Suzanne Cohen, 33, unemployed, with 7-month-old Marc
“I’ve been unemployed since last March—I used to work in an asset-backed-securities department. The layoff was a complete shock: I was five months pregnant and it was the first round of layoffs. Now everyone’s getting laid off. But I have to say, it’s been fantastic staying home every day with Marc. My husband and I could still use an escape from this economic gloom. I know absolutely nothing about Tahiti—except that their bug season is in November—but the simplicity and beauty of the island attract me.”
The Escape: Tahiti
There’s no better cure for economic gloom than Tahiti. Bad news is, there’s no budget way to get there. Save some money by booking one of Tahiti Nui Travel’s air-hotel combos, all of which depart from Los Angeles. Bora Bora’s a classic beach-stay, but for something even less developed, try a barefoot retreat on the private island of Vahine at one of three overwater bungalows at the Hotel Vahine Island (from $3,500 for six days and five nights; slh.com). Navigate the island’s aquamarine lagoon in a free kayak or traditional Polynesian oar boat, called a pirogue. Paddle to the nearby Champon pearl farm to watch necklace-bound jewels extracted. Sample Tahitian-style shrimp and lobster in vanilla sauce at Chez Louise, a quick boat ride away on the island of Tahaa.
Laksmi Cruz, 23, music producer and vocalist
“I’m escaping ex-loves. I was at a party, and there were two ex-boyfriends in the same room. I was like, ‘Is my social circle that small?’ I would go to Thailand. My father’s a philosopher and my mother’s an artist, so Eastern philosophy and Buddhism are very much in my blood. It’s good to put things in perspective when you have all these material ambitions.”
The Escape: Thailand
It’s about 9,000 miles from New York, teems with 64 million people, and has some of the most venerable Buddhist temples in Asia, so Bangkok is an ideal place to put past lives behind you. Go to the Wat Phra Kaew to see the famous but tiny Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho to see the famous and enormous golden reclining Buddha. At the Chang Pier, take a water taxi along the Chao Phraya River to meditate on the intriguing yet peaceful coexistence of hulking modern freighters and rickety-looking wooden boats. Instead of a mammoth soulless hotel, stay at the colonial-style all-suite Eugenia (from $165; theeugenia.com).
Daniel Meeter, 55, pastor of Old First Reformed Church
“I work 24/7. I am the president of all the Reformed churches in Brooklyn, and we are having a tough time. Religious organizations are under tremendous financial stress. A lot of our volunteer organizations, like child care, caring for the sick, caring for the poor, caring for the homeless, are under stress. I could use an escape from all that. I am drawn to Istanbul because it’s both Muslim and Christian, European and Asian. I’d like to find a version of Islam that’s progressive. The other thing is the architecture, the food. I love Turkish food!”
The Escape: Istanbul
East meets West in high relief at two of the world’s greatest religious monuments—the Hagia Sofia, built as a Byzantine church, and the many-spired Blue Mosque—which sit adjacent on Istanbul’s main square. They’re within walking distance of the 27-room Fehmi Bey hotel (from $122; fehmibey.com), whose terrace overlooks the Old City. Fill up on kebabs at Hamdi Et Lokantasi, near the Egyptian spice market, or head to the bohemian Nevizade street in Beyoglu, where locals graze on mezes at the numerous meyhane, or taverns. In the bazaar in Kadiköy, chef Musa Dagdeviren creates an array of authentic peasant dishes, served up cafeteria style at Çiya Sofrasy.
Marilyn Volpe, 63, CEO, the Madison Consulting Group
“My company is trying to bring in new clients because ours—mostly blue-chip companies in different industries—have been hit hard. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d go to Sardinia. I lived in Rome twenty years ago, after leaving my job to pursue a singing career. I sang with an American-standards band that traveled all over Italy. There was a resort in Sardinia called the Cala di Volpe—my namesake! I’d love go back to that place, practice my Italian, visit the countryside, and eat. In Italy, you never, ever have a bad meal.”
The Escape: Sardinia
Though it’s now run by Starwood, Hotel Cala di Volpe (from $1,190; caladivolpe.com) is nearly the same as it was twenty years ago—chic, picturesque, and very expensive. A more affordable way to see Sardinia is to rent a villa on the south side of the island. Sarena Harvey with Sardinia Holiday Concierge (sardiniaholidayconcierge.com) recommends the three-bedroom Villa Hejira, a five-minute drive to the beach and village of Pula. In Cagliari, grab a cappuccino with the local gossips at the Antico Caffè. Spend a morning at San Benedetto, the largest food market on the island—and a good place to practice your Italian. Sa Cardiga e Su Schironi is the island’s best seafood joint, where regulars don’t bother with a menu and waiters push trolleys piled with fish.
