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food / travel

Summer Holiday Can’t Quite Escape The Virus, Or The Office

On the beach in Italy
On the beach in Italy
Alessio Perrone

Earlier this week, as I packed my things for my first post-pandemic vacation, my eyes and mind dwelled on the object I spend more time with than any other: my laptop.

Of course many things have changed since last summer's break. Instead of flying, I'll drive from my home in the northern city of Milan to the southern island of Sicily (along with a short ferry ride). I'm also avoiding August, the most unbearably crowded month to travel in Italy. And I will be camping instead of staying in an AirBnb apartment.

And yet, what's surprising is how much will stay the same. Look around, after months of pandemic mourning and lockdowns, European countries seem to be relishing more than ever the place that tourism has in their lives — and economies. Some countries are racing to lure back masses of visitors, worried by the absence of traditionally big-spending Americans and Russians. Sicily has even promised to pay for one of every three nights in hotels, and to subsidise tours and museum visits.

The reasons why we travel haven't changed much, either. With borders reopening and the virus seemingly receding in Europe, many of us are planning vacations almost compulsively, as if they were a duty dictated by our Instagram feeds. According to the Wall Street Journal, some top destinations are already selling out for 2021.

Not particularly interested in seaside discos — which remain closed — my 2020 itinerary looks like it would any other year: drives through the island's rolling hills, Greek temples and sizzling Baroque cities, some sea, some sand, great food.

Many of us are planning vacations almost compulsively — Photo: Josi Donelli/TheNEWS2/ZUMA

Another thing that hasn't fundamentally changed is that many will have to check work emails as they travel. This has always been the case for millennials, in Italy and beyond, where the expression "work-life balance" can be met with a giggle. The most extreme case that comes to mind is from a friend of mine, whose boss wished him a great vacation, but added that as soon as he needs him to work, my friend will have to rush back to his desk immediately.

As the German historian Valentin Groebner said in an interview with Der Spiegel, perhaps the pandemic was our opportunity to rethink all this. The word "vacation" has Latin origins, meaning respite from duty and work. But "vacations have long been a consumption ritual — not a discharge from duty, but just another kind of duty," Groebner said.

Perhaps, he suggested, we should use the pandemic to reexamine what "discharge from duty" means, and ask ourselves if we really want to go back to joining the summer vacation herds.

Having finished writing this article, this opportunity seems to have already passed. I packed my laptop and took it with me.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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