Out of the box: the lure of the wider world


in American culture,career,community,global niche,identity,psychic limbo

Lost Heart by EBriel


Only while riding a train, taking a ferry, or boarding a plane do I feel free.

One recent morning I woke with a gasp as a motorboat buzzed past my room on a Thai canal. Tears streaming from my lashes, I’d been dreaming of being imprisoned. Blinking, the walls of latticed wood and patterned glass of the teak house where I’d slept came into focus and could breathe again. I was free.

Freedom means something different to everyone, and those who appreciate it most seem to be people who’ve been denied it. I’m not comparing any of my thirty-odd years to those who’ve suffered much more.


For my first nineteen years I was locked in a metaphorical box — first by others, and later by myself – unable to see an alternative to what surrounded me.

To escape, I painted and turned to books and pictures of other worlds, other times. I saw no inspiration in the present, and you can still sense this influence in the archaic photo processes I use and nostalgic imagery.

Eventually I designed a study abroad program and experienced the addictive high of taking a train with little idea of what – or who – waited at the end of it. Walked into museums with famous paintings whose colors were those of the landscape out the window. Learned how to turn men down in three languages.

I began to taste the world for the first time. How many smells and colors, artworks and parasites and smiles it had to offer. This was the life I wanted. Perhaps once I’ve matched those boxed years with nineteen of freedom my hunger will be sated.

Has the wider world lured you out of a box?

Elizabeth Briel is an artist and nomad, based in Sydney and Bangkok; she paints sharp-witted women in different languages, and prints blue photos of disappearing places. Here are her favorite links for international creatives.

  • Pingback: Globalance: negotiating our connections with the world()

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    Thanks for this Elizabeth – glad to have your links for international creatives, and to see from it we have much in common. I was lucky to be lured out the box at an early age, though it then took me a few decades to take that “hunger for freedom” beyond extensive travel to actually living beyond my native California. Like Anastasia mentions, the “Golden State” may seem like Utopia, but only if you’ve never experienced anything else. Looking forward to reading through you site and your other links!

    • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

      In a way, Catherine, California’s “utopian” self-image is a microcosm and mirror of the United States’s own self-regard as “the best place in the world”. No such thing!

  • http://twitter.com/Ebriel Elizabeth Briel

    Tara, Rose and others – glad to hear you’ve enjoyed these links! I’m working on another Links List for Creatives, and will post it here soon.

  • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

    Thanks for this, Emily. Yes, the wider world lured me (oddly enough) out of the utopian box that was my hometown…which has made life both richer and more challenging.

  • Anonymous

    Elizabeth, you just took me with you on your freedom ride. I am bookmarking your favorite links for international creatives.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Out of the box « expat+HAREM, the global niche -- Topsy.com()

Previous post:

Next post: