezuelans, I had barely one hundred dollars in my bank account and I felt like a truly lived there. As a result, expat is not a term I have ever felt comfortable with. I would never tell someone not to use it as it means different things to different people, I just ask that they are as comfortable calling themselves a migrant worker or an immigrant.
Next I was labeled as a ‘traveller’ but I didn’t identify with that either. I wasn’t travelling, I was living in another country long term.
So when asked “what are you, then?”, I would say “I am just a girl who has gone international!”
I thought I was the only one but upon starting the community it became very clear that I wasn’t the only one who had packed a bag and left their passport country to live life far from family, friends and the familiar. I wasn’t the only one who felt misunderstood, mislabeled and underrepresented. So when I changed the name of the community to Girl Gone International, thousands of women joined because they identified with the description and the life it represented – they recognised my story as their own.”
3) our first-ever member helped us go global
Meet Maya B! Not only was Maya the first ever ‘official’ Girl Gone International member, but she also launched Girl Gone International Berlin and was instrumental in inspiring us all to take Girl Gone International global. Maya who is now 35 years old and still living in Berlin, has multiple University degrees and accolades to her name and is mom to two of her own, young GGIs. Here is her story:
Photo | Maya B empowered women to throw lifelines to each other and created our women only community as safety net for women living overseas in Berlin.
“Originally from Turkmenistan, I moved to Hamburg because of an internship and then stayed because I fell in love with the city. It is a beautiful place, but it was hard for me to find friends. So I decided to go to this new women’s only event because I wanted to socialise while feeling safe. It was cozy and I felt like I could really relate to the stories that other women had to share. We had all moved abroad at some point in our lives so anytime one of us told a story I thought to myself: “Exactly! I know exactly what you mean.” And I also felt a huge sense of relief that it wasn’t just me, that other people were having similar experiences. Plus, it was also fun.”
Photo | Second ever Girl Gone International event in Hamburg in 2010. Maya B (left)
“… this is where I first met Anne and we became friends. After a while, it was time for me to move on, to Berlin. I had to start from scratch finding an apartment, getting familiar with the city (you know the drill)!
I wanted to go to a GGI event to find new friends…but [GGI] didn’t exist, nothing like it did. So I asked Anne if I could recreate GGI in Berlin and that is what we did!
At the first meet-up in Mitte so many cool women showed up from all over the world, of all ages and professions. As we grew more of them stepped up and jumped in as event hosts. One of them was Violet Dove, who took over leading the group when I took a step back to focus on my young family and career. She is a rock star and Girl Gone International Berlin has grown to a community of over 20,000 womxn!”
It feels wonderful to know that somewhere in this city, or in the world there are women who have a friend to count on, who have happy memories and feel safer because of GGI. And if I have played a small role in making that happen, then I must have done something meaningful in my life.
4) Girl Gone International has never made a cent!
Girl Gone International is an identity, a culture, a lifestyle, and a community, NOT a business. We were founded on the idea that no woman should ever have to pay to make a friend, find a safe space or gain access to a community. So we have never charged for membership or to attend any of our events.
I didn’t have much income for years and it really inhibited my ability to socialise. I was always scared of the bill coming and it being split equally even though I had only ordered a tapa and a tap water. So I never wanted money to be an impediment to someone coming to a Girl Gone International event. Friendship and community is a right, not a privileged and so it shouldn’t be kept behind a paywall – Anne
However, it does cost money to run the community but we’ve managed to keep overheads low and we seek out partnerships to help us along the way. For example, Facebook has given us some awards over the last couple of years which have helped us build the infrastructure we need to keep growing. And we are currently part of the Facebook Community Accelerator programme which has given us support and funding to scale, which includes creating new ways to become sustainable.
So keep your eye out for some exciting products and services (that you have been requesting for a decade, sorry for the slight delay!) that we haven’t been able to bring you until now, such as: group travel experiences, courses to help you find professional success overseas, and some cool merchandise to help you spot fellow GGIs wherever you are in the world!
Photo | Marina Genf in a branded Girl Gone International T-shirt, Co-Community Manager, Jakarta
5) We are in 200 cities across the world, run entirely by thousands of volunteers!
Yep, you read that right! It takes a lot of girl power to run Girl Gone International — a literal team of thousands!
Most of our cities require the help of one or more community managers, and within that, they often have their own local team to help out. We also have book clubs in cities all over the world, and each one has its own community leader and team. And let’s not forget that we also have a Global Community Manager with her team who coordinates and supports everyone and keeps this show on the road!
Photo | Violet Dove, Girl Gone International Global Community Manager
Every person in the team from the event hosts, the Facebook group moderators to the community managers is a true leader who empowers the women around her to step up and empower the next.
