Learning from her experience overseas living in Asia, the Middle East and Spain, in 2010 Ali Meehan decided to build a space for women to provide a connection point to make new friends as well as get real life, essential tips and advice about life in sunny Spain. Twelve years later Costa Women has over 12,500 members from 137 different nationalities. Ali talks to MumAbroad life about being an in-pat, why community is so important to her and how Costa Women has grown over the years.
For me it very much highlights the importance of being an integrated-expat (in-pat) Having lived in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and now Europe I feel its really important to celebrate, connect and join in the cultural lifestyle of my new home. Rather than creating my own space of home in my new country, join in theirs – its probably one of the (many) reasons I moved overseas!
Loneliness! Working from home for a company in the Middle East in 2000 was very unusual. Apart from my husband, it was hard to make local connections. Social Media was in its infancy (6 degrees was created in 1997 with FriendsReunited in 2000). So when we moved back to Spain in 2010 I decided to create my own. Whilst Facebook and Twitter had already launched, I wanted to build something which met my needs.
Initially I thought it would be just an online platform and just for the Costa del Sol, but quite quickly the members asked for local meet ups. Whilst the website is in English language we have welcomed 137 different nationalities into the community, including many Spanish women. The community had been planned just for social activities, but in 2006 that all changed with our first International Women’s Day Conference. Local networking events followed on a regular basis and we now host monthly online as well as local business networking. Jackie Groundsell from the UK’s 1230 The Women’s Company co-hosted the IWD conference with me for several years. And in 2018, I met Tara Gilver at a joint networking event we cohosted in Malaga. She was on a retreat from the USA. We had the same vision and ideas for our communities so started to co-hosted monthly online networking events with her community Believe, Inspire, Grow.
It is as initially I thought the community would just join me from the Costa del Sol. However we had members joining from Barcelona and Madrid and now we cover the whole of Spain and some of the islands. Mallorca has grown very quickly and things are generally picking up again in most areas post 2020. Costa Women is a space for new arrivals into Spain as well as women who have made it home for the longer term, or come and go. If we don’t have a community in your area, I am always open to creating one and finding a local host!
The first members were friends from a local book club and that’s still running today now under the Costa Women banner. I have wonderful volunteer hosts who organise local coffee mornings and fun events involving everything from creative workshops, fashion shows, flamenco, Japanese tea ceremonies, swishing (where we swop clothes), to the bigger events like our annual summer and Christmas parties where we aim to raise money for Charity.