expatriate

Tech Makes The Global Citizen, or Repatriation = Relocation With Benefits

San Francisco may be a tech-forward location but that's not why I've increasingly been turning to technology to help me be where and who I am today.

As a globally mobile individual, I rely on tech because of all the moves that came before this one. I rely on tech for my total, global operation.

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This originally appeared in The Displaced Nation, August 22, 2012.

Today’s guest blogger, Anastasia Ashman, has been pioneering a new concept of global citizenship. Through various publications, both online and in print, and now through her GlobalNiche initiative, she expresses the belief that common interests and experiences can connect us more than geography, nationality, or even blood. But what happens when someone like Ashman returns to the place where she was born and grew up? Here is the story of her most recent repatriation.

I recently relocated to San Francisco. Three decades away from my hometown area, I keep chanting: “Don’t expect it to be the same as it was in the past.”

Since leaving the Bay area, I’ve lived in 30 homes in 4 countries, journeying first to the East Coast (Philadelphia Mainline) for college, then to Europe (Rome) for further studies, back to the East Coast (New York) and the West Coast (Los Angeles) for work, over to Asia (Penang, Kuala Lumpur) for my first overseas adventure, back to the USA (New York), and finally, to Istanbul for my second expat experience.

My daily mantra has become: “Don’t expect to be the same person you once were.”

With each move, my mental map has faded, supplanted by new information that will get me through the day.

Back in San Francisco, I repeat several times a day: “This place may be where I’m from, but it’s a foreign country now. Don’t expect to know how it all works.”

What a difference technology makes (?!)

Today my work travels, just as it did when I arrived in Istanbul with a Hemingway-esque survival plan to be on an extended writing retreat and emerge at the border with my passport and a masterpiece.

I knew from my previous expat stint in Malaysia that I needed to tap into a local international scene. But I spent months in limbo without local friends, nor being able to share my transition with the people I’d left.

This time is different. Now I’m connected to expat-repat friends around the world on the social Web with whom I can discuss my re-entry. I’ve built Twitter lists of San Francisco people  (123) to tap into local activities and lifestyles, in addition to blasts-from-my-Berkeley-past.

I’ve already drawn some sweet time-travely perks. To get a new driver’s license I only needed to answer half the test questions since I was already in the system from teenhood.

After Turkey’s Byzantine bureaucracy and panicky queue-jumpers, I appreciated the ease of making my license renewal appointment online even if the ruby-taloned woman at the Department of Motor Vehicles Information desk handed me additional forms saying: “Oh, you got instructions on the Internet? That’s a different company.”

One of the reasons my husband and I moved here is to more closely align with a future we want to live in, so it’s cool to see the online-offline reality around us in San Francisco’s tech-forward atmosphere.

It doesn’t always translate to an improved situation though. Just as we are searching for staff to speak to in person at a ghost-town Crate & Barrel, a suggestion card propped on a table told us to text the manager “how things are going.”

So, theoretically I can reach the manager — I just can’t see him or her.

So strange…yet so familiar

It took a couple of months to identify the name for what passes as service now in the economically-depressed United States: anti-service. Customer service has been taken over by scripts read by zombies.

When I bought a sticky roller at The Container Store, the clerk asked me, “Oh, do you have a dog?”

“No, a cat,” I countered into the void.

He passed me the bag, his small-talk quota filled. He wasn’t required by his employer to conclude the pseudo-interaction with human-quality processing, like, “Ah, gotta love ‘em.”

What I didn’t plan for are the psychedelic flashbacks to my childhood. I may have moved on, but this place seems set in amber. The burrito joints are still playing reggae (not even the latest sounds of Kingston or Birmingham) and the pizza places, ’70s classic rock stations (Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” anyone?). The street artists are still peddling necklaces of your name twisted in wire. Residents are still dressed like they’re going for a hike in the hills with North Face fleece jackets and a backpack.

A bid for minimalism

The plan is also to be somewhat scrappy after years of increasing bloat. My Turkish husband and I got rid of most of our stuff in Turkey in a bid for minimalism. We camped out on the floor of our apartment in San Francisco until we could procure some furniture.

If it was a literal repositioning, it was also a conscious one — for a different set of circumstances. We’d expanded in Istanbul with a standard 3-bedroom apartment and “depot” storage room, and affordable house cleaners to maintain the high level of cleanliness of a typical Turkish household. In California, I intended to shoulder more of the housework.

I was soon reminded of relocation’s surprises that can make a person clumsy and graceless. I should have kept my own years-in-the-making sewing kit since I can’t find a quality replacement for it in an American market flooded with cheap options from China — and now have to take a jacket to the tailor to sew on a button, something I used to be able to do myself.

When the lower-quality dishwasher door in our San Francisco rental drops open and bangs my kneecap, I recall the too-thin cling wrap and tinfoil that I ripped to shreds in Istanbul, or the garden hose in Penang that kinked and unkinked without warning, spraying me in the face.

New purchases

“We’re getting too old for this,” my husband and I keep telling each other as we shift on our polyester-filled floor pillows that looked a lot bigger and less junky on Amazon. (We were abusing one-day delivery after years of not buying anything online due to difficulties with customs in Istanbul. Cat litter can be delivered tomorrow! Pepper grinder! Then I read about the harsh conditions faced by fulfillment workers in Amazon’s warehouses and cut back.)

One of our first purchases Stateside was a television. Not that we’re going to start watching local TV, but we did flick through some satellite channels. It’s something I like to do upon relocating: watch TV and soak up the local culture like a cyborg.

Since I last lived in the US, reality shows like COPS — where the camera would follow policemen on their seedy beats — have gone deeper into the underbelly of life, and now there are reality shows about incarceration.

The Discovery Channel has also gone straight to the swamp. That’s where I caught a moonshiner reality show featuring shirtless (and toothless) men in overalls called “Popcorn” and “Grandad.”

It’s an America I am not quite keen to get to know.

But I can take these reverse culture shocks lightly because my repatriation is part of a continuum. It’s not a hiatus from anything nor a return home. I’m not missing anything elsewhere, I haven’t given up anything for good. Being here now is simply the latest displacement. Today is a bridge to where I’m headed.

Expatriates Are Experts In Resilience

A few excerpts from interviews I've given and articles I've written:

Being an expatriate, you’re naturally a person in transition.

Your worst days can leave you feeling unmoored and alienated. Your best days bring a sense of your agile nature and the qualities that make you unique from the people who surround you and the people back home.

Working toward an understanding of what it will take for you to feel your best in your environment I think is extremely worthwhile. Your answers perfectly define you and the more closely they are incorporated into your business plans the better chance you have of career success abroad.

After five years in Malaysia and 8.5 in Turkey, I've made the limbo state of expatriatism (not belonging to your surroundings but having to navigate them in culturally appropriate ways AND honor the truth of who you are at the same time) a strength instead of a weakness.