Edward Freeman, 26, sales associate at Williams-Sonoma
“Even though my hours were just halved at work, I thought to myself, Well, now I have more time to spend with my dogs. My husband and I have two dachshunds, and I take them everywhere. There’s a way to enjoy the city without spending so much money. I’ve never been to Berlin. We’d stay at a small hotel, taste authentic German food. We’d go to see German theater, something by Brecht if possible.”
The Escape: Berlin
Major European capitals don’t come much cheaper than artist- and squatter-loving Berlin. Make the hip Mitte district your headquarters; stay at the Honigmond (from $201; honigmond-berlin.de), a cozy nineteenth-century home turned hotel, whose café was once popular with the East German intelligentsia. Pay your respects to Brecht at the Berliner Ensemble, established in 1949 by the playwright and his wife—although you’ll have to book soon to catch the one-night performance of Brecht’s Mother Courage on April 26. Auguststrasse, sometimes referred to as East Berlin’s “art mile,” is full of galleries, and nearby, Konnopke’s Imbiss is the go-to stand for all things pork.
Jason and Garry Clemmons, 22, models
“We just want an escape from the city—we want more clean air, water, sun. We like peace and quiet. We went to Nassau, Bahamas, a couple of years ago and fell in love with a resort called the Ocean Club. We liked how secluded it was. We went jet-skiing for the first time, did a lot of tanning, a little gambling, and the food was great! We had fried lobster tails, and the plantains were amazing! We always travel together.”
The Escape: Bahamas
The One & Only Ocean Club (from $590; oneandonlyresorts.com) is undoubtedly peaceful, and it’s currently offering a stay-three-nights-get-one-free special. But for an even more secluded getaway, puddle-jump twenty minutes to Eleuthera, a largely undeveloped island known for its rugged cliffs, rolling green hills, and inland lagoons. Stay in an ocean-view room at the Cove at Eleuthera (from $295; thecoveeleuthera.com). Sign up for an adrenaline-soaked day with Bahamas Out Island Adventures (from $59; bahamasadventures.com), whose guides will take you cliff-jumping, surfing, or drift-snorkeling down Current Cut, a water channel teeming with grouper, snapper, nurse sharks, and spotted eagle rays.
Julien Florez, 9, third-grader
“I would like to escape my teacher who gives us really hard homework; she’s very strict. I want to go see the Great Wall of China with my best friends Martin and Rocco. I’m not afraid of heights; I wanted to climb the pyramids in Chichén Itzá, in Mexico, but I wasn’t allowed to. I want to see the big temple where Bruce Lee trains. I used to do martial arts at Tiger Schulmann’s, so I could protect myself from bullies.”
The Escape: Beijing
The Shaolin Temple where Lee trained isn’t in Beijing, but there’s some pretty great kung fu to be seen in The Legend of Kung Fu, an hour and a half of martial arts that runs nightly at the Red Theatre. The Great Wall is divided into sections; Badaling is closest to the city, but overcrowded. Family-travel expert Leslie Overton of Absolute Travel (absolutetravel .com) suggests the Mutianyu, where you can experience the wall on foot or camel, or the Simatai, which has a zip line. Refuel at Beijing Dadong Kaoya Dian, a Peking-duck restaurant with a tourist-friendly picture menu. Don’t miss the Beijing Aquarium, or the scene of Michael Phelps’s triumph—a.k.a. the Water Cube—which offers a pretty spectacular tour. Book a Grand Deluxe two-bedroom at the Grand Hyatt in Beijing (from $300; beijing.grand.hyatt.com). It’s big enough for a family, and the concierge can help leap language barriers.
Luqman A. Magied, 69, CEO of an international consulting organization
“I’m involved in a perpetual love affair with New York, but I just want to get away for a while. I’m bored of it. It’s not that I’m affected by the economy. My company raises money for commercial-real-estate initiatives in the United Arab Emirates, and let’s just say I know what I have to do for a client. If I was going to relocate, Vancouver would be the place. It’s very peaceful, and you have the best of both worlds—the wildlife and the city. I stayed there five days once, and I didn’t hear a single siren—not from an ambulance, fire trucks, or cop car—and I thought, Wow. This is great.”
The Escape: Vancouver
Already green Vancouver is getting even more so with the near-complete construction of the Carrall Street Greenway, a twelve-mile pedestrian pathway that wends its way around the entire city. Navigate the loop on foot or rent a tandem bike at Spokes Bicycle Rentals, near the entrance to Stanley Park. Take the Aquabus across False Creek to Granville Island, which has an excellent public market. For a more urban experience, splurge on a Premier View room at the recently revamped Four Seasons (from $254, third night free through the end of April; fourseasons.com/vancouver), and take the new Canada Line metro to the country’s (and some say the continent’s) best Chinatown, in suburban Richmond. Show up early for lunch at the tiny Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen; ask for xiao-long bao (soup buns), the house specialty.
