5 Global Escapes Perfect for a Month-Long Sabbatical

posted on 06-07-2019

Nearly two decades ago, I had the chance to take the summer off and see the world. Since then, I've only been able to sneak in a week-long trip here and there, trying to go abroad at least twice a year.

Yet I still long for the chance to really get away -- not just for a week but for a month or more. If and when that chance arises, I've already picked out the top five spots where I'd set up camp.

Each spot can serve as a base to wander around. After all, it's much easier to leave your luggage in just one place and take day trips rather than schlep your bags from town to town.

Home Base #1: The Amalfi Coast, Italy.
The town of Amalfi, due south of Naples, dates back to Roman times. Its side streets are filled with quiet shops and it's easy to lose entire days simply wandering into the local butchers, cheese shops and cafes. When you've had enough of idle wandering, it's time to explore the region. Neighboring towns such as Ravello, Positano, Sorrento and the Isle of Capri offer unique day trips and each place brings its own stunning set of views of the Mediterranean Sea. 

You Can't Leave Without....
...hiking the "Path of the Gods," a 2,800-year-old set of trails that overlooks the vertical village of Positano. The views as you wind your way down to the Tyrrhenian Sea will take your breath away.

Home Base #2: Santiago, Chile. This is a good choice for those looking for an urban getaway, as Santiago's dining and art scenes get stronger with each passing year. Best of all, it's a short hop away from the countryside. You'll find Napa-like wineries to the south, a funky art colony in the city of Valparaiso just an hour's drive west, and the beautifully arid vistas of the Atacama Desert just a bus or plane ride north.

You Can't Leave Without....
...spending half a day soaking up the culture at the new Centro Gabriela Mistral, a thriving multimedia arts colony. Latin American art is undergoing a renaissance and Chile is a major contributor.

Home Base #3: Melbourne, Australia. Considered by some to be Australia's cultural capital (though residents of Sydney will disagree), Melbourne is the perfect place for those without a daily itinerary. Simply wandering its neighborhoods will reveal art galleries, ethnic food shops, and antique emporia. When you've had your fill, simply rent a car to head out along the coastal roads that extend east and west. If you've been on California's Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), then you have a sense of how charming a drive with twist and turns along the ocean can be. Melbourne's coastal highway may be even more impressive than the PCH.

You Can't Leave Without....
...strolling through Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens. The 97-acre garden, originally developed more than a century ago as a haven for botanical research, focuses on species that are native to Asia and the Southern Hemisphere. The Chinese Gardens are a must-see.

Home Base #4: Great Barrington, MA.  The spiritual heart of the Berkshire Mountains, Great Barrington is a quaint small town by day and thriving culture scene by night, with several music venues nearby, most notably found at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA. Need to see a big city? Boston is just two hours east by car or bus. Need the cool off in the mountains? New York's Adirondack State park starts just sixty miles northwest. Want to go on a tour of wineries? New York's Finger Lake district is just a few hours west. And if mediation is your thing, the Berkshires and neighboring Catskill mountains are stocked with a wide range of Buddhist monasteries, spas and educational retreats.

You Can't Leave Without...
...paying a visit to the Norman Rockwell museum in nearby Stockbridge, MA. The 20th century painter and illustrator, whose work was regularly featured in the Saturday Evening Post, produced straight-forward American tableaus that appeal to grandparents and grandchildren alike.

Home Base #5: Istanbul, Turkey. If you can't decide what type of region to explore, then this is the place for you. Beyond the obv of Istanbul, virtually every culture in the world is just a short plane ride away. Istanbul's airport rivals New York's JFK airport in terms of the range of destinations served. Explore the classic ruins in Athens, Greece; take a tour of Vlad the Impaler's old stomping grounds in Transylvania, Romania. Chill out on beaches across the Black Sea in the Ukraine, or go scuba diving in the Gulf of Aqaba where Israel, Jordan and Eqypt converge.  All of these places can be reached by plane from Istanbul in just a few hours.

You Can't Leave Without...
...carving out time with Istanbul's major historical structures such as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. These buildings date back hundreds of years and were remarkable architectural achievements in their time. Also, Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, an indoor shopping mecca, is the perfect place to buy vegetables, antiques, rugs, or simply a cup of coffee.

The Investing Answer: Best of all, you can indulge yourself on these trips without breaking the bank. Local eateries can fill you up for a fraction of the cost of fancier restaurants, and multi-stop discount plans or train trips can be booked through regional carriers. Affordable lodging can often be found in people's homes. Websites such as Home Away, Couch Surfing, and Airbnb often have many listings for the city or town you want to visit. Prices are often a fraction of a typical hotel room, and you can get keen insights into what's going on locally from a city resident.