Skip Town -- For Real

Urban legend has it that you've gotta be downright filthy rich (and/or retired) to escape the sweltering Phoenix summer. Meet some mythbusters with sweet careers -- or lack thereof -- that give them a chance to split town, come June.

Become a "Professional" Student
Angel Fuentes plans on never trading his "career" in academia for a real world filled with sterile cubicles and monkey suits. Following the completion of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez's Theoretical Physics undergrad program, the 22-year-old scoured the globe for universities offering graduate degrees with heavy completion times, and soon enrolled in Arizona State University's Astrophysics Ph.D. program. During his summers off, the native Puerto Rican heads back home to the island, hanging with friends at sun-drenched beaches and party-hopping bars.

"It is the best job you can have," says Fuentes, who plans to take off every summer by teaching in a university following graduation. "You get a lot of money, take long vacations in the summer and winter, and you get to fail students, too! How can it get better than that?"

For a listing of ASU's graduate degree programs -- and length of study for each -- visit

Paint Yourself Gone
Photorealist painter Suzanne Falk finds inspiration for her honest reflections of how she sees the world -- portrayed by storybooks and childhood treasures -- during summers traveling back roads.

"I enjoy finding abandoned hotels, motels, gas stations, and rusty cars," says Falk. "In a way, I time travel for fun, both in life and in my art." Her most unusual summer holiday, says the self-taught 36-year-old artist, happened during a four-year period where she dropped out of society and painted from the road.

"I was staying in Carson, New Mexico, at the earth ship house of the painters Robert and April Anderson," she says. "One evening, we stepped out under the big night sky to find the aurora borealis breathing red above us, which was a freak sighting so far south."

This coming summer, Falk will take her blank canvases to San Francisco.

"I would never trade careers, but I do wonder what it would be like to be a regular girl who wears yellow and likes the mall," she says. "Then I get over it."

Landlord a European Casita
Julie Hampton spends much of the year residing in a quaint downtown Phoenix apartment, an economical space she's been renting for the past nine years. But her dreams take her elsewhere. In 2000, while making a simple living as a teacher and moonlighting as a poet and performance artist, Hampton fancied opening an overseas school for high school art students. She didn't get far, initially, but continued to pursue the idea of owning European property and eventually discovered the Rosenclaire House, nestled in northern Tuscany in the charming medieval mountain village of Vitiana, Italy.

"I was driving into the village on a switchback-filled road and through this mystical rain," says Hampton, 36. "Once I passed the lit-up piazza in the town center and saw the house, I was sold."

Two problems, before the sale could be completed: Hampton ain't rolling in dough, and she didn't know the first thing about home buying.

She came back to the States full of enthusiasm and determined to sell the idea to investors. A lawyer was discouraging. A small business adviser was worse.

"As I was explaining my idea, he bent over in his chair and looked around the floor, like he had dropped a pen," Hampton recalls. "I asked him if he needed help with something and he said, 'I am looking for my bucket of cold water to dump over your head.'"

Frustrated but determined, Hampton contacted a trusted friend who helped her form an LLC. She ran an ad in the New York Times for three weeks and sent out e-mails to everybody on her contact list. Financial donations in exchange for rental time poured in, and borrowed bank money sealed the down payment deal. Fini.

When Hampton isn't relaxing during the Italian summers in the upstairs sunroom or the large living and dining rooms with fresco, she rents out the 2,500-square-foot two-story home (located two hours west of Florence and one hour from the Mediterranean coast) on a weekly basis. She's hoping to hold art workshops in the summer of 2007 with Phoenician artists Tania Katan, Angela Ellsworth, and Carol Panaro-Smith. To inquire about renting -- and get out of town yourself -- contact Hampton at [email protected].

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Steve Jansen
Contact: Steve Jansen