 

With my career disrupted by international relocations and watching the traditional media business being disrupted by digital and social media, my particular m.o. has evolved into gate jumping. That’s a combination of reaction to obstacles in my environments, and a commitment to not be hindered by “what is”.

Gate jumping can work for expats of all kinds.

Here’s how I do it: Fearlessly operating without borders instead of accepting my off-the-grid, situation-mismatch as a paralyzing disadvantage.

Time zones, language barriers, geographical distances, old-school thinking and collapse in my industries of media and entertainment, these things don't stop me.

 

Being an early adopter of Twitter, I use it for continuing education like virtually attending conferences and entering high level discussions in my topics of interest, to networking and meeting my peers around the world.

One of the reasons I founded GlobalNiche.net is that I have noticed that the majority of expats disappear when they go abroad rather than come to local and international prominence through their expat lives as I have done.

Even fewer women expats accomplish this in Muslim countries or have managed to raise the voices of multiple other women in a country known for its censorship. See the details of this particular adventure in my piece The Accidental Anthologist.

I don't think any of this is easy to achieve. But I do think it's integral to surviving, and thriving.

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Linda Janssen has written a book on this topic called The Emotionally Resilient Expat. Jo Parfitt's Summertime Publishing is releasing it in 2013.

Remix Culture: Cross-Pollinating With Our Pluralism

This month we're acknowledging that where we come from counts (see this urban psychology article on the geography of temperament, and take this quiz to pinpoint how to make life choices "congruent with your temperament") -- and by bringing what we uniquely have to offer, we're cross-pollinating the culture. And we extra-extra-extra love to hear this => Pluralism is always practical: when we draw on our own mixed identities we're more creative!

+++++ AT expat+HAREM

Meanwhile a Third Culture Kid and food activist in Colorado says no to the American predilection for huge cups of coffee consumed in the car, and yes to the communion found in ethnic dining rituals from her childhood and travels.

An American born and raised in Japan finds a way to bridge the cultural divide through the whimsical folk art of etegami.

So much good stuff coming our way, impossible to share it all....here's another way to get on the same page with us: we're now attempting to round up the zillions of resonant links that fly past us every day -- like these ones about global careers, and international politics and the hybrid souls we all possess.

+++++ AROUND THE WORLD & AROUND THE WEB

If you're in New York on the 25th, don't miss an evening about "How to Run the World & Hybrid Reality", presented by expat+HAREM's global nomad salon coproducer Janera Soerel. Global adventurer-scholar Parag Khanna and his wife Ayesha will introduce their new institute exploring human-tech co-evolution.

And for the collectors, from the filmmaker, author, producer, and musician known as DJ Spooky comes this compilation of essays examining 500 years of collaborative creation, "from the history of stop-motion photography to Muslim influences on early hip-hop."

+++++ YOUR THOUGHTS

What are you remixing in your personal culture?

Awkward Traveling. Poised Interculturalists. Native People. Hopping Places

The more time we devote to following our interests online it seems the more relevance we find. The problem: how can we ever share all the fabulousness?! The solution: rounding up zillions of links resonant to our community that cross my screen.

  • At China Expat, Carolyn Vines, the author of Black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity, considers the changes in a woman's identity after an international relocationMoving away from our cultural context, she writes, we learn to see ourselves with different eyes.
  • If you grew up in the Americas you grew up with Native American history of some kind and at the very least, reflected in place names. Facebook hosts a massive collection of antique photos of Native Americans, organized by tribe, including ethnographic and commercial images as well as family portraits.
  • Diane Caldwell, an original contributor to the Expat Harem anthology, once ate Jack Kerouac's peanut butter. On her new blog the free spirit writes a requiem for AsmalimescitIstanbul's hoppingest back alley.

Making The Psychic Limbo Of Global Citizens A Productive State

The expat+HAREM COMMUNITY AIMS TO HELP YOU: 1) DISCOVER your psychic peers + global community 2) CREATE a hybrid identity from your many worlds

Why do you need our help? The short answer: Because liminal life is a bittersweet limbo -- coming, going, never quite arriving -- and here at expat+HAREM the community embraces this unmoored and central reality of our globetrotting, multicultural, hybrid times.

A PLACE WHERE DIGITAL NOMADS, EXPATS, IMMIGRANTS, FUTURISTS AND WORLD CULTURALISTS ARE UNIQUELY SUITED TO SUCCEED

The psychic limbo and identity adventure global citizens experience today is expat+HAREM's sweet spot. Our neoculture.

This neoculture is our situation in life and our world view. What we work to make sense of, and to capitalize on.

Here at expat+HAREM we've defined the problem, and provide the solution.

Glo· bal· niche, n.

a psychic solution to your global identity crisis

[More about Anastasia Ashman, the founder of this global niche.]

MAKING LIMBO A PRODUCTIVE STATE Limbo is usually considered a place in-between. A state of suspended animation. Paralysis, a spinning of the wheels. Nowheresville. But it can also be an unconstrained place where anything is possible. That's how expat+HAREM choses to see it. Multifaceted people like us have strength and flexibility and experience and access to multiple perspectives. These are all assets.

WE'RE IN THE VANGUARD AND NEED EACH OTHER Globalization has had an unfortunate disenfranchising effect. (Perhaps like many in our community you've been there personally!) However, despite the resistance and misunderstanding and worrying 'purity' movements we're witnessing in populations large and small, at expat+HAREM we believe fostering our particular dialogue of culture and identity is a way forward. A chance to find new and meaningful connection to the world while making sense of conflicting situations.

IT'S NOT ALL BIG PICTURE Sure, we like to talk about the big picture -- whole hemispheres and societies! -- but at our heart we're concerned with the smallest details of the individual. Navigating relationships with people in your life. Achieving psychic location independence. Negotiating our personal connection with the many worlds we love to belong to. That's how we'll find our global niche.

HERE'S WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE SAY "WE'LL HELP YOU FIND YOUR GLOBAL NICHE": a psychic solution to your global identity crisis.

COMMON INTEREST AND EXPERIENCE DEFINES US

Our most important bonds are no longer solely decided by geography, nationality or even blood. When we find where we uniquely belong in the world we've found our global niche.

expat+HAREM, the global niche embodies the Expat Harem concept* -- localized foreigner, outsider on the inside -- while speaking to intentional travelers, identity adventurers and global citizens of all kinds.

This 2-year archive of neoculture discussions delves into perspective on the crossroads and dichotomies of our hybrid lives:

  • modern existences in historic places
  • deep-rooted traditions translated in mobile times
  • limiting stereotypes revisited for wider meaning
  • the expat mindset as it evolves from nationalism to globalism

More.

