The Global Niche Muse: Out Of Place And Mistress Of Her Domain

Take a plunge into metaphor with us as we explore the meaning behind a graphic muse you'll recognize from Dialogue2010 Mapping the Hybrid Life podcast and the Hybrid Ambassadors blog-ring. At we love this image -- part photograph, part 2nd generation photocopy, and part Photoshop -- a whimsical pioneer woman peering out from the center of her own personal compass point. We've incorporated her into the logo for our new work-life initiative, and below we discover exactly how she embodies creative enterprise for the global soul.

(You can see this story of how I made our mystery woman in my isolated Kuala Lumpur office in 1998, where she comes from, what she's survived -- and also, circumstantially, why she's so well-coiffed -- in the proper Tweet-and-commentary format at

  • I spotted this whimsical woman on a fading coiffeur signboard in Sarawak, Borneo

Photography is a now-not-so-secret love of mine, and it was a saving grace of my first long-term expat stint in Southeast Asia. Seeing everything with a photographer's eye made my surroundings endlessly fascinating and ripe with opportunity, no matter what else was happening or how I was feeling. It was also a key to orienting myself, following leads, making connections between the past and the present cultures.

The quickly-disappearing antique commercial signboards of the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca and Singapore) were a particular favorite of mine. You can imagine when I landed in the East Malaysia state of Sarawak I went straight to the old town to see the remnants of what establishments had once flourished there.

Although the inevitable lag of fashion around the world might be at work here, from her hairstyle I guess the sign went up in the 1930s-40s.

  • the compass superimposed over her eye (self-image, get it?) is from an around-the-world cruise line ad

...and with her eye on the world, the image represents her unique perspective.

  • the round-the-globe ad was published during the Golden Age of Travel. I found it in the National Archives of Malaysia

I was an absolute microfiche *bandit* at the National you can see some of the Straits Settlements newspaper gossip items and police blotters I captured. Hilarious, tragic, telling stuff no matter what the subject (whether it was Somerset Maugham's buttoned-down planters going nuts/running amok, or infectious diseases being passed around by the Chinese laundry services, or opium dens being fined for admitting ladies, the place was off-the-hook).

The steamer-trunks-and-servants Golden Age of travel was also an interest piqued by the region, and I explored it for a web venture Flaming East.

  • in land of White Rajas (Conrad's early heartofdarkness?), she seemed 1) out of place 2) possibly mistress of her domain
  • The White Rajahs were a dynasty of Brits who ruled Sarawak for about a hundred years during the mid-19th-20th century.

Joseph Conrad, author of the novel Heart of Darkness, had earlier written Lord Jim, which may have been based in part on the pirate-filled sea experiences of the first White Rajah James Brooke.

To that setting of personal, mini-empire building, add the coiffed nature of this woman and you get someone who seems like she's holding it together somehow. She's managing to take care of herself.

At we're not all about personal grooming -- nor are we conquering anything except perhaps our situations (setting up our own private rajs?).

...but this specific and historical background was swirling around the image of the coiffed lady when I snapped it as a displaced Western woman in the tropics myself. To me, the context was captured along with the image.

Being yourself *and* at home in a place very different than what you've known or been prepared for -- out of place, and mistress of our domain -- that's the GlobalNiche combo!

  • GlobalNiche's muse is a woman in the wild following her personal compass where ever around the world it might take her

And in conclusion...just as the Golden Age of Travel revolutionized the possibilities of exploring the world with confidence

at we're operating globally with the ease of digital nomadism and with the precision of a unique sense of who we are

...suddenly our incidental heroine is thoroughly modern, and appropriate for today's unbounded age.

  • our muse is a #pioneer centered by her personal compass in an age when traveling with speed/style/grace is perfected

Tell us what you see in the wild-but-coiffed woman of Borneo. What name would you give her? (I think we're going to need one!)

Archiving expat+HAREM

After two magical years, we’ve amassed 175 neoculture discussions and 2,800 insightful, funny, poignant comments from globalists, culturati and hybrid lifestylers like you. Can you believe it? Please accept a huge round of thanks: to our generous guest posters, our lively blog participants, our loyal audience. As expat+HAREM's founder, I recognize the culture and identity issues we’ve tackled at expat+HAREM are evergreen. So I'll be keeping them live and available for you here at during my transition to

By now you probably have a clue what is going to be. Here’s more.

This hands-on venture is my new life-work initiative to put into practice expat+HAREM theories. I'm calling what we'll be practicing "creative self enterprise for the global soul."

Global Niche is a practical evolution for expat+HAREM and I hope you feel the next step on this journey holds relevance to the life you lead, too.

We’ve identified ourselves and found resonance with each other. Common ground, ways to talk about our lives and experiences with meaning and precision. Now how do we transform?

How do we do whatever we’ve somehow felt geographically or culturally disadvantaged to fully do

It’s time for action.