Laurie Rice, 50, internist
“I’d like to escape the subway rush hour, and the urge to see as many patients in one twelve-hour day as possible, and instead go to a place that is more simple and, in a way, more gratifying. Kenya is the most beautiful place I know. I’ve been there as a volunteer physician for the Hope Alliance. I’d like to go back and make it a vacation this time, go on safari, visit the enchanted Lamu Island off the coast of Mombasa. There’s no cars, just donkeys and traditional boats. I wouldn’t mind a shower this time—we usually camp.”
The Escape: Kenya
Gabrielle Nijdam, a consultant at the Kensington Tours agency, which specializes in trips to East Africa (from $4,015 for ten days; kensingtontours.com), suggests hitting the savannah of Masai Mara, the expansive park reserve in southwestern Kenya. Time the trip as the seasons change in August and September to see hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra running to greener pastures. You’ll get your own private guide and a four-by-four vehicle to experience the hot desert-scape of Samburu National Reserve, the lush greenery of the Aberdares National Park, and the savannah of Masai Mara National Reserve during morning and evening wildlife drives. At night, you’ll retire to a breezy riverbank tent base camp with antique-style furnishings, electricity, and showers. For the final two days, fly to sleepy Lamu, an island famous for its fourteenth-century Swahili architecture and narrow, rush-hour-free streets.
Jennie Alexander, 33, office manager at Simon, Eisenberg & Baum, LLP
“I’m escaping from work. I manage a law firm that’s actually expanding at the moment. Because I’m the office manager, I’m the one on the front lines, reporting directly to the senior partners. I get home from work late, and have only a bit of time with my son before he goes to bed. I want to sleep on the beach in the Bermuda Triangle, drink margaritas, and hang out with the locals.”
The Escape: Bermuda
Bermuda feels pretty escape-y to begin with, and the biggest and best public beach, Somerset Long Bay, is on the western side of the island, far from the airport and the busier parishes. Book one of 84 stilt cabanas at 9 Beaches (from $342; 9beaches.com), which has plenty of nap-friendly hammocks scattered about the property. Enjoy the lack of cars by mopeding around the neighborhood, or snorkel over some of the Atlantic’s best coral reefs. Margaritas? Not so much. The Dark ’n Stormy (ginger beer and rum) is the local drink—which is also, conveniently, the name of 9 Beaches’ own bar.
Brandon Grimm, 21, student
“I’m tired of school and work; I’m a senior at F.I.T. and an intern at Victoria’s Secret. I’m not sure what I want to do for a career: either become a bra designer or join the circus. I’m auditioning with Cirque du Soleil in May in Orlando as a dancer and an aerialist. I need to escape to a place where I can enjoy nature. I’m not impressed by architecture—Paris and Italy don’t interest me much. But I’ve been to Alaska twice before, and I love it! The wilderness, glaciers, wildlife—that’s what makes me happy.”
The Escape: Alaska
Perhaps the best way to take in Alaska’s natural splendor is to drive the Alaska Highway, which stretches more than 1,500 miles from Dawson Creek in British Columbia to Fairbanks. You can do the whole thing in a week to ten days: Pack hiking boots for a trek to see Kluane National Park’s ice fields, a bathing suit for a dip in the natural hot springs at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, and some fishing gear to try your hand at roadside fishing holes—pick up a copy of The Highway Angler to find the best ones on your route. The most economical lodging option is to stay at campgrounds and RV parks (campgrounds-alaska.com), but cheap lodges and motels are plentiful along the highway, and you don’t need to make reservations in advance.
Josephine Abotsigah, 20, office manager
“My commute is nightmarish: I live in the Bronx, my job is on 14th Street, and my internship with a cardiologist is in Brooklyn. I want serenity. In Jamaica, things are natural, and people’s attitudes don’t seem forced. I want to take things slowly for once, have a relaxed pace, enjoy the Jamaican food like oxtails that are to die for, rice and beans, fresh tropical fruit. I’d want to do water sports, try basket-weaving, painting, carving wood.”