THOUGHTS ON HYBRID LIFE WRITING Combining outsider-view-from-the-inside and journey of self-realization, we think expat/emigree/immigrant literature deserves a shelf of its own.

+++ OUR ROOTS +++ Based on the original Expat Harem concept by Anastasia M. Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Gokmen

expat+HAREM, the global niche is the archive of a group blog and community site launched in 2009 by Anastasia Ashman, coeditor with Jennifer Eaton Gökmen of Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey.

* The site is inspired by the cultural embrace and self-exploration of that best-selling and critically acclaimed 2005 expatriate literature collection.

+ DETAILS: media coverage, academic uses, and awards for the anthology created and edited with Jennifer Eaton Gökmen, compiling the work of 32 international Expat Harem writers.

+ BEST 5 BOOKS ON TURKEY: Turkey’s most-read author Elif Shafak picks Expat Harem among the best 5 books on Turkey (Five Books, November 2010)

+ THE ACCIDENTAL ANTHOLOGIST: expat+HAREM founder's personal story behind the book.

+ HAREM GIRLS FOR SALE: 2 years from workshop to bestseller list -- the story of two expat editors.

Editors interviewed on The Crossroads satellite TV, July 2009

+++++ Take the next step with us --> into GlobalNiche.net's creative self enterprise for the global soul.  Another good place to explore:  Anastasia Ashman's producer page at Facebook.

Authority Abroad: What It Takes To Become Your Own Expat Icon

I've always admired the rugged ability of certain adventurer-writers to appear masterful in the wider world. True or not, it’s easy to envision legendary expatriate authors like Karen Blixen and Ernest Hemingway crushing it in their overseas exploits. Satisfying wanderlust. Surviving exotic illness. Operating transnational businesses. Donning local garb or exploration gear. Pictured alone on the landscape, or comfortably surrounded by teeming locals. Iconic.

Then they write personally relevant opuses Out of Africa and The Old Man and the Sea.

Larger-than-life expat writer personalities seem in tune with far-flung surroundings, able to produce their best work from foreign atmospheres.

These two predecessors were clearly troubled. Alcoholism. Venereal disease. Financial ruin. Divorce. Suicide. However, aspiring to their ultimate of travel feats -- achieving a personal and professional high point -- remains an urge for writers abroad like me.

I explore my own brush with the weight of expat image expectation at a colleague's blog this week by delving into the photos that correspond with a highlight and a lowlight of my expat experience. Despite previous and future international depths, it only takes one flashbulb moment to remind us we too can outdo ourselves abroad. And that memory can empower us and our expat life for a long time. Take a peek at Unrecognizable vs. Iconic.

Which expat icons do you admire -- and when have you found authority overseas?

Psychic Solution To Your Global Identity Crisis

Glo· bal· niche, n. psychic solution to your global identity crisis

Don't coin too many terms, warn the smart search engine optimizers. "No one will know what you're talking about plus they won't be able to find you!" At expat+HAREM we like to talk about unconventional, unbounded and unmapped life as we experience it, and if we could find the lingo we need in common usage, we'd certainly use it.

(Tell us the terms you use.)

On Twitter someone asked, “is ‘hybrid life’ kinda like what a salamander leads?” Uh, sure...you could call us cultural amphibians. Water, air, land, we (try to) do it all.

If you've arrived in the expat+HAREM community, perhaps you do know what I'm talking about. Or maybe you want to see what's next in neoculture (another coined term to-be-explained).

Here’s the deal.

WE'RE ALL BORN GLOBAL CITIZENS even if that knowledge gets trained out of us. A global identity seems nebulous, and ungrounded. Better to bond with the more concrete: family, culture, nation.

Problem with concrete though: it cracks over time, in quickly changing conditions, and sometimes even under its own weight.

 

 

Globalization means we’re entering a permanent state of psychic limbo about who we are and where we belong in the world.

Mixed blood. Crossculture. Third Culture. International work, study, travel. Fusion faiths, dual nationalities. Many of us know the bittersweet liminality of living between multiple worlds, and the soul-sprung righteousness of refusing to settle on just one.

The more we move around the less home is one place --  not to mention the mirage home becomes as soon as we leave it -- so our associations spread and bifurcate and split again. Our capacity for inclusion grows, and our sense of self expands along with it.

Coming, going, never quite arriving. This is where we live today. We’re searching for our place in the world, our people, the hybrid lifestyle that will make it all cohese. We know this:

Our concrete center will not hold.

OUR PEOPLE ARE NOT WHO THEY USED TO BE We also recognize we’re unbounded by the communities in our physical midst and traditional markers like geography, nationality or even blood.

Now we find inspiring new kinship in interest and outlook.

Virtual technologies like social media and mobile devices help identity adventurers, global nomads and digital citizens integrate even faster across out-moded boundaries.

To become the global citizens we truly are, we need to find our place in the world.

This has always been the case. But the 21st century offers new ways to find where we uniquely belong, and a new urgency to actualize our global citizenship.

Here at expat+HAREM we believe you can create a psychic solution to your global identity crisis.

Call it psychic location independence.

She'sNext interview: Here I'm talking about how multifaceted, 21st century women can find their global niche.

TAPPING INTO OUR OWN GLOBAL BEING When we discover our psychic peers and foster a global community with them  -- fashioning a hybrid identity and a 'salamander' life that intersects and honors the many worlds we belong to -- we've found our global niche. It's good to be home.

Prescient Perspective

A round up of my quotes from interviews, profiles and articles by or about me that keep coming back. "Expat Harem women are challenged to redefine their lives, definitions of spirituality, femininity, sensuality and self."

-- introduction to Tales from the Expat Harem, with Jennifer Eaton Gökmen, 2005

THE NEGOTIATION OF FOREIGN WOMEN IN TURKEY: Commitment Now asks: "Do you think many of the foreign women who have made Turkey their home have found that their adjustments are one-way?"

Anastasia: "Not in my life or for most foreign women I know. If anything we’re in a constant state of negotiating which way the street is going at any given time to accommodate both our instincts and those of the people around us.

"There's a huge spectrum of society in Turkey, all with their own quotients of modernity and comfort with Western traditions. My Turkish family is secular, modern to the point of being trendy, and highly Europeanized."

-- travel author interview with Commitment Now, 2009 TURKEY'S BOND OF METAMORPHOSIS WITH THE EXPAT HAREM: "Foreign women on Turkish soil are neither what nor who they used to be, yet not fully transformed by their brush with Turkey. Aligned in their ever-shifting contexts, both Turkey and the expatriate share a bond of constant metamorphosis.

Istanbul International Book Fair

THE DAMAGING CULTURAL FACTOR SEX TOURISTS EXPORT: "Writing from the sex-toured Near East, the damaging potential of each disposable liaison is empirical evidence that Western culture is morally corrupt. One forgettable fling has the power to affect systems far larger than the person, family, village or region which witnessed and absorbed the behavior.

