Republican presidential candidate former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista Gingrich greet workers at a nail salon during a campaign stop at Southbridge Mall on Dec. 28, 2011 in Mason City, Iowa. (Scott Olson/GETTY IMAGES)

MASON CITY, Iowa -- Presidential contender Newt Gingrich said at a stop here on his bus tour across Iowa that he took his wife on a Greek cruise last spring to provoke a confrontation with his campaign team.

It worked. Much of his team quit almost immediately upon his return from the vacation, which, coming just days after he officially launched his candidacy, seemed somewhat ill-timed.

Gingrich said it was quickly clear to him that he was not going to be the candidate his consultants wanted him to be -- and that he has no regrets about taking the trip. He said he and his wife, Callista, were struck while filming a documentary about Ronald Reagan that, if you add up all the days Reagan spent on his ranch during his eight years in office, it amounted to a full year away from Washington.

“This was an extraordinarily effective president,” Gingrich said. “He spent one year out of eight at his ranch. He was achieving a sense of balance and a sense of distance. He wasn’t sucked into the Washington baloney.”

Gingrich denied that splitting during the first days his campaign seemed, well, odd. “We had been campaigning very hard. We had planned for a long time to stop for 10 days, to think. I know this doesn’t fit the normal media model for how candidates operate. We had been working ever since January to get everything lined up and organizing. We had been working very very hard. It wouldn’t have mattered if we did it in the first week or the first week of July. I think you need to pace yourself.”

He added: “But I also wanted to say to the consultants: I’m a different kind of candidate. I’m determined to be positive. I’m determined to talk about big ideas. I write books. I’ve made movies. I think ideas matter. The consultants found this very mystifying. Either they needed to be the consultant to my campaign, or they needed to leave, because I couldn’t be the candidate for their campaign. And I think it worked pretty well. Within two hours of their leaving, we were back on track.”

For good measure, Gingrich also said that there was at least one other benefit to the cruise: He got to see the Greek debt crisis “up close,” giving him a much “deeper perspective” on how hard it will be for the world to avoid a global recession.