DER SPIEGEL – Worldcrunch
Earlier this week, as I packed my things for my first post-pandemic vacation, my eyes and mind focused on the object I spend more time with than any other: my laptop.
Of course, a lot has changed since the hiatus last summer. Instead of taking a plane, I’ll drive from my home in the northern city of Milan to the southern island of Sicily (with a short ferry ride). I also avoid August, the most unbearably crowded month to travel to Italy. And I will be camping instead of staying in an AirBnb apartment.
And yet, what’s surprising is how many will stay the same. Look around, after months of pandemic mourning and lockdown, European countries seem to appreciate more than ever the place tourism has in their lives – and their economies. Some countries are rushing to attract masses of visitors, worried about the absence of traditionally spendthrift Americans and Russians. Sicily even promised to pay for one night out of three in hotels, and to subsidize guided tours and visits to museums.
The reasons we travel haven’t changed much either. With borders reopening and the virus receding in Europe, many of us are planning vacations almost compulsively, as if it were a duty dictated by our Instagram feeds. According to the Wall Street newspaper, some flagship destinations are already full for 2021.
Not particularly interested in seaside nightclubs – which remain closed – my 2020 itinerary looks like any other year: walks through the island’s rolling hills, Greek temples and sizzling Baroque towns, to the sea , sand, good food.
Many of us plan vacations almost compulsively – Photo: Josi Donelli / LesNouvelles2 / ZUMA
Another thing that hasn’t fundamentally changed is that many will need to check their work emails while on the go. This has always been the case for millennials, in Italy and beyond, where the phrase “work-life balance” can be laughed at. The most extreme case that comes to mind is that of a friend of mine, whose boss wished him happy holidays, but added that as soon as he needs him for work, my friend will have to immediately return to his office.
As the German historian Valentin Groebner said in an interview with Der Spiegel, maybe the pandemic was our opportunity to rethink all of this. The word “vacation” has Latin origins, meaning respite from duty and work. But “the holidays have long been a ritual of consumption – not a discharge from duty, but just another kind of duty,” said Groebner.
Maybe, he suggested, we should use the pandemic to re-examine what “duty dump” means and ask ourselves if we really want to go back and join 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.