It's very realistic when you are young and have no ties. Even a crusty bastard like me has taken a few years out of his life for retreat. Admitting that your need for comfort and security is greater than your spiritual aspirations is more honest than saying it is an escapist dream. People love money and worldly life more than Dharma. It sounds like you are trying to comfort yourself by thinking everyone has your low standards.
Might I point out that you know nothing whatsoever about my standards?
Let me put it this way: I don't think I've ever met personally and in meatspace even one Western person who "took a few years out of his life for retreat" and came back a noticeably better practitioner - by which I mean, a kinder, more relaxed and more compassionate person. Sure, I may know nothing whatsoever about their actual attainment. But broken up marriages, severed family ties and abandoned kids all speak volumes here. As does the self-aggrandizing hype along the lines of oh-you-know-nothing-you've-learned-nothing-don't even-try-comparing-yourself-to-me-before-you've-been-to-a-real-retreat.
I'm absolutely certain there are numerous exceptions. I'm also fairly sure for many, perhaps for most, of us it's just a dangerous trip.
This IMO depends on the person completely. For some it may indeed be escapism but not for everyone. But even for those (of us perhaps hehe) for whom it would be escapism, I still think that whatever the original reason was for them to leave, if they put in the practice they're bound to get some results.
Depends more on the time and place, time of life. For me right now? Total escapism, total fantasy. I simply can't go off on a retreat of any kind - I can neither afford the time or the money, and I can't leave my family in the lurch. I couldn't justify it to them and actually, I couldn't justify it to myself either. Any results I gained would have to be offset by my lack of compassion towards the people I love and who rely (to a certain extent) on me.
I agree wholeheartedly. My situation exactly - and, more generally, the situation I've had in mind all along.
Also, for many people in the West - especially men, if my experience is in any way representative - it's long retreats which are the easy appealing option. And it's everyday responsibilities, silly mundane chores and various previously made commitments that such people find unbearable, not long-term solitude. In such a case, going on a long retreat is little but a regular samsaric escape, I'm afraid.
I'm not castigating anyone - as I said, I do know the urge (and have been warned by my teacher not to follow it). We all have our limitations. It's OK.
The goal of enlightenment is to free yourself from the cycle of rebirth and death and freeing yourself from samsara necessitates the severing of your family ties. To have severed family ties is actually a blessing as this means your karma with the other parties have finally been resolved.