"The environment of sexual predation many Western women face overseas is also bound to be heightened by the wanton and culturally inappropriate choices of 'sex pilgrims'.

"Travelers and expatriates striving to modulate their behavior to find social acceptance with native friends, families and colleagues must struggle to differentiate themselves from sexual opportunists who don't have to lie in the messy bed they've made."

-- book review of Romance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men, Perceptive Travel, 7/06

ON THE PARALLEL IDENTITY STRUGGLES OF TURKEY, AND GLOBAL NOMADS: “Turkey is asking itself some of the world’s most difficult questions these days,” said Ashman, comparing the nation’s quest with her own identity issues as a global nomad and the questions central to her work.  “Expat Harem asked 30 foreign women what modern Turkey taught them about themselves.

"Turkey as a crucible of the self, a mirror on our own possibilities as citizens of the world.

"We chose tonight’s topic because it is relevant to Global Nomads who are concerned with the concepts of personal identity, community and belonging, and the balance of cultural influences that can sometimes be at odds.”

-- Istanbul's call to global nomads by Kristen Stevens, Hürriyet Turkish Daily News, 6/28/08

on TRT2 literature program

EXPATS' AGILE AND UNIQUE NATURE IS KEY TO SUCCESS ABROAD: "Being an expatriate you’re naturally a person in transition. Your worst days can leave you feeling unmoored, and alienated. Your best days bring a sense of your agile nature and the qualities that make you unique from the people who surround you and the people back home.

"Working toward an understanding of what it will take for you to feel your best in your environment is extremely worthwhile.

"Your answers perfectly define you and the more closely they are incorporated into your business plans the better chance you have of career success abroad."

-- Tales from an Expat Writer, Career by Choice: personal branding for professional success abroad, 3/08/09

EXPATRIATISM AS FOURTH GENERATION IMMIGRATION: "Being an expat to me may be more akin to someone who simply isn’t living where they started. I’m just farther away. I guess you could say I’m a fourth generation immigrant, since my parents and their parents and their parents before them all left their homelands or their cities in search of better opportunities in the west. Coming to Europe completes that loop for my family.

"When I'm slathering Mediterranean olive oil on a wild arugula salad I am enjoying something a distant ancestor once did but that my closer relatives did not, as they served Spam in Chicago and tofu taco salad in California."

-- Tales from an Expat Writer, Career by Choice: personal branding for professional success abroad, 3/08/09

on satellite TV6 "Crossroads"

ON PUBLISHING AND THE DIGITAL WORLD CITIZEN: "Geographic disadvantage demands I compete in my home market virtually...and my global audience is now virtual.

"I’m shifting to new school thinking in distribution, promotion, and sales.

"Internet access equalized my ‘90s expat reality. Now Twitter closes the professional morass as Tweetdeck columns resonate thought leadership across publishing, technology, and marketing. I’ve got Web 3.0 plans for my second book not only because as a contemporary author abroad I must connect with readers and offer dynamic interaction with the material, but because as a digital citizen I can."

-- Publishing and the Digital World Citizen, Editor Unleashed, 9/02/09

SOCIAL MEDIA ERASES THE TRADITIONAL DISADVANTAGES OF EXPATRIATISM: "Social media affords expats location-independence (work where you are and where you'll go), self-actualization (be an expert in whatever you choose), language (communicate in your preferred tongue), and flexibility (time and location become irrelevant).

Turkish national television

"You can be current, involved, and a player in your field thanks to the new platforms. Once upon a time we expats were disconnected from our bases of operation that our countrymen back home had available to them.

"Now, the divide is digital. Virtual. Non-existent for the expat who makes use of technology."

-- Social media aids expat life, by Jennifer Eaton Gökmen, Hürriyet Turkish Daily News, 1/9/10

WRITERS ABROAD BUILD NETWORK FOR NEW ROLE AS CONTENT ENGINEERS: "Reach beyond readers, other writers and even publishing folk. Seek out thought leaders in marketing, interactive tech people, small business owners and creative entrepreneurs. These are all fields that a contemporary author and content producer is entering whether she knows it or not.

"I’ve been revisiting all my projects to see how I can bring them to life in the most current way -- in terms of technology and distribution distinct from the low-percentage, high-barrier traditional paths.

"Writers are now producers, and directors, and engineers of content."

-- Writer Interview: Anastasia Ashman in Turkey, WriterAbroad: Surviving (and thriving) as an international creative person, 4/11/10

THE 'PROBLEM' OF GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP -- AN IDENTITY SUSPENDED BETWEEN MULTIPLE WORLDS -- CAN BE A SOLUTION FOR 21st CENTURY WOMEN: "We often dream about a spot where *our* kind of people live, where we can lead *our* chosen lifestyle.

"Today the bittersweet psychic limbo of global citizenship frees the multifaceted woman. Frees us to bond around common interest. Experience. World view.

"Through the digital nomadism pioneered by location independent people and use of self-actualizing social media, we can now operate independently of where we live and tap into a sense of ourselves both unique and as big as we can be."

-- She's Next digital media series, inspiring 60 second video interviews to cultivate happiness and leadership in 21st century women, 10/28/10

ASTUTE PORTFOLIO BUILDING: "I knew I could benefit from a more professional approach to the craft.

"[When I pitched a profile to the Village Voice I ended up publishing] a profile/book review/event announcement -- the managing editor’s hybrid idea when I emphasized the curating work my multimedia poet interviewee was doing at St. Mark’s Poetry Project, and an upcoming performance there of a new Brion Gysin book.

"If an editor was gracious enough to tell me exactly what he could use all I needed to do was accept the challenge."

-- MB alumni interview at mbToolbox, mediabistro.com, 11/05

HISTORICAL TRAVELOGUE CAN HELP FIND YOUR PLACE: "Long-term travelers, expatriates and global citizens often struggle to make sense of life's evolutions abroad, as well as find meaningful access to their new surroundings. Whether I'm simply passing through, or putting down roots in a place, I've come to crave a certain type of book.

"Historical travelogue and portraits of adventurous women travelers who came before me often helps connect me to the land, and remind me of the transformative tradition of female travel."

-- interviewed by Frank Mundo about my five favorite historical travelogues at LA Books Examiner 6/10

The Accidental Anthologist: Creating A Literary Harem

All the editions of Expat Harem bookTurkey often makes the news for suppressing its authors. Ironically, as an American expatriate in Istanbul I found my voice -- by creating a literary harem of my expat peers. My third month in Istanbul I found my way to an American women's social club. Milling among the crowd at the consul general's residence, I introduced myself by describing my writing project.

"At 40? You're too young to write a memoir," snorted a white haired librarian as she arranged second-hand books on a card table.