The Escape: Jamaica
Bypass the resort compounds and head to Treasure Beach, a string of sleepy fishing villages along the island’s southern coast. Get your oxtail fix at Oliver’s Dutch Pot, which has a rotating menu that includes curried goat and jerk pork, or feast on baked crabs—best with a cold ginger beer—at Sister Lou’s River Stop. Stroll the tiny shops of Little Bay, about an hour’s drive away, where artisans make and sell traditional wood carvings, ceramics, and baskets; you can have hands-on demonstrations or buy ready-made pieces. Book the terraced Abalone Upstairs room at Jake’s (from $195; jakeshotel.com), a congregation of shacks and cottages. The resort can set you up with free snorkels.
David Rothschild, 65, oral surgeon
“I’d like to go to Buenos Aires with my wife, Deborah, who just got knee-replacement surgery. We’d love to go to a tango bar, walk the streets, go to museums, to nice restaurants. I hear the shopping is good, too. Deb can shop till she drops—that’s probably why she needs new knees.”
The Escape: Buenos Aires
The Cochabamba 444 in San Telmo is where the city’s best tango dancers go on Friday nights. Shopping? Conveniently, this neighborhood has a great, sprawling Sunday antiques market, centered around Plaza Dorrego. After a morning of browsing, take a long lunch at La Brigada, a traditional parilla where the steaks are so tender the waiters use spoons to cut the meat. Avoid the high-end international stores in the ritzy Recoleta district, and browse Palermo Viejo for handmade Argentine leather products like local label Sibyl Vane’s jewel-toned ballet flats. Stay nearby at the BoBo, a twenties mansion turned seven-room boutique hotel (from $165; bobohotel.com).
Olivia Silver, 12, sixth-grader
“Everybody here is rushing-rushing, and you don’t have a lot of time to go to the cinema. I get up at six every day and get on a packed subway, take it to and from school. I like being away and in a hotel with all of the soaps. I want to go to Paris to see all the new fashion there—the different textures and the clothes at Chanel. I want to eat fresh cheese and olives. I would be really, really happy there, practicing my French a little bit.”
The Escape: Paris
The end of July is when all of Paris’s big bi-annual sales happen—including Chanel’s. But if July is too far away, you can leave now to scour Scarlett, a vintage boutique off Avenue Montaigne, for secondhand Chanel handbags, jackets, and costume jewelry. Stay in the Marais, at the Hotel du Petit Moulin (from $257; hotelpetitmoulinparis.com), where the seventeen Christian Lacroix–designed rooms are stocked with Anne Sémonin soap. It’s just a stroll from the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the city’s oldest market, where you’ll find a vast array of cheeses and olives. Catch the latest art fare at Cinéma Gaumont Champs-Élysées Marignan, just down the street from Ladurée, a patisserie founded in 1862, and the place to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Mark Dekki, 21, student
“The stress in my life right now isn’t related to the economy: It is my long-distance relationship. It’s hard to manage. My girlfriend is in Alabama, and the last time I saw her was in January. I want to be with her for spring break. Miami would be nice: the hotels, the clubs, Nikki Beach. I always have a great time there. And I really need a tan.”
The Escape: Miami
The oceanfront party complex Nikki Beach is a great place to ogle other people’s bodies, but for a private sunning experience, book one of the 27 rooftop terrace suites at the Hotel de Soleil (from $429; desoleilsouthbeach.com)—soon to be renamed Z Ocean Hotel South Beach. Each features a spiral staircase leading to a 600-square-foot terrace outfitted with a hot tub and wet bar. Very romantic. After watching the sun set, grab a bite a few blocks down Collins Avenue at the Pan-Asian Setai or at the cramped but Über-hip Bond St Lounge on the lower level of the Townhouse hotel. When the night turns to drinking and dancing, try the Louis, a model-frequented lounge at the Gansevoort South.
Francisco Anzola, 39, banker
“I used to do two trips a year, and now I’m only doing one, a modest one—using miles, avoiding big hotels. I’m usually calm, but I am getting up in the middle of the night about this economy. I’ve never been to Iran, and I’m really interested in its history. I’d like to see the architecture, the Blue Mosque, the city of Isfahan.”
The Escape: IranThe best way to travel to Iran is with a reputable tour agency—like New York–based Iran Custom Travel (irancustomtravel.com), run by Farsi-speaking sociologist Norma Lee Nichols-Mahdavi, who will arrange hotels, meals, and transport and help you obtain the appropriate visa. Start in Tehran, where you can stroll through the former shahs’ palaces of Golestan and Sadabad. Next, visit Yazd, a desert city with otherworldly dome dwellings and beehive-shaped cisterns that provide cool water in the summer. Make your last stop Isfahan, described as nesf-e jahan, or “half the world.” It’s a former capital of Persia, and home to the spectacular Blue Mosque.
Interviews by Iavora Daraktchieva, Galen DeKemper, Denise Penny, and Frankie Thomas. Travel reporting by Geraldine Campbell.