A small gravel lane trails between miles of farm fields in the rural, rolling hills of Iowa. It leads to the farmhouse where I grew up. It was here, deeply nested in the heartland of America, that I began to imagine other worlds and other places. They seemed impossibly distant to me, looking out at the land that swept as vast and isolating as a green ocean. I seemed firmly planted in this reality, far removed from other countries, with friends and family who had traveled very little.
But I’d planted a seed—my dream of travel—and it stubbornly took root.
I went to college at nearby Iowa State University, majoring in International Relations, and saw a flyer to sail the world during a Semester at Sea. I wasn’t sure that I could afford the trip, but my father, Harold Hagen, encouraged me.
“Just do it,” he said. And I did.
In my late teens, I had my first taste, sailing into a 102-day trip that took me to 12 countries and sites such as the Great Wall of China, a remote village in India and the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg. I came back knowing that my dream of travel wasn’t just a dream. It was who I was.
That one little seed flourished. During the next handful of years, I traveled a lot. I lived and worked on four continents. I traveled two more times by ship around the world and many more by plane. I worked in the global workforce division of a Fortune 100 company. I launched Worldwide Connect, to educate and help international business executives. My life of travel took off.
I also encountered occasional bumps in the road. I made cultural mistakes. I worried about money. I sometimes felt very alone, even in the midst of a foreign city. Through it all, I learned how to navigate the ups and downs of global travel, how to prepare for cultures, and how to connect to the safe and kind-hearted community that exists everywhere.
The idea of Global Gals struck me in 2013 while at a San Diego seminar on following your dreams and giving your gift to the world. And it really came home to me when, at about the same time, my father who had encouraged me to do those exact things, struggled with stage-four lung cancer. We spent his last months reminiscing about the adventures we had taken around the world and what they meant to him, celebrating what we had done rather than regretting what we did not do. When he passed away, it became my mission to bring our vision to life, to help women achieve their travel dreams, just as he had helped me.
I officially launched Global Gals shortly after.
We started small. In the early days, it was just me, my phone, and a desire to make it happen. Soon, I added help. I hired people in various countries to serve as guides and mentors. I created seminars. I built networks. Momentum grew. I became Chief Global Gal. We established our first meetup in Tianjin, China. Today we’ve held events in over 10 countries on 3 continents. We now serve thousands of women worldwide. We host seminars and educational sessions. We plan trips. We help professionals bridge cultures.
Today, we are just setting sail. The opportunities ahead for Global Gals shimmer like the lights of exciting destinations just coming into view. But no matter where we go, we will always honor the Global Gals roots. To encourage women as my father encouraged me. To help others experience, as I have, how travel can enrich your life. I want to help more than 1 million women achieve their travel dreams and goals. As Hodding Carter says in one of my favorite quotes: “Two of the greatest gifts are roots and wings.”
It turns out the little gravel lane didn’t just lead to my house. It also led outward. It led to new places and new friends and to a connected world that, after all, is not so large. The road leads, just like your road, to the paths and experiences across the globe that we all can explore, together. Come join us on the journey.
— Chief Global Gal Brenda McGuire