"Istanbul's such chaos, I'd be surprised if you can concentrate," thought a freckled socialite in tasseled loafers.

My memoir was going to happen. It had to. It was the cornerstone of my survival plan.

 

MY BRILLIANT CAREER WAS PORTABLE. I moved to Istanbul in 2003 so my Turkish husband could take a job in mobile telecommunications. Even though I lacked a formal proposal for my high-concept travel memoir charting the peaks and valleys of what I was calling “an adventurous life,” I already had a literary agent waiting to champion it. I was thrilled my spouse would be developing the kind of advanced cell phone software that excites him and that emerging economies demand. Yet my international move required a defense strategy.

"I'm not going to waste a minute sitting in language classes, diminishing my facility with English," I informed him.

"Whatever makes you happy," he replied.

In my mind I'd be on an extended writer's retreat, free from the daily distractions of our “real life” in New York City, where we had met.

I'd be an asocial expatriate writer who would one day emerge at the border clutching my passport and a masterpiece.

This exotic vision had been percolating since I'd last been an expat—in Malaysia. I’d spent five years rotting away in the tropics like a less-prolific—and more sober—Somerset Maugham.

Foremost to decay in the equatorial heat was my personality—the core of my writing voice.

In steamy Southeast Asia, my first long-term stint overseas, language and cultural barriers prevented me from expressing even the simplest aspects of my identity. When I told people I was a writer they'd reply, "Horses?"

 

I WAS DECOMPOSING at time-lapse speed. Vintage handbags and L.A. sandals sprouted green fungus overnight, while silvery bugs infested my college texts and a decade of diaries. I was also mistaken for a very different kind of Western woman in Asia, like when a crew of Indonesian laborers working at my house wondered when I was going to drink a beer and take off my shirt.

Three years later, in cosmopolitan Istanbul, I was a resurrected ambitious American prepared for my future. I imagined a successful literary life abroad—supported by a defensive version of expatriatism. "This move won't turn my world upside down," I cockily assured worried friends and relatives, who recalled my anguished Kuala Lumpur days.

Now I was all about the work. My plan to avoid alienation in Turkey was foolproof.

Istanbul, a hilly metropolis of 12 million, made Kuala Lumpur look like the sleepy river town it is. I couldn't envision navigating a car on its traffic-logged streets or squeezing into public minibuses or straying too far alone without a translator. I couldn't wait to hole up at home with my computer, DSL connection and a view of the Bosphorus.

Upon my arrival I joined an expat social club for some English speaking company. There I met the scolding librarian and the socialite. I also ran into an upbeat Michigan writer named Jennifer Gökmen, a 10-year émigré also married to a Turk. She had no doubt I would write my memoir. We both needed some writing support so we created a workshop with a handful of other American women.

Within weeks, the memoir stalled as I struggled to map my entire existence... dear god, what's the arc of my life? Maybe that caustic librarian was right! My resistance to Turkey started to wear down.

Jennifer and I began playing with a proposal of our own: an anthology incorporating essays about our Turkish lives.

I was bursting with that kind of material. The cultural gauntlet I faced on my first trip to meet the family. My glitzy Istanbul wedding. Inspired by the original harem of the 15th century Ottoman sultans, where foreign-born women shared their cultural wisdoms, new arrivals comparing notes with old hands, we figured we formed a modern version: the Expat Harem.

And that’s when the harem walls closed in.

 

SILENCED BY WHOOPING COUGH: I contracted a mysterious and ancient ailment of the pharynx. Local doctors unfamiliar with the diagnosis prescribed medications for asthma and antibiotics to treat a lung infection, neither of which I had. I passed the cough to Jennifer. For the next six months we were both homebound, hacking to the point of incontinence, succumbing to every little flu. I avoided anything that might incite a new round of spasms, like conversation and laughter, the coal smoke emanating from rural shanties, chills from the ancient city's stone walls, gusts of autumn blowing down from the Black Sea. The only thing Jennifer and I were suited for was speechlessly working, and we only wanted to think about the anthology.

"Embedded here, we're destined to be alien."

I brainstormed in an email to Jennifer, pointing out the dilemma of life abroad—even for those who want to blend in to local culture, it’s near impossible. Our cultural instincts will forever lead us to different choices— from simple aesthetics like lipstick color to complicated interpersonal communications.

Topkapi Palace harem door by A.Ashman

"The Expat Harem is a place of female power," she shot back, linking us to an Eastern feminist continuum little known in the Western world.

Harem communities offered women the possibility of power—in the imperial harem, they offered the greatest power available to women in this region. These women had the sultan's ear, they were the mothers of sultans. Several harem women shadow-ran the Ottoman empire, while others co-ruled.

Giddy with our anachronistic metaphor, I replied.

"Ethnocentric prison or refuge of peers—sometimes it's hard to tell which way the door is swinging!"

Like a secret password, news spread as we called for submissions from writers, travelers and Turkophiles. Fascinating women from fourteen nations poured their stories into our in-boxes. They shared how their lives had been transformed by this Mediterranean country in the past 50 years, moments that challenged their values and their destinies as nurses and scientists, Peace Corps volunteers and artists.

These women's tales were not universally known.

Many had never before been published and all were minority voices in a Muslim country with a reputation for censorship.

 

ALTERNATE REALITIES flooded over me: eerie Sufi pilgrimages to Konya, the intimacies of anthropological fieldwork on the Black Sea, glimpses of '70s civic unrest in Ankara, a wistful gardener's search for the perfect Ottoman rose in Afyon. Many represented a depth of involvement with the country I couldn't imagine: harvesting dusty hazelnuts on a brambly hillside, trying to follow the 9/8 rhythms of a clapping Gypsy, sharing space on a city bus with a dancing bear in the Technicolor 1950s.

I whispered to Jennifer, "Compared to these women, I'm a cultural wimp!"

Their struggles to assimilate nudged me to forgive my own resistance, and inspired me to discover the country, the culture and the Turkish people.

Now I could use the editing skills I had been suppressing since I was an infuriating child who returned people's letters corrected with red pen. From the comfort of my home office-with-a-foreign-zipcode, I was able to shape other writers’ stories. The anthology rewarded me for postponing the memoir, by laying the foundations for a more insightful next book. The joys of collaborating with writers from my home office clarified confusing aspects of my character—like how I am a prickly introvert who nevertheless craves connection with people.

One late winter day Jennifer and I stopped coughing and sold Tales from the Expat Harem to Doğan Kitap, a prominent Turkish publisher.

"That's more like it," snapped the librarian when I next saw her at a club meeting, my reputation somewhat rehabilitated in her eyes.

Four decades’ worth of expatriate self-discoveries earned its shelf space, more than my own 40-year life story would have.

"It's a love-letter to the country. I put it on my house guests' pillows!" shared the smiling socialite.

