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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Save Summer: Send Your Kids to Camp

Posted on: Wednesday, August 15th, 2018
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The game is called Gaga. And it’s been going on much longer than Lady’s been lusting for limelight. It happens in an octagonal, sand-filled pit, has no real beginning or end, can accommodate as many players as want to squeeze in, and beckons kids from about age 8-16. My best guess is no adults have competed, or are invited. It’s a Camp thing, you see.

Camp rocks. From my parents’ lakeside deck overlooking the bay where Camp happens, I listen day and night to Camp noises including singing, screaming, chanting, laughing and, of course, the sound of sailboats and kayaks and canoes capsizing. Which leads to more screaming, laughing, splashing… My son (now in college) and my daughter (in high school) have done an overnighter week at this camp since they were old enough. They (and their friends) unanimously call it “the best week of the summer” and give it an 11 on a 10 scale.

  • The summer conundrum

That one glorious week aside, many parents of late have taken to overscheduling their kids’ everything, including summer. I get it. After all, MN schools meet all of 180 days per year—and about 11 of them feature early dismissal. Is than an adequate education? Probably not. So this parent felt a hefty responsibility to augment those 169 classroom days with summer opportunities of all kinds, from arts to science to watersports and crafts to ________________.

Throw in our culture’s kid sports obsession—that can lead to multiple sports, games, and practices per day—and it’s little wonder that people say, “Kids grow up so fast these days…” Because we make them. We push them. We need to get them out of our face so we can work and take a break. And, well, they need to get off their butts and their stupid screens. Sadly, you know that’s where their minds will usually be glued if given too much free time. Yuck.

  • Welcome the do-little movement

Still, there exists a noteworthy backlash against over-scheduling summer. A early-summer Strib article told of parents (some of them social-media mavens) preaching the gospel of lazy days and mellow moments. Of un-programming. Of swimming, biking, pottery, libraries, and (my favorite) encouraging kids to stare at the ants for 30 minutes if they feel like it.

In other words, kids need to learn to create things on their own. To go outside and make-believe or make up a game.

To. Be. Bored.

  • Ahhhh, precious boredom…

Boredom. Now there’s a luxury most people can ill afford these days. Even youth. Yet, frankly, it feels so good. Sitting on that deck and listening to those kids celebrating summer and childhood and getting-away-from-it-all from sun-up through the wee hours is, for me, a sacred boredom. I never get tired of it. And I smile with deep gratitude inside that my offspring get the chance to be there. Do that. To just be kids. Surrounded by others just like them but from all over. With the supervision of counselors who, for the 8 weeks or so weeks of Camp, also become kids again.

We all need Camp, or at least that state of mind. We all need to feel young, to let summer float our souls into a sunny bliss, to wash ourselves in the timeless, warm waters of lakes and ponds and rivers and pools. To ditch our screens and careers and to-do lists.

There’s still time. It’s only mid-August. You’re still alive, and so’s that kid inside of you.

Jump in and enjoy!

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When Hurricanes Hit, Even Memories Get Shattered

Posted on: Sunday, September 17th, 2017
Posted in: Travelog | 4 comments


So many people and places are getting crushed by weather lately. It’s selfish to think this way, but my memory flies to favorite places I’ve been to, sometimes for months, that are now slammed. I love the Caribbean, you see, where a rare sense of equanimity and joy rushes through me from the moment I step off the plane.

I love the weather. The people. The culture, the food, the music. The history—even though some of it is now considered shameful, it’s in the past. Yet amazing tales, lore, and legends live on. I love the endless shades of aqua waters, the fish and birds and beaches and wildlife—the kind that thrives in both the bush and bars.

There are too many islands, communities, and people to write about; I’d pen a book. But my heart hurts for the incomparable damage and the herculean rebuild to come. That will take years. And frankly, some things will probably never be the same.

I must share a few random pictures (all from St. John, USVI) and briefly mention 3 favorite islands and visions from my rich memory bank…

  • Key West.

The college boy taking time off. Hitchhiking misadventures. Dolphins smiling and flirting by the sailboat. Big birds. Musicians, jugglers, and the Fudge Lady gathering at Mallory Square to watch the sun go down. When it does, everyone cheers crazily. It’s like paradise. The live music never stops at Sloppy Joe’s, where Hemingway hung out. He’s still there.

  • Tortolla.

The Rasta Mon. Surfers. Lobster. The natives speak a deep patois with a British accent. Mind your manners. Natives are on the move all night Saturdays. They call it LIMIN’. Named after LIMES. How cool is that? Half-moon Bay, prettier than any postcard. On a nearby secluded beach, Bomba’s Surf Shack serves mushroom tea and has hundreds of ladies’ skivvies that hang from the ceiling. There is an outrageous full moon party every month.

