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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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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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