The anthology became a #1 English-language bestseller in Turkey and was recommended as a social and cultural guide by National Geographic Traveler and Lonely Planet.

My literary career and conflicted mindset about life abroad now had a promising new cultural context in the expat harem.

 

I FOUND MY THEORETICAL HOME. I arrived an insular writer afraid of losing my voice. In a temporary silence, Turkey suggested an empowering metaphor. It seems the country not only connected me to a worldwide band of my global nomad and expat writing peers, it provided a place to flourish out of restriction -- and raised my voice in the cultural conversation.

[This essay first appeared in JANERA: The Voice of Global Nomads, January 2008]

+++++

What surprise context has your location provided you?

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[18 months, 2 expat writers, one feminist travel anthology with three editions. Our first book! A bestseller. How'd we do it? Read the story of making Tales from the Expat Harem]

What Expat Bloggers Are Made Of

I was honored to be included in a group of Cross-cultural and International Bloggers to Watch in 2010. As the guest curator in a review series at SheWrites, I'm pleased to note a few fellow expat bloggers. I'm drawn to the subject matter of these writers (and many others who I hope to highlight in the future). Posts seem compelled by the daily negotiation of expat/immigrant/exile identity. Shaped by unfamiliar environments. Inspired by moments when belief systems are challenged or uprooted.

You'll recognize fiction-writer Catherine Yigit as a contributor to the Expat Harem anthology and the group blog expat+HAREM. In Skaian Gates, the Dublin native writes with a wry sensibility about “living between the lines” of culture and language on the Straits of the Dardanelles. She takes us through the gauntlet of getting a Turkish driving license. Although prepared for the exam, she discovers she'll have no control over the vehicle since her examiner has a lead-foot on the dual-control pedals! Even if we learn the rules and practice the gears in our lives abroad, we often sense we're not in the driver's seat and we have to be okay with that.

Professionally-trained artist Rose Deniz lives in an industrial town near the Sea of Marmara, a body of water named for its marble-like surface. Her spare blog reflects deep ideas and personal geographies, like the trouble with being the kind of person who visualizes color, numbers and forms in the midst of a chaotic Turkish family setting; and finding the art in life outside the studio. Her real-time, online 2010 discussion series in which "art is dialogue and the studio is you” will be hosted at expat+HAREM.

Petya Kirilova-Grady, a Bulgarian who lives in Tennessee with her American husband, writes about bi-cultural misunderstandings and shares her embarrassment over a recent gender role snafu. The only way to explain why  the progressive young woman “couldn’t be bothered to do a ‘typically male’ task” in the domestic sphere is because Bulgarians are traditionalists at home. Petya writes of the realization “I can’t remember the last time I felt as Bulgarian.”

Expat bloggers flourish when we face a fresh appreciation for not only where we are but where we come from -- and what we're made of.

Who are your favorite expat bloggers and why?

Nostalgic Baggage: Taking Love With You

There's so much talk of movement these days, the advice on everyone's lips. Personally I'm charmed by the elegant momentum of agile living. A young woman posed a question at TravelBlogExchange this month, asking round-the-world travelers and serial expats how they face their homesickness. She wants to be an expat one day soon, she wrote, but how can she leave her family and everything she knows?

Being abroad for long stretches -- some of us looking at forever -- sure we get homesick, I told her.

But it’s actually deeper than that. With each passing day the things we miss change and we end up pining for something that no longer exists. The more we move around, the less home is one place. A bittersweet price of going out into the world. What you gain is a new way of seeing yourself, your family, your home, your nation, the planet.

It's quite possible all of us -- from the young woman whose family and current surroundings define her world to long-term travelers toughened by life on the road -- are so enamored with our present reality (good, bad or indifferent) we're reluctant to let go for something that will stretch us past our idea of ourselves.

That future-travel-blogger may yearn for a wider experience, but in a few words she expressed a poignant desire to stay right where she was. At least for now.

If each tiny, agile step is a shift away from something else -- guaranteed not to be there forever, trustily waiting for our return-- we need to consider with extra care where we are headed and when we choose to go.

How do you keep what you love in your life as you move forward?

Publishing And The Digital World Citizen

I once opened a can of ebook whoop-ass on Stephen King. “No interactivity, no extra benefit for readers!” I scolded the usually imaginative novelist back in the go-go days of Y2K. From my desk on New York’s Silicon Alley where I had the publishing beat at an internet industry magazine, King’s self-publishing experiment The Plant – a flow of static installments lacking flexibility, community and collaboration – was a lackluster leap of faith.

I was used to doling out tough-love to content owners peering across the digital divide. After previous stints in media and entertainment, intellectual property rights and audience concerns were also familiar to me but my exuberance came from a new media clean slate of the expat sort.

I'd just parachuted into the dotcom boom from Southeast Asia.

For five years my Malaysian office was minutes from Kuala Lumpur’s Multimedia Super Corridor, a futuristic zone advised by Bill Gates and Intel’s Andy Grove. Like the rest of the Newly Industrialized Nation, I was plagued by weekly power outages and wrote by candle light. While my attention span shrank to the length of a Compaq battery life, expatriate skills included patience to wait one month for a government-issued phone line. Waiting for internet access expanded my endurance to a couple of years.

When I finally got online the possibilities of global and real-time connection revolutionalized my estranged expat life.

A decade later I’m dipping into the professional fray from 6,000 miles to the East. I’ve been a writer and producer of cultural entertainment in Istanbul since 2003, and continue to live here. My first book Expat Harem took a conventional route: lit agent, Turkish and American publishers, road trip book tours, an electronic release for Expat Harem on Kindle (aff) and Sony eReader. My second effort — an edgy nonlinear memoir of friendship — requires a complete rethink. (Three months to set up our 49-day 10-state road tour across America, three years to recover from? Wouldn't do that again!)

Geographic disadvantage demands I compete in my home market virtually. With the economic crisis, collapse of traditional publishing and fresh hope pinned on the social web, my global audience is also now virtual.  I’m shifting to new school thinking in distribution, promotion, and sales.

Like internet access equalized my ‘90s expat reality, now social media closes the professional morass as my Tweetdeck columns resonate thought leadership across publishing, technology, and marketing. (Follow my Twitter lists of  300+ publishing professionals and 200+ interactive media people, transmedia visionaries, digital storytellers and marketers.)

I’ve got Web 2.0 and 3.0 plans for my second book -- see Digital Book World, the publishing community for the 21st century -- not only because as a contemporary author abroad I must connect with readers and offer dynamic interaction with me and my material, but because as a digital citizen I can.

Building community around the healing power of friendship – the memoir’s heart — promises to bring my writing world even closer to who I am and what I care about, making where I am viable. Exactly where I want to be.

Have you been culturally or geographically challenged in your career? How has the playing field shifted today?

A version of this essay first appeared in former editor of Writer's Digest Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed, 2009.

See more images relating to this story here and here and here.

Reading Travelers: Find Your Historical Context

"Can you share a travel secret?" asked an online travel site for women prepping its annual feature of tips from women writers worldwide. "Read the women who went before us," I replied. "Or, read about them."

For this expat/ archaeologist/ writer/ traveler, cultural wisdom pools at the intersection of women and travel.  The romance and grit of historical travelogue connects me to the land -- and reminds me of travel's transformative force in the lives of women. Reputation-risking. Life-threatening. Culturally redeeming. Personally empowering.  (My post about a related controversial history.)

Adventurous Women in Southeast Asia (Oxford-in-Asia), a selection of traveler sketches by historian John Gullick, gave my own struggling expatriate experience new meaning when I was sweating it out for 5 years in the Malaysian jungle. Playing an attitudinal extra aristocrat on the 1860s filmset of "Anna and The King" with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat in 1999 (next to a pig farm during a swine flu outbreak, but that's another post!), I appreciated learning about the dark side of the iconic governess to the Siamese court. Foster may have played Anna Leonowens prim, proper and principled but actually the lady was a scrappy mixed-blood mistress of reinvention. There was hope for me!

If you plan a trip to Turkey maybe Cultures in Dialogue holds similar promise for you. The print-on-demand series resurrects antique writings by American and British women about their travels in Turkey (1880s to 1940s), along with surprisingly political writing by women of the Ottoman empire. Contempo analysis by spunky scholars Reina Lewis and Teresa Heffernan refreshes the context of a region in transition.

Any favorite antique travel reads? What draws you to by-gone reports? +++++ Check out some of expat+HAREM’s favorite hybrid life reads here.

Disposable Liaisons Of The Traveling Class

It's that time of year -- for what's euphemistically called "Romance on the Road." Getting your groove back in foreign zipcodes. Shirley Valentine’s Day. In 2006 I reviewed for Perceptive Travel a somewhat academic book about the controversial practice of "sex pilgrimage", traveling for the purpose of sexual adventure. I'm no proponent of behavior that often falls outside the bounds of a traveler's own culture as well as severely straining mores at international destinations. I warned the assigning editor he probably had more optimistic reviewers in his stable of cutting-edge travel writers. But he couldn't find anyone who wanted to be associated with the dense “history & how-to cum memoir” ROMANCE ON THE ROAD. Shipping it from Nashville, Tennessee to Istanbul was his best option.

Viewing the situation from the sex-toured Near East and my five years in South East Asia, it’s clear that one forgettable fling has the power to affect systems far larger than the person, family, village or region which witnessed and absorbed the behavior.

Plus, the environment of sexual predation many Western women face overseas is bound to be heightened by the wanton choices of sex pilgrims. Travelers and expatriates like me strive to modulate our behavior to find social acceptance with native friends, families and colleagues, aware we must differentiate ourselves from sexual opportunists who don't have to lie in the messy bed they've made.

Which cultural product are sex tourists exporting? Is the practice of hot-and-bothered globetrotters empirical evidence that Western culture is morally corrupt?

+++ Here's my full review from Perceptive Travel:

Romance on the Road Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men

By Jeannette Belliveau (reviewed by Anastasia M. Ashman)

Jeannette Belliveau was a "sex pilgrim" for 12 years and now the 51 year old former erotic adventuress reveals all in this dense volume of travel sex history and how-to cum memoir.The author got her groove back after a divorce by sleeping with men in Greece, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Brazil. Of French Canadian descent, she is currently married to a younger man of color she fantasizes looks like a 'pharaoh'. In ROMANCE ON THE ROAD she attempts to place her actions into wider context.

As an American expatriate living in Turkey, this reviewer senses a motive of authorial self-preservation: to normalize controversial sexual behavior which not only falls outside the bounds of her own culture but severely strains mores at international destinations.

Creating what she calls a geography of sex and love, the newspaperwoman from blue-collar Maryland examines a social phenomenon that may have involved more than 600,000 Western women in the past 25 years: travelers who engage in flings or long term affairs with foreign men, vaulting over cultural boundaries. While intercultural love and marriages are a subtheme, the book's focus is hedonistic sex with virile strangers."Travel sex by women is revolutionary," Belliveau declares, a rebellion barred from polite conversation and insufficiently chronicled by social scientists even if its roots are deep in Victorian travel.

The Western world might not deem it noteworthy but the buzz is growing in remote Central American fishing villages, sandy strips of West Africa, and the tiniest towns in the Himalayas. The author suggests that today's feminine voyagers are "stumbling into a major life experience without a map."

Does Romance on the Road provide a compass for the heartbroken (or hot-and-bothered) globetrotter looking for a distant cure? It can get a gal started.

Prurient interest will be dampened however by the charts, graphs, survey results, and Modern Language Association-style citations of more than 800 bibliographic sources from Henry James' Daisy Miller to a British newspaper feature entitled "My Toyboy Tours".

There's a global chronology of the trend, a summary of related books and movies, and basic ethics and etiquette ("remember the man is real, not an actor in your fantasy"; and "do not use him as a sperm donor").

She has done an admirable job of combining veteran intelligence on each locality with a profile of an adventurous Western woman and a timeline of foreign female exploits in the region. Much like the book itself, these geographic chapters are not all fun and games. In Latin America, "sex is a parallel universe of magic" yet gigolos may sport "a breezy attitude toward the truth". A sex pilgrim profiled has a bleak history, found murdered on the side of a Mexican road, "presumably left by a cruel pickup".

Clearly an optimist, Belliveau argues that despite obvious risks the lustful practice can be psychologically healing, fulfill a woman's urge for sexual connoisseurship, or address situations like involuntary celibacy.It can also be a road to discovery.

Erotic adventure may not be on the agenda but can be inspired by the act of travel itself. Wandering women have the opportunity to "reclaim pagan freedoms lost since the advent of civilization" Belliveau waxes, since they exist in a liminal zone, a reality unconnected to their usual existence. A traveler may view the people around her as social equals, think of herself as anonymous, feel unburdened by expectations of social propriety, be more playful and suggestive. Novelist Rebecca Brown is quoted discovering her sexuality on a trip abroad: "Like Stein, Toklas, and other women who have traveled away from home, it took leaving my native land to realize I was a lesbian."

Even so, it is difficult to approach Romance on the Road, or know who would, besides social scientists who might wallow in its surfeit of statistics or old hands who will identify with the insider dope, and buoyant we-can-all-get-it-on (and perhaps heal the world by having international children) conclusions. It's hardly pleasure reading nor something to openly peruse on a crowded subway. Some may not want to get caught reading it at all. This reviewer's Turkish husband handed it over saying "You got a trashy book in the mail."

