Travel News

On the Air: Elisa Bernick, Family Sabbatical

famsabPut down your Blackberry.

Turn off your iPod.

Close your eyes and relive your past travels.

Maybe it’s Flamenco dancers and performers crowding the streets…or the smell of salty ocean air…or the flavor of a sweet Beaujolais made from grapes outside your window…

Now open your eyes and get back to work!

If it were up to author Elisa Bernick, you’d get down to business, quit your job and make that fantasy come true…with your family in tow.

As avid travelers, Elisa, a writer and teacher, and her husband Michael decided to drop everything in Saint Paul, Minnesota (jobs included) and try out a new life with their two young children, Cleome and Asher. After three years of serious financial planning, paying off their debts and saving money, the Bernick family took an 18-month sabbatical in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

In her book, The Family Sabbatical Handbook, Bernick explains all the steps they took to make the trip happen and what to do once you get there.

They didn’t know anyone in San Miguel de Allende. They didn’t speak Spanish. And they didn’t know how their kids, who had never traveled for longer than two weeks, would adjust to the change.

But surprisingly, once they were in Mexico, the Bernicks didn’t have trouble assimilating to the culture.

Even the kids weren’t picky about eating traditional foods: “They had the freshest food in the universe. My kids never ate fruit like that before. In Mexico, they have 35 varieties of mangos alone,” Bernick said.

In Mexico, the family found local schools and doctors through word of mouth and online. “I’ve learned to just ask everyone [for advice],” explains Bernick. “We posted on Internet chat boards and got so many suggestions.”

Bernick wanted Cleome to attend public school and was surprised by the quality of the educational system. “They have an excellent school system for children in school prior to middle school. The math program is superior.”

Five years after the sabbatical, the family has returned to Mexico six times. “We have so many lasting friendships from the experience,” said Bernick. “[Now] my daughter is pushing us to go on sabbatical to Vietnam before she graduates high school!”

By Jessica Reinis for

Listen to Elisa Bernick live on Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio this weekend. Also, join pop culture historian Chris Epting as he takes us on a journey across America where rock and roll history was made, plus much more.

Call Peter live on the air Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST at 1-888-88-PETER (1-888-887-3837).

For more on family vacations, check out “Traveling with Tweens”.