Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist


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Risking it All for a Lost Dream

I've spent a long time working toward the next step of my life. Spent years of my childhood dreaming of the faraway places in my favorite history books. My teenage years lit only by visions of sun-drenched landscapes and ruins and seas I wished I could visit but never thought possible.

In my twenties I began to explore these places. A little. A sculpture apprenticeship here, a few arts internships, and solo sketch-crawling while studying at a university there. It was never enough, and while I always dreamed of going back for more, once Asia had me firmly in her grip I thought there was no room for two places in my life at once.

But then we moved from Hong Kong to Sydney. And I was ripped in two. You see, Hong Kong had become a home for me, without my realizing it. It had all the skyscrapers and dynamism, the possibilities and chaos of New York City, with green islands at the end of every ferry in town. A materialistic, pragmatic, driven population of 6 million who are some of the most highly educated and long-lived in the world.

And who make up some of the most creative curse words too.

While I was enthralled with Asia I was still haunted by dreams of another sea, far from that of South China. So in 2009 as I traveled through the hills and rivers of Southeast Asia in search of papermakers for my book, I trawled certain real estate and expat websites in earnest and made local contacts. Kept a sharp eye on my savings from a year of teaching art in Hong Kong. Monitored Dollar exchange rates against the Euro.

And one afternoon during a break from compiling the first draft of my book on a beach in eastern Thailand and I saw the US dollar was on a high,  I made an offer on a quirky little studio I'd lusted over for six months in a half-forgotten town on a Mediterranean island, not far from an ancient amphitheater which has been resurrected next to the sea.

I decimated my savings for awhile, and will do so again this year. I puzzled people who'd only met me in Asia, and hadn't known me long or well. It's not an obvious art career move – after all, it smacks of retirement planning more than maneuvering into museums or high profile collections.

But I've got plans for this place. Plans that will start out small and flexible. No mortgages, no financiers, just me and a few small rooms that I'll turn into something special, with the help of a couple of friends who will soon join me there.

I'm terrified, but know that's a sign I'm on the right path. It's going to be a long road, but I'm willing to put in the effort, and some have been inspired to lend a hand when I needed it most.

This isn't the first time I've risked everything for a dream, nor will it be the last. But this project has been a long time coming. I look forward to taking you along with me soon.

PS: I'm going to take 2+ weeks off of blogging as I travel a convoluted route through Alice Springs, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, and London to get to my destination. I'll be back writing posts by the end of the month. You can keep up with me on Twitter here: @Ebriel

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