  • St. John, USVI.

75% US national park. Glorious, endless public beaches with water so clear you can count the rays. Countless visits, a half-year stay, my children crushed in waves and smiles since Day One. My happiest place.

  • “Pray for strength”

I have 1,000s of pictures, many pre-digital. That’s worth at least 100,000 words. So, stop.

May there be enough spirit, strength, and resources to ensure these earthly heavens look like something this again one day soon…

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Why are Danes so Happy?

Posted on: Monday, April 11th, 2016
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Last month, the United Nations declared Denmark the happiest country of the 156 they surveyed. For the third time. Since 2012. “Happiness” may be a worn-out word and hard-to-measure commodity. But the UN has cred. And for this (admittedly biased) Danish-American and world traveler, Denmark certainly gets my vote.

But why? Press coverage offers good answers and theories every time the country wins. And here are five of mine.

5 reasons why Denmark is the happiest nation

  • Denmark has pride


Danish pride leans toward the subtle and sincere—not the USA!USA!USA! kind of pride screaming through America’s jingoistic masses. Rather, Danes find pride in supporting their businesses, minimizing pollution, keeping things clean, revering tradition, and respecting each other. The feeling is visible and palpable.

  • Denmark celebrates culture


The arts of all kinds are omnipresent in Denmark. The libraries (as in the picture, above) feel more like playrooms. That renowned Danish design is everywhere you look, yet so is visual variety and crazy-different history. From breakfast pastries to stunning museums, from second-hand stores to Copenhagen’s famed shopping district, “distinctly Danish” describes most every detail. You’ll have a hard time finding a McDonald’s, Starbuck’s, or Budweiser.

  • The Danes are open-minded


Danes have little interest in debating lifestyle options that make many religions and politicians pontificate ad nauseum. Their socialist-democratic style of government and individual entitlements ensure that most folks have few worries. And few folks worry about telling others how to live their lives.

Does all this permissiveness make Denmark unsafe? Hardly. During my last three-week visit a few years ago, I saw one cop. He carried no gun. He looked lost.

  • Danes practice “hyggelig”


Hyggelig is hard to explain; it’s more of a feeling—that cozy, warm, comfortable, secure sensation that might happen when you, say, curl up by the fire with your BFF, guitar, cat, and beverage of choice. It has to do with food, family, fun, and enjoying what you have—even if the day may be cold, wet, and gray.

  • Danes value freedom of time


Despite the rumors, Danes are driven, hard-working people—fiercely independent and self-sufficient. That’s how they compete in the world economy and afford their way of life. But they value their free time even moreso—with short work weeks, family leaves, and lifelong education—and generous vacations.

Might a young Dane be encouraged to fill the backpack and take a gap year? Ja! Might a family put careers on hold and sail off to a one-year sabbatical? Ja! Might BreakAways to their pristine natural settings, to neighboring EU nations, or to tour the world be more of an birthright than a faraway fantasy? Ja!

It’s no wonder that the likes of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders find themselves discussing Denmark as an example of how a country can succeed—for everyone, not just the 1%. The world is noticing. So does the UN.

Denmark, you win. I’m happy for you.

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Shhhhh…Don’t Mention St. John

Posted on: Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
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So I’m at a gathering and someone breaks out a travel trivia book. Live-ability, largest island, crime rate, what have ya. The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) makes the Top 10 crime rate list. But I guess aloud that St. Croix and St. Thomas probably account for that unfortunate distinction. Lovely places, but sh*t goes down.

I haven’t been to the VI in 21 days, but the sun still runs in my veins. That’s a good thing. Because otherwise, these MN winters can, like, make you crazy. I love it here. But the gray season can become an endurance contest. Who will win?

St. John isn’t perfect. But it’s close, as vacation islands go. Of course, you can’t really go wrong when you’ve got an island the size of Manhattan, only 4,000 full-time residents and another 10,000 or so peak season. Nearly 3/4 is national park. The friendlies are local, and the cool are natives. (Reverse that…)

That’s why I’ve been going, when possible, for nearly three decades. One time, I stayed for more than five months. More recently, my family of four stayed a few weeks and then headed south for 69 days of serious island hopping.

The water’s always warm. Roads are mostly twisted, and you drive on the left. (Why? Because everybody else does!) Frogs sing all night. The beaches are mostly public, pristine, and roomy. You can’t go wrong—and may want to add it to your travel bucket list.

But please: Just don’t tell anybody…

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