FOTOFRIDAY: Life’s a Beach

Posted on: Friday, March 27th, 2020
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The pun works well today, too well.

Days before California got closed, residents and tourists alike were blithely enjoying the sweet spots—including the 840 miles of lovely coastline. Memories help us cling to hope, and gather the strength and patience to weather hard times like this crazy virus.

Here’s to better days ahead.

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FOTOFRIDAY: A Sign of Sick Times

Posted on: Friday, March 20th, 2020
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During spring break last week, my daughter and I managed a BreakAway of sorts (more on that soon), and were enjoying a stroll down Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade on Thursday. That’s just one week ago today as I sit back home writing. The Nasty Corona Virus was all the buzz, yet this was the first sign I saw of a business closing. Man, how the world can change in a mere 7 days.

Travel tends to bring some risk and angst. But this trip featured an endless barrage of disturbing news, rather like the waves at a California beach that just keep coming and coming—but stressful, not peaceful.

We got lucky. Our ambitious checklist of things to do all got done, even though many of them would not have been possible the following day. We visited three colleges that suspended tours the day after. We were also the last guests to enjoy the Getty Museum, a neighborhood bar, a French restaurant…

We’ve returned to a shut-down, locked-down world, including my daughter’s school and sports. A world we must stay away from people, stock up on food, and hoard toilet paper. A world where many are worrying about not only how to pay bills, but how to eat. The situation is dreadful, and getting worse.

But, Dude! How was Cali? Well, it was a lovely trip, miraculously. We even played Frisbee under the sun on a beautiful beach; that’s a deep-tissue soul-massage for us Minnesotans. Normally, any sane person would feel sad to see a vacation like this one end.

Yet this time, as I comb through photos and memories and worries, this traveler can only say: There’s no place like home.

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Posted on: Friday, March 13th, 2020
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Spring break this year inspired a California trip for my high-school daughter and me. We had several missions: Visit family and friends; sneak in some sun, sand, and surf; and see some potential higher-ed schools.

“Be prepared” is a motto of this travel-centric website. So we packed ample snacks, sunscreen (didn’t need it), umbrellas (very handy, unfortunately), and hand sanitizer. Nothing, however, could prepare us for a world-wide pandemic—and all the accompanying fear and loathing. It’s brought new meaning to “traveling heavy.”

Still, we gratefully accomplished most of our goals, including a fascinating info session and tour of Pitzer College, in Claremont, CA, a school founded in the 60s and where those ideals are alive and loud. Proof: The “Freedom Wall,” where students can write anything, anytime. It’s extraordinarily popular, even sorta famous.

I would call it a work of participatory art—and find it interesting that people are fascinated by it. Can we say the same about the gazillions of messages placed online through countless platforms? No.

Art beats noise any day. And that happens every day at Pitzer College.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Life Before Costco

Posted on: Friday, February 21st, 2020
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Here you see a shop-owner dutifully working in the shadows of his perfect produce shop just outside of Paris 20 years ago. So much has changed on USA soil; there are myriad grocery options in most American cities, yet a family-owned fruit and beverage boutique may be impossible to find. Who can market a small market and make a living?

So this is life before Costco. It also portrays the other-worldly passion of worldly Paris, where such artisanal shops in 2020 are probably less omnipresent but still very present. And residents show up.

This writer-chef loves the savvy of Trader Joe’s and the convenience of a Target that sells everything from grapes to undergarments. But as I reminisce this random Parisian morning and a sight any traveler to France will encounter countless times, there’s no question which lifestyle offers better connection, quality, and values.

Long live Costco? No. Viva la France!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Baroque Helix Spire, Copenhagen

Posted on: Friday, December 13th, 2019
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No, I didn’t climb it. In fact, I had to snap this pic from a moving boat. But you can’t help but stare at the oh-so Baroque Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen. Built in 1617—when the city had already been thriving for some 500 years—the church also boasts one of the loudest carillons in Europe that plays 8 times daily, on the hour.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Slab City, Near Palm Springs

Posted on: Friday, December 6th, 2019
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Kirk Horsted

Alternative living community—busy in winter. “Slab” used to be a navy base; now it’s a seasonal “home” for a counter-culture tribe of nomads and artists. Artful, edgy, fun to photograph. Recommended for intrepid travelers only.

