Life Audit

Vacation Base Camp

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Vital statistics Ross Fishman

Position CEO, Ross Fishman Marketing, Highland Park, Ill.

Goal To plan a monthlong working family vacation.

As the CEO of his own law firm marketing company, Ross Fishman is a lawyer on the go. His work often has him traversing the globe to meet with clients and, whenever possible, he likes to bring his family along.

This summer, however, Fishman wants to shake things up a bit. Instead of taking family with him on a business trip, he wants to take his business with him on a family vacation. As long as he has reliable cell phone service and Wi-Fi access, he figures the working vacation should be rather transparent to his clients.

So Fishman has planned to take a month away from the office starting in late July, and he and his family are game to go just about anywhere. In addition to staying connected to his office, Fishman needs easy access to an airport should he have to hop on a plane for a client meeting.

And since he is planning to spend a portion of each day working, he wants to have enough activities to keep his four kids occupied without overburdening his wife.

“We have a wide range of ages and interests, so we need variety and things of interest to an 8-year-old girl and high school boys,” says Fishman of his children, ages 8, 11, 14 and 17. “We want to do some relaxing around pools or beaches blended with educational activities like tours, museums, architecture and landmarks. We wouldn’t want to be on the go constantly; we’d need a base camp of some sort with day trips from there.” Fishman says they have toyed with the idea of spending the month traveling through Europe or Asia but also like the idea of staying closer to home and driving through the western United States to see national parks and monuments, including the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands.

Fishman and his wife have budgeted $25,000 for the month away from their suburban Chicago life. Their only question is what destination will fit their bill of particulars? There is no shortage of destinations for a monthlong summer vacation, says Life Audit travel expert Julia Rosien, but given Fishman’s business and family entertainment needs, the spots they’ve contemplated aren’t going to pass.

Asia will be problematic for several reasons, says Rosien, including connectivity, time changes and access to spur-of-the-moment international flights. It’s difficult to get a flight from Asia to the United States on less than two days’ notice, she says. Plus, when he factors in the 16-plus-hour flight times each way, Fishman could lose up to a week of his vacation. Ditto for Europe.

Rosien thinks Fishman’s choice of domestic summer travel is a far better bet for his needs, but she cautions him about heading west. He’s likely to experience connectivity issues in the vast expanses of open land, plus he could be far away from an airport.

Instead, Rosien suggests the Fishman family head north–to Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

Composed of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada’s Maritimes will offer the Fishmans the perfect mix of history, culture and outdoor activities. Plus, there are several major cities in these provinces, Rosien says, which means Fishman will have no problem staying connected to his office and clients. Rosien suggests kicking off the summer vacation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s a relatively quick flight from Chicago to this Canadian port city, and there the family will find a unique combination of maritime history and culture set in a bustling city on the Atlantic Ocean.

While Fishman is working, his wife and kids can visit the historic Citadel fortress and take in some of the museums there, including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, which boasts life-size models of whales and exhibits about famous shipwrecks like the Titanic.

Don’t miss the city’s vibrant downtown either, says Rosien. With six universities centered there, the city has a wealth of hip restaurants, shops and galleries that will please his teens and tweens.

But Halifax has more to offer than just city life and museums. Rosien wants the Fishmans to rent a car and tour the rest of the province. There they will find a variety of interesting day trips to take from their Halifax base camp, including Peggy’s Cove, a fishing village whose striking terrain on the coast makes it one of the country’s most photographed sites. Drive the Lighthouse Route on Highway 104 to the towns of Chester, Mahone Bay and Lunenberg for more memorable scenery, she suggests.

Don’t forget to take a dip in the ocean, either. A warm water current runs into the Atlantic Ocean just off New Brunswick, making the beaches perfect for swimming, she says. And afternoons and evenings will come alive at the variety of outdoor festivals that run throughout the province in late July.

After a week touring Nova Scotia, take a ferry ride over the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island. Best known as the setting for the classic book Anne of Green Gables, much of this province’s tourism industry revolves around the novel. Visitors can spend days touring the home and land that inspired author L.M. Montgomery. Be sure to spend a day or two on the island’s red sand beaches, says Rosien. Despite its north Atlantic location, the waters also are warm enough to swim in.

From Prince Edward Island, Rosien suggests driving to New Brunswick via the famed Confederation Bridge, and going straight to Saint John, this province’s capital city. Also known as Fundy City, Saint John has some of the highest tides in the world. The funnel-shaped dip in the Atlantic coastline creates tides up to 55 feet high twice a day in the Bay of Fundy, but during low tide the water is low enough that you can walk on the ocean floor, Rosien says.

If the Fishmans are up for more historic and cultural activities, Saint John offers several interesting military forts, including the Carleton Martello Tower and Fort Howe. Several day trips also can be taken from Saint John, including one to St. Martin’s, a seaside village on the Bay of Fundy where historic sea captains’ homes and covered bridges provide perfect photo opportunitie.

Also venture to St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, Rosien says. This picturesque small town near the Maine border dates back to the 18th century and offers visitors a variety of museums and shops.

While there, head to the surrounding peninsula to take in the tides of Passamaquoddy. Water levels there rise some 28 feet or more twice a day. Low tides leave nearly six square miles of explorable beaches with lots of sea creatures and artifacts on the sand, says Rosien.

The Fishmans also will find numerous outdoor outfitters to take them on whale-watching expeditions, sea kayaking trips and bike tours throughout New Brunswick.

“You can still get your own piece of wilderness” in Canada, Rosien says. She adds that Canada “is still an undiscovered treasure.”

And one that’s surprisingly close to home.

WE NEED YOU! Got some room to improve? Get free advice from the experts on health and fitness, finance, work-life balance, entertaining, travel and wardrobe plus your mug in this mag with Life Audit, the Journal’s monthly lifestyle feature. It’s fun, fast and free. If you would like to participate in a future Life Audit, please e-mail Jill Schachner Chanen at [email protected].

Our Expert Julia Rosien: As editor-in-chief of, an online community dedicated to outdoor adventure, Julia Rosien travels the globe looking for the ultimate excursions for travelers of all ages, budgets and thrill-seeking quotients.


The Far-Away Workday

If it’s between taking a working vacation or no vacation at all, by all means pack that laptop. Just know that it might take some extra effort to get meaningful work accomplished. Here are some simple ways to make those far-away workdays more successful and ensure that you won’t be put on a permanent vacation.

  1. Safeguard Silence: Call the hotel manager to ask for a quieter floor or room to allow you to concentrate. Not staying at a hotel? Call the local chamber of commerce or visitor information center to find out about libraries, or quiet cafes or business centers.

  2. Secure a Cell: Don’t assume your cell phone will work everywhere. Call your provider to make sure you have coverage, and don’t forget to inquire about roaming charges.

  3. Clarify Connectivity: Just because you know the difference between Wi-Fi and high-speed Internet access does not mean everyone else does. Call ahead to find out whether the hotel or vacation condo has real Wi-Fi or if something else is needed to access the Internet.

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