I'll be partnering with creative enterprise consultant Tara Agacayak to explore with you (and other mobile progressives, cultural creatives, indie pros and displaced people of all kinds) exactly how to build a micro-yet-global base of operation -- a global niche. I'll also be a guinea pig and sharing my own global microbrand-building results and revelations along the way [eek!]

I hope you’ll  choose to stick with us for this exciting evolution. Our approach is going to be email blogging -- that means we'll be contacting you through email, not at a blog on the open web. The best way to stay in touch is to join the Global Niche list. If you're on the expat+HAREM mailing list already, you're covered.

Thanks for your time and your community, I cherish it.

My Global Niche: An Interview With Today's Zaman Newspaper

American reporter in Turkey Brooks Emerson asked me about the foreign edge, and the challenges of finding my niche in Turkey for his series on expat success stories in national English-language newspaper Today's Zaman. In the far-ranging interview, Emerson asks me what the initial impetus for my success as an expat was, and how I've evolved.

No surprise to those who know me, foreign language adoption has not played much of a role -- once I realized that taking business meetings and doing live television interviews in Turkish literally was rendering me mute! But mentoring in all realms of my personal and professional life has been a "secret weapon" in the creative entrepreneurship of self that I aim to practice.

Emerson asks me how the environment affects the outcome of an expat's endeavors. I tell him how sense of place can inspire a sense of self.

"Anastasia says that she has always been attracted to places with an amalgamation of people and cultures. However, the biggest pull is “the idea of crossroads … like Rome, where [she] studied in college … and now here on the Bosporus,” where she senses a positive energy and vibration for self-discovery and reinvention.

"Anastasia believes that working and living abroad is an excellent way to discover new self-potential."

Read Emerson's entire July 2011 interview "The global niche of Anastasia Ashman" online.

Creative Self-Enterprise Since Life Is A Work In Progress

There goes half the year. Time for a holiday, whether you got your stuff done or not. Apparently, this is your brain, on vacationa fun break from routine is not a luxury -- it's a requirement in stress relief.

Preparing for the upcoming Global Niche webinar (stay in the loop by joining our GN page), last month I asked for your burning question. A lot of you say you've been thinking about your effectiveness in life, work, play -- and how priorities and time management manifest in our final result.

I hear you! I've come to see this quest to achieve our best situation (both micro and macro) -- that is, truly our global niche -- as the creative entrepreneurship of self.

We are our own enterprise, after all. A work in progress. A human mission statement.

Seeking/building/maintaining our global niche is an investment in self that pays off...

  • Or pinpointing what exactly community means to us (to create the lifestyle we envision whether it's local or global, we need to be clear on this!) like the people in this video.
  • Or the 70+ life and work hacks from career renegades, zen habitues, and cubicle escapees at Chris  "The Art of Non-conformity" Guillebeau's World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon this month where "the road less traveled starts to look like the standard path." (Download Chris' free guide "How to live a remarkable life in a conventional world", no sign-up required)

These breaks from routine pay off.


Send us your problem: What's the main obstacle to being effective in whatever you do? What stops you from creating the lifestyle you envision for yourself?


Enterprisingly yours,



P.S. Check out our brand new time-saving, graphic Scoop-It page on all-things-global niche. Potent, right!?


Check out May's "Flowering" +++++

Theory Into Practice

Hope you're enjoying the nature in your part of the world, and as you make your mid-year plans, you're using the playful travel buzzwords bursting out all over: (palidays! set-jetting! buddymoons! frightseeing!) +++++ AT expat+HAREM

Those April showers have us blooming too. We've got a new video section at the site, with some golden oldies like the Expat Harem editors on NBC's Today Show with Matt Lauer, a steamy talk with Martin Anthony on The Crossroads, and recent material like my "Evolution of a global niche" slideshow (about how to use an identity crisis to your advantage!) and a talk at Microsoft Turkey for Turkish Women's International Network last month.*

Hybrid life coach Amna Ahmad shows us how to "decolonize your inner world" with a simple writing exercise, while Rose Deniz grapples with a unique lingo as she leaves her native tongue behind. Sezin Koehler calls for essays about Third Culture retirement issues -- a pressing concern for Baby Boomers and adult-onset Third Culture types like many of us.


We're intrigued by the concept of Trunk, a global culture magazine "in the spirit of a Hemingway novel" which proclaims "there are no foreign lands", but we can really use the real-life logistics of expat women packed into a just-released book from (download a sample here). Check out author Andrea Martin's $5,000 launch lottery too.

+++++ *BTW, these fresh videos offer a sneak peek into expat+HAREM's newest initiative -- --  a private and practical membership community to learn exactly how to operate professionally and personally independent of traditional limitations. Putting theory into practice. Join us on Facebook and Twitter!


What would you want to learn in our new educational community? Which expert do you want to hear from? Your votes will determine the topic of our first (complimentary) webinar...coming soon!

Click here to share your most burning question.


Perennially yours,

+++++ MISS LAST MONTH? Check out April's Upheavals +++++