It's unfortunate that Belliveau's concentration on ecstasy abroad overwhelms her scholarship on ethical and economic questions as well as cultural and social ramifications in sex-host cultures.

The few harmful consequences she includes are female tourists being perceived as "man-stealers" by native women in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Africa; the new role of hustler that thousands of foreign men have adopted; and a rise in STDs and incidents of harassment and assault. Soon enough she is making the case for positives like liberated Scandinavian women spurring sexual revolutions for their sisters in Spain, Greece and Mexico.

Belliveau doesn't seem concerned with the cultural factor freespirited sensualists export.

Writing from the sex-toured Near East, this reviewer suggests the damaging potential of each disposable liaison is empirical evidence that Western culture is morally corrupt. One forgettable fling has the power to affect systems far larger than the person, family, village or region which witnessed and absorbed the behavior.

The environment of sexual predation many Western women face overseas is also bound to be heightened by the wanton and culturally inappropriate choices of sex pilgrims. Travelers and expatriates striving to modulate their behavior to find social acceptance with native friends, families and colleagues must struggle to differentiate themselves from sexual opportunists who don't have to lie in the messy bed they've made.

Without apology Belliveau admits this detrimental byproduct of her Shirley Valentine amusement (or was it healing?): "At first I was appalled at the smothering level of harassment I encountered in Athens. Then I succumbed to these temptations, with the likelihood that my sex partners became further convinced about the ease of seducing any lone Western female tourists to later cross their paths."

On behalf of thousands of traveling women hoping to explore the world unmolested -- thanks for nothing.

Heartbroken (or Hot-and-Bothered) Globetrotters

My review of Romance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men by Jeannette Belliveau Jeannette Belliveau was a "sex pilgrim" for 12 years and now the 51 year old former erotic adventuress reveals all in this dense volume of travel sex history and how-to cum memoir.

The author got her groove back after a divorce by sleeping with men in Greece, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Brazil. Of French Canadian descent, she is currently married to a younger man of color she fantasizes looks like a 'pharaoh'. In ROMANCE ON THE ROAD she attempts to place her actions into wider context. As an American expatriate living in Turkey, this reviewer senses a motive of authorial self-preservation: to normalize controversial sexual behavior which not only falls outside the bounds of her own culture but severely strains mores at international destinations.

Creating what she calls a geography of sex and love, the newspaperwoman from blue-collar Maryland examines a social phenomenon that may have involved more than 600,000 Western women in the past 25 years: travelers who engage in flings or long term affairs with foreign men, vaulting over cultural boundaries. While intercultural love and marriages are a subtheme, the book's focus is hedonistic sex with virile strangers.

"Travel sex by women is revolutionary," Belliveau declares, a rebellion barred from polite conversation and insufficiently chronicled by social scientists even if its roots are deep in Victorian travel. The Western world might not deem it noteworthy but the buzz is growing in remote Central American fishing villages, sandy strips of West Africa, and the tiniest towns in the Himalayas. The author suggests that today's feminine voyagers are "stumbling into a major life experience without a map."

Does Romance on the Road provide a compass for the heartbroken (or hot-and-bothered) globetrotter looking for a distant cure? It can get a gal started. Prurient interest will be dampened however by the charts, graphs, survey results, and Modern Language Association-style citations of more than 800 bibliographic sources from Henry James' Daisy Miller to a British newspaper feature entitled "My Toyboy Tours". There's a global chronology of the trend, a summary of related books and movies, and basic ethics and etiquette ("remember the man is real, not an actor in your fantasy"; and "do not use him as a sperm donor").

She has done an admirable job of combining veteran intelligence on each locality with a profile of an adventurous Western woman and a timeline of foreign female exploits in the region. Much like the book itself, these geographic chapters are not all fun and games. In Latin America, "sex is a parallel universe of magic" yet gigolos may sport "a breezy attitude toward the truth". A sex pilgrim profiled has a bleak history, found murdered on the side of a Mexican road, "presumably left by a cruel pickup". Clearly an optimist, Belliveau argues that despite obvious risks the lustful practice can be psychologically healing, fulfill a woman's urge for sexual connoisseurship, or address situations like involuntary celibacy.

It can also be a road to discovery. Erotic adventure may not be on the agenda but can be inspired by the act of travel itself. Wandering women have the opportunity to "reclaim pagan freedoms lost since the advent of civilization" Belliveau waxes, since they exist in a liminal zone, a reality unconnected to their usual existence. A traveler may view the people around her as social equals, think of herself as anonymous, feel unburdened by expectations of social propriety, be more playful and suggestive. Novelist Rebecca Brown is quoted discovering her sexuality on a trip abroad: "Like Stein, Toklas, and other women who have traveled away from home, it took leaving my native land to realize I was a lesbian."

Even so, it is difficult to approach Romance on the Road, or know who would, besides social scientists who might wallow in its surfeit of statistics or old hands who will identify with the insider dope, and buoyant we-can-all-get-it-on (and perhaps heal the world by having international children) conclusions. It's hardly pleasure reading nor something to openly peruse on a crowded subway. Some may not want to get caught reading it at all. This reviewer's Turkish husband handed it over saying "You got a trashy book in the mail."

It's unfortunate that Belliveau's concentration on ecstasy abroad overwhelms her scholarship on ethical and economic questions as well as cultural and social ramifications in sex-host cultures. The few harmful consequences she includes are female tourists being perceived as "man-stealers" by native women in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Africa; the new role of hustler that thousands of foreign men have adopted; and a rise in STDs and incidents of harassment and assault. Soon enough she is making the case for positives like liberated Scandinavian women spurring sexual revolutions for their sisters in Spain, Greece and Mexico.

Belliveau doesn't seem concerned with the cultural factor freespirited sensualists export. Writing from the sex-toured Near East, this reviewer suggests the damaging potential of each disposable liaison is empirical evidence that Western culture is morally corrupt. One forgettable fling has the power to affect systems far larger than the person, family, village or region which witnessed and absorbed the behavior.

The environment of sexual predation many Western women face overseas is also bound to be heightened by the wanton and culturally inappropriate choices of sex pilgrims. Travelers and expatriates striving to modulate their behavior to find social acceptance with native friends, families and colleagues must struggle to differentiate themselves from sexual opportunists who don't have to lie in the messy bed they've made.

Without apology Belliveau admits this detrimental byproduct of her Shirley Valentine amusement (or was it healing?): "At first I was appalled at the smothering level of harassment I encountered in Athens. Then I succumbed to these temptations, with the likelihood that my sex partners became further convinced about the ease of seducing any lone Western female tourists to later cross their paths."

On behalf of thousands of traveling women hoping to explore the world unmolested -- thanks for nothing.

+++

This appeared in Perceptive Travel, July/August 2006