Like my camera-carrying daughter!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Ahh, Italia…

Posted on: Friday, November 22nd, 2019
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment
Kirk Horsted

Breakaway has already reported on the growing trend of offering sabbaticals as a marketing ploy. But have did you know that 280,000 people applied for airbnb’s sabbatical in Italy? Their mission for the free adventure? “Breathe new life” into the fading hilltown of Grottole—home to 300 residents. AND 600 empty homes!

It’s funny: Pastoral life in ailing Italy sounds like paradise to frazzled people everywhere. Yet in Italy, they seem to be abandoning the old ways and places to race into modernity. Such are the ways of…progress.

I’ve not visited Grottole, but I do love Barga, the Tuscan valley town that’s today’s FOTOFRIDAY pic. Barga is thriving, actually. But it’s surrounded by no less than 9 hilltowns in varying stages of abandonment and decay. Still, like 280,000 kindred spirits, I’d gladly BreakAway to volunteer for three months to help keep old Italy from dying.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Only in California?

Posted on: Friday, October 4th, 2019
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Why do you travel? One reason many would mention is to see new things. Indeed, your sense of observation gets more keen when in a new place. You just plain pay more attention.

That’s not to say that a rainbow poodle would go unnoticed on the streets where you live. I’m guessing that’s the point of painting your poodle: To draw attention. This particular critter crossed my path in Carmel, California, and seemed almost as interested in me as I was in him.

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Posted on: Friday, September 27th, 2019
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Kirk Horsted

God Bless America gets plenty of play. Heck, they still sing the song during the 7th-inning stretch at every Sunday MLB baseball game.

God Bless Puerto Rico? Not so much. Talk about being thrown curveballs, spitballs, and beanballs! In recent years, this unlucky territory of the USA has suffered catastrophic weather, skimpy support (not to mention abuse) from Mother Country USA, and a rapidly declining population as people flee their beloved but beleaguered homeland.

This week, Puerto Rico got pounded again by nasty weather. Sad. These are real people—real Americans. I’ve spent some time there, and aim to again. So today I salute Puerto Rico and wish them continued toughness and tenacity as they brave all these rough seas.

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Belize BreakAway Triggers Travel Reminders

Posted on: Sunday, February 10th, 2019
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BreakAway is largely about travel, obviously, though Mgt sometimes get hitchhiked down adjacent paths. We DO still travel—if not lately in the career-break, 3-months-away model. A recent trip, though, sparked reminders of why travel is vital, and how many cool places are a mere 12-hour travel day away.  : /

Like, Belize, which remains off most travel radars. It is small, after all (pop. 320,000), even though Madonna made its #1 destination, island San Pedro, famous with her 1987 hit “La Isla Bonita.” The island still embraces that nickname, of course! Belize is young, too; they only stopped being the British Honduras in 1981! Tourists will encounter some 3rd world conditions, and drugs allegedly float through.

Reality checklist recognized, Belize is charming. And booming. Waterside construction is common. And for the Retiree RE Speculators of America, it’s become a red-hot spot—with mega-developments popping up all over. Belize also happens to host the #2 coral reef on earth. So Belize offers a perfect place to thaw a northerner’s soul, re-juice the travel jones, and inspire reminders of why many of us love to travel in the first place.

Stuff like…

  • Relaxation will find you 

Although many travelers arrive with a must-see/to-do schedule, snowbirds know better when simply seeking warmth. I’ll confess: I had a sight-seeing agenda of sorts. But I think it blew off my lap and into the water I first hit the beach. That’s when you kmow you’re on vacation.

  • Nature rocks

I’ve seen more stunning tropical scenery. But who cares? Belize offers quintessential Caribbean beauty; the surrounding palm trees, iguanas, puffy clouds, and aqua water were magical. And have you ever noticed how your senses notice things more keenly when exploring beyond everyday avenues. 