We currently have no paid full-time staff but hope to soon start creating and supporting paid freelance positions so that Anne (yes, me, the person writing this) can share some of the responsibilities. Not to mention having full-time staff will help us reach our full potential!
But one thing will always remain, and that’s the fact that our core community teams will always be run on a volunteer basis because none of us have ever done this for the money. We have always done it for the love of community, and because we share a vision, a mission and a passion for empowering women and caring for our sisters.
6) Our first magazine was not a hit with travel media… but went on to get millions of readers anyway!
“I first met Meghan Klein at the fourth ever Girl Gone International event in Hamburg back in 2011. We clicked straight away over not just the experience of living overseas but our love of creativity, photography and writing. We both had the same dream to one day work on a magazine but since we had no experience we decided to just make our own magazine instead!”
Photo | Meghan (right) and Anne making the first ever GIRLGI magazine. Amsterdam, January 2013
Meghan says, “Our first attempt was published on International Women’s Day. It was a 130 page digital magazine that was critiqued by the travel media of the time. However we didn’t let it get us down because they agreed with us – we were on to something special. So, we listened, learned and motivated by thousands of readers, we published the second issue which hit over 100,000 readers in the first few weeks. By the third issue we had met Tina Jones who came onboard as Editor in Chief and we successfully went on to publish 10 issues.”
Now we are taking everything and are pouring it all into our newly re-designed and relaunched travel lifestyle website (November 2020).
If this is your first visit to the site, make sure you check out our other articles HERE.
7) People confuse us with Gone Girl (the book)
Anne describes the first time it happened:
“Back in December of 2014, I walked into a fancy corporate holiday event in Madrid. The place was abuzz and it seemed I had attracted a fan club which was weird. Eventually someone came up to me and said, “I know I shouldn’t just come up to you, but I had to say that I loved your book and congratulations on it being made into a film.”
I was swift to correct them, of course, but not so quick so as to refuse the drinks they were sending my way. And people have been referring to us as Gone Girl ever since!
We do owe the novel a debt of gratitude because the mix-up is the reason why Girl Gone International sounds familiar to so many people, even if they’ve never heard of us before. And for the record, I am a fan of Gillian Flynn and her feminist manifesto“
8) We tried and failed to launch Boy Gone International and other cringeworthy moments!
Tina Jones (pictured), Chief Ed of our magazine admits:
“We have made hundreds of mistakes along the way, and one of them was trying to launch a tandem community for men. (We even bought the domain name boygoneinternational dot com!) With a RSVP number of exactly zero, we decided to let the boys handle this one on their own and occasionally invite them to a ‘GGI+Guy’ event instead – cause men need friends and support structures too!”
We look back and cringe at some of our earlier content – but everything has been a great learning experience over the years and has taken us to where we are today! Here are is an example of our new content which really resonates with our Girl Gone International sisters across the world:
9) Girl Gone International is Inclusive and intersectional
Vianessa Castaños (pictured), GGI Deputy Editor explains:
“Generally speaking an intersection is where two (or more) things meet. In GGI we adopt an intersectional approach to feminism – meaning that we recognize that different aspects of a person’s social, political, and personal identity can affect the way that they relate and move around in the world. We are a safe space for all womxn, woman-identifying and non-binary individuals, no matter their race, country of origin, or sexual orientation.”
We’ve grown to where we are because our communities are co-created by womxn who share the same vision: to reach, support and empower the over 112 million womxn globally who currently find themselves living outside of their country of birth. This includes expats, re-pats, migrants, immigrants and refugees.
10) All of our cover models are real-life Girl Gone International community managers!
Very early on we got disheartened by the lack of media images that represented the type of women we see in our everyday lives and in our communities. Stock image libraries were (and still are) packed with skinny, white chicks brandishing every colour of suitcase, against every backdrop imaginable, but many of the women in our communities don’t identify with those models. So with a budget of literally zero we decided to create our own GGI-approved stock images. Every cover model we used in our magazine is in fact a real-life womxn living overseas.
Thank you to Olive Aguas, Merret Thomsen, Michelle Ibarra, Dani Robinson, Ariana Rizzato, Isabell Ojner, Ekaterina Zenovich, Praveen Singh and Nina Pantelic for being our real life models.
And a huge thank you to the entire Girl Gone International leadership team throughout the last 10 years!
Friends forever never apart maybe by distance but never by heart!
By Anne Scott
Anne Scott is originally from Scotland and now roams around the world. Anne is founder of Girl Gone International and dedicates her life to building, growing and scaling communities that empower, connect and womxn locally and globally to change the world wherever they are.