The XX Factor

One Family’s Caribbean Sabbatical

The Horsted family, from St. Paul, Minn., believes in taking mini-sabbaticals every few years. On their latest adventure, parents Kirk and Kyia took their eleven-year-old son, Jesper, and five-year-old daughter, Elsa, through the islands of the Caribbean for over three months this winter. Kirk created a website to chronicle their trip. Make Your Breakaway . The family is sharing their experience with Your Comeback today. We begin with a timeline that Kirk put together.

On December 17, 2008, our family of four set off on a 69-day Breakaway to the West Indies to escape Minnesota winter-and continue a tradition of radical sabbaticals. We ventured to five islands. Stayed in eight different places. Traveled by air, land and sea. It was the best of times, mostly-with the occasional meltdown and snafu.

September 28, 2007. I present the sabbatical vision-a “someday” dream-to the kids’ elementary school principal. She not only approves, she wants to come along!

May 5, 2008. Mom and Dad sit down Jesper and Elsa to seek their (symbolic) buy-in; no problem, mon.

September 16, 2008. I launch and begin blogging about sabbaticals by asking, “What’s the Big Idea?”

September 17, 2008. Planning is impossible, big “buts” are everywhere, and blogging feels embarrassing. But I toil away anyway.

October 9, 2008. This journey is simply NOT coming together. Doom and gloom loom while the odds-of-going meter plummets to 33 percent.

October 20, 2008. No turning back now: We’ve bought tix to St. John, and will fly home from San Juan. But where to go in between-who knows!?!

October 21, 2008. A HUGE day! Serendipity strikes when an old travel article falls in my lap: Grenada, we must invade!

October 28, 2008. 50 days before takeoff, the the costs and worries are piling up.

November 9, 2008. Another Breakaway breakthrough day : An itinerary of five alluring islands gets loosely set, and the odds-of-going meter hits a new high (90 percent).

November 29, 2008. The anxiety is getting relentless and I find myself seriously doubting this idea, not to mention my own sanity.

December 13, 2009. With only four days till takeoff, emotions and panic run high-but so does the odds-of-going meter: 95 percent.

December 15, 2008. 29 hours before takeoff, everything hits the fan: two are very sick; sewer backs up; sleeplessness and a storm rage on.

December 18, 2008. Yes! It’s day one of our 69-day sabbatical, on familiar St. John. We hunker down into a state of liberation and bliss.

December 19, 2008. We are not alone! We befriend a couple who throws a dart to determine the destination of their annual Breakaway.

December 21, 2008. This solstice brings less winter and more warmth-so it’s easy to find 11 reasons to love this pagan holiday.

December 27, 2008. Breakaway bummer: Requisite medical emergency occurs when our daughter, Elsa smashes her finger in a heavy door.

January 3, 2009. 18 sweet days have flown by. Now we must fly away too, on a 14-plus hour journey to the isle of St. Vincent.

January 5, 2009. St. Vincent surprises with unspoiled beauty and lost-in-time authenticity.

January 8, 2009. We ferry to beautiful Bequia, an unheard-of island that will be our home for 17 days; it’s love at first sight!

January 17, 2009. Paradise lost: Gnarly neighbors, nasty insects, and more problems conspire to inspire a rant about a Breakaway’s dark side.

January 19, 2009. Home schooling is well underway, and we parents receive a solid “B” for effort.

January 21, 2009. “Obama” is the word as we join ex-pats, Bequians, and the world in watching the inauguration of a new era.

January 26, 2009. The most challenging travel day features three boats, seasickness and storms, and (eventually) a dramatic landing on Grenada.

January 31, 2009. Dreams come true: Grenada is like Harry Belafonte’s gentle Caribbean, and it’s our “home” for a month.

January 31, 2009. Home schooling is great, but the kids are learning more from locals, okra, and conch.

February 17, 2009. With only ten days left, it’s time to focus on the important stuff: The First-Ever Great Caribbean Beer-off!

February 20, 2009. Isle of Grenada, I’ll miss you and your passion most of all.

February 21, 2009. This hellish travel day includes Grenada’s revenge, a customs nightmare, and LOTS of islander stinkeye.

February 25, 2009. Help! We’re “home!” To “reality!” Where cultures, climates, and agendas quickly clash! And yet…the kids are giddy, and life is good.

April 7, 2009. I end the travelog with a heartfelt letter to my children , whom I now realize made this Breakaway perfect-just like they are.

Kyia Downing is a creative strategist, copywriter and branding consultant-and one-half of 2 Heads Communications, a miniscule Minneapolis marketing consultancy.

Kirk Horsted is a sabbatical advocate, avid dad and part-time hedonist-and the other half of 2 Heads Communications.

Photograph of Jesper and Elsa Horsted courtsey of the Horsted family.