  • Travel reveals the best in people

When I boarded the packed ferry from the mainland to San Pedro, I ended up on the sunny but uncomfortable stern. Where I come from, you can’t sit there. So I asked the Creole gentlemen next to me, “Can I sit here?” Our sunglasses met, and he cheerfully answered, “DEES BOAT EES FAH WE!”

Having gotten rusty on my Carib patois—and forgotten that Belize is not so much Spanish or English after all—I replied, “For who?” “FAH WE!,” he sang, in classic Caribbean patois, “SEET DOWN AND EEN-JOY DA RIDE!” So I did, salty spray and all.

Waitresses were sunny and funny. Cab drivers discussed history—the country’s and their own—and offered logistical tips. And I again experienced that travel truism: It often seems that people who have less seem to enjoy what they have more. As natives on other islands have explained to me, just about all locals have family, food (fresh fish, fruit, and vegetables!), and a place to sleep. They consider that bounteous.

Belizeans appeared to be genuinely kind, happy to be alive, and grateful to be there.

  • Indigenous dangers may lurk

Belize (or what I saw) showed few signs of crime, unrest, or violence (never saw a cop). Still, locals sometimes urged caution and offered safety tips—and were deadly SERIOUS about not wanting guests to become a crocodile snack!

  • New friends appear easily

I come from the land of Minnesota Nice. Yet we can as cold and harried as anyone anywhere. So it sure was fun to experience festive and gregarious strangers all over—like these condo neighbors from Toronto. Hey, we had OJ, they had vodka. Any questions?

  • Travel assures spine-tingling, 6-degree experiences

On the first morning, I headed out with a friend to explore the island via golf cart (which comprise ~90% of the vehicles on San Pedro). Our first stop was a beach bar. Naturally, the owner/bartender was from MN—and had procured the bar’s namesake (Paco the giant wooden monkey) from a Twin Cities Trader Joe’s.

Small world, or what!?! Well, the next person to sit down and chat had not only grown up on my hometown, but had gone to my high school. SCREEEEEEAM!

  • Every place has its attractions

In Belize, it’s all about the barrier reef. Oh sure, many tourists are happy just to bask in sun, sand, and surf. But only Australia has a bigger reef. So the dive boats are omnipresent, as is the dive chatter.

(Worth noting: Partying comes a close second in popular activities. To paraphrase the t-shirt of every warm sailing/surfing/diving destination, “Belize is a drinking island with a diving problem.”

  • Events will wow you

Sure, the sports bars (or any place with cold beer and a functional TV) were rocking for the NFL playoff games that Sunday night. And Saturday night brought all revelers—tourists and locals alike—downtown for the bars and clubs. But the MAIN event was Sunday’s super-blood-wolf total eclipse of the full moon, courtesy of a clear sky and brilliant reflections.

  • Local humor thrives

Warm-weather vacations are a big thing for North Americans. But remember: When you go south, it’s winter there too. So while January temps range from ~65 – 85, you’ll likely experience varying conditions. Thank goodness for the local coconut weather-caster to help us make sense of the shifting weather!

  • Authenticity will overtake you

San Pedro caters largely to northern tastes. Yet local color rules. And most eateries served creations with Caribbean twists. Flavors aren’t shy, and fresh ingredients abound; a stop at a F&V stand will land you a football-sized papaya for around $2. And as for seafood? It’s so fresh you might eat it raw—like this sublime tuna poke on crispy plantain cakes at Rojo Lounge and Beach Bar.

  • “Island Time” works just fine

As vacation days fade away, workaday worries feel much less relevant than, say, kicking back poolside. In fact, that book may go untouched due to the urgent distraction of repose. The clock disappears and Island Timegently kicks in. Nothing better.

  • You must go home again, but don’t stop Belizin’!

Like some of these pics, vacations quickly seem blurry. After a few days of January chill back home, the left brain rightly asks, “Did that just happen?

Well yes, it did. And God willing, it will again. So embrace the souvenirs and stare at the pictures. And of course, start scheming the next vacation, the next destination, the next BreakAway…

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