The XX Factor

How You Can Run Away to the Caribbean With Kids in Tow

By Kirk Horsted

Brainstorming Your Breakaway

No doubt there are times you dream of running away from your family…but perhaps you should consider running away WITH them instead. Sound radical? Perhaps. But I’m here to assure you that you can (and perhaps should) take a break and get away-leaving your stuff and responsibilities behind.

For the next five minutes, shift your attention from your PDA to focus on your Breakaway. Start visualizing a prolonged and faraway escape. Yes, a sabbatical. The fact is, few experiences can be so eye-opening, exhilarating, and cathartic.

Intrigued? Here are some suggestions:

Go away, far away. Chances are, there’s some place on the globe you harbor a strong urge to visit. For more than one frazzled week. So leave the predictable confines of the USA behind and expand your worldview. You’ll never see things the same way again.

Accept your mission. That’s the difference between your Breakaway and an extended vacation: Mission. There’s something you’ve been longing to do, and this is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Go deep into yoga, help your kids learn Spanish, or find your roots in the homeland. Elevate your sabbatical with a quest for a coveted desire you’ve been neglecting.

Stretch it out. Strive for a minimum of three months. Whether alone or with a family, travel is hard work; it can take weeks to overcome time changes, exhaustion, and confusion. Plus, what you’re doing-and what you’re seeking-is complex. Give it time. If you rush your extended getaway, it won’t feel like one.

Put your job on hold. Oh sure, you could plug in and talk shop all along the way. And if your mission is to test your professional portability-or there is no other way out of town-go for it. Otherwise, know that you’ll have a better experience if you focus on the experience. For a change, work will wait.

Balance structure with spontaneity. Is that not one of life’s more cosmic challenges? In this case, it means giving yourself a few months in one special place-but also room to roam. Map out a path to advance your Mission, but welcome worthy detours. Set up the stability and comfort you need to relax. Then seek the adventures that you crave.

Travel light. Most of us swear we will, but then schlep an apothecary and spare wardrobe. Fuggedaboutit! Carry your life on your back-literally. Remember: You’re leaving behind your burdens, responsibilities, and baggage. (You probably won’t miss a thing.)

Consider service. Want your legacy to include making the world a better place? Just do it. Help feed hungry families. Teach English to third-world students. Dig into sustainable agriculture. Show your children another way of life. Chances are great you’ll gain more than you give.

Record your own history. Although this flies in the face of “travel light,” please do cart along your camera, camcorder, PowerBook, sketchpad, diary, or other recording device of choice. There’s no better way to capture precious daily details and-more important-to remember them later.

Useful websites

We didn’t use that many general websites for this trip…

Mostly a lot of Googling to research destinations and find relevant local blogs and links. That said, here are a few: especially the reviews & forums-invaluable. : a treasure trove of information-not pretty, but thorough. info & tips off the beaten track. good source for long-term exchanges and vacation rentals. : geared for academics, but works for the rest of us. : what to do to amuse the littles when you get there. a good book (and site) with helpful resource links. : lots of content-with an expat spin. : serious health risks or outbreaks? know before you go. if your cell or plan doesn’t work abroad. if your luggage doesn’t comply with new airline requirements.

“It’s not a financial decision”

Sounds good, right? So what’s stopping you? For most people, the stumbling block is money. Powerful stuff, those numbers on paper. That’s why we need to fight back with this omnipotent mantra: ” It’s not a financial decision .”

Really now, did you make your biggest life decisions based on some spreadsheet? No. Consider: choosing a college, then a career; getting married, or unmarried; having children; quitting a crappy job; moving. Sure, “costs” received attention. But following your passion and values mattered most. Moreover, regardless of your net worth, you likely already enjoy among the cushiest lifestyles on the planet. How will you spend your lifetime of good fortune?

Also ask yourself: Whatever your “work” may be, isn’t the point to earn the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Are your discretionary dollars better spent on bigger vehicles, homes, and stuff-or bigger vistas? Would you work three years longer at your career’s end to free up three years along the way? Can you maintain a fresh, productive point of view without refreshing experiences? On your deathbed, will you reminisce about meeting deadlines-or meeting mates in Australia?

Now for some little leaps

If you’re still reading without cynicism, you’re probably ready to take a few small leaps. Like, talk to other families who’ve done it. Start a journal. Propose it to your life-partner. Run it by your employer. Watch for windows (of time and place) and windfalls (of cash). Take a test-run vacation, and take pride in using up ALL your vacation days! In time, create a schedule and budget that accommodates this priority.

As if three months away were not their own reward, expect generous, ongoing dividends. You’ll overflow with new ideas from novel places. You’ll gain the wisdom of the well-rounded person who knows that balance is essential to both work and life. You’ll have initiated a new life plan driven by heartfelt convictions, worldly relationships, and real independence. And if you take your journey as a family, you’ll come home with deep bonds and beloved memories.

But take your time-because you’ll need ample patience and persistence. And be willing to adopt the mantra, ” Everything is right on schedule .” It can work wonders when you’re getting frustrated and losing hope.

After all, believing in Breakaways is not just about lusting for leisure. It’s also about finding faith. So feel free to disregard all these ideas and follow your own bliss. Above all, feel free.

Photograph of Elsa Horsted courtesy of the Horsted family.