Posts Tagged “london”

All Aboard for a Train Ticket to Bring Europe Together Again



Turning 18 never was so sweet until now.

Photo Courtesy of  Shutterstock

Author: Nikolaos Papadogiannis, Bangor University

In many countries, turning 18 marks the transition into adulthood. With it comes the delights and difficulties of all new rights and responsibilities, from voting to drinking alcohol. Now, there’s talk that it could also be the beginning of an international adventure.

Last year, members of the European Parliament debated whether young Europeans should be given a free Interrail pass on their 18th birthday. The initiative was welcomed by representatives from across the political spectrum, and attracted grassroots support from over 33,000 petitioners. Although the idea has yet to become an official policy, the European Commission has shown interest.

Since Interrail launched in 1972, it has given young Europeans the opportunity to travel at low cost across most of the continent, including countries that don’t belong to the European Economic Community or the European Union. At the moment, a monthly Interrail pass costs between €43 and €493, depending on how far and how frequently one travels. Around 300,000 young Europeans use this programme each year, but if the free Interrail pass initiative is successful, it could attract a sizeable proportion of the 5.4m 18-year-old Europeans annually.

The argument goes that underwriting Interrail passes for young adults is good value for money, because it helps the next generation of European residents to experience and understand other cultures. In theory, meeting and making friends with people from other European countries will strengthen cultural and political ties across the continent. Yet this optimistic outlook deserves closer scrutiny: we shouldn’t simply assume that young Europeans will take up the offer, or that travel will build a common European identity.

Destination: Europe and beyond

This is not the first time that travel has been touted as a way of fostering good relations across Europe. From the ashes of World War II, diverse initiatives sprung up to promote reconciliation through youth tourism. For example, the International Youth Hostel Federation successfully persuaded European governments to ease restrictions on youth travel by changing or getting rid of passport, visa and currency requirements.

Such initiatives proved attractive, and young people increasingly engaged in cross-border travel. By the 1960s, the majority of people aged 20 to 24 in West Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands had visited two or more “foreign” countries. This trend continued in the following decades: in Germany, at the beginning of the 1990s, 17 to 19-year-olds had visited seven to eight countries on average, both within and outside of Europe.

Young hearts ride free.
Giorgis Charalampidis, Author provided

But since then, the financial crisis in several European countries, together with high youth unemployment rates, have apparently taken their toll. Recent market research has shown that the number of foreign trips by young Europeans has fallen by around 10% over the decade to 2015. Based on these observations, it seems that initiatives which make travel cheaper and easier can encourage young Europeans to venture across the continent – and that the time is ripe to introduce another such policy.

Ever closer union?

The question remains, whether traveling would strengthen cultural or political ties across Europe. There is some basis for such a claim: young supporters of European unification in 1950 asserted that “our passport is the European flag”. It was not just youngsters who were already pro-European, that traveled across the continent. According to a study by Ronald Inglehart in the 1960s, the younger people were, and the more they traveled, the more likely they were to subscribe to the idea of an ever closer political union in Europe – though this did not necessarily mean that they approved of the existing European institutions.

Yet, historically, youth tourism has brought about frictions as well as friendships. For example, my own research shows moments of cultural misunderstanding in youth hostels as far back as the mid-1960s, when staff at one West German youth hostel bemoaned that many French guests drank too much alcohol. Other scholars have investigated why local men in Greece in the 1980s sought out women from Northern Europe, including young ones, in tourist resorts to have sex with. Those men saw themselves as part of a poorer society, and sought to “sexually conquer” women tourists from richer countries, in order to take “revenge”.

These experiences show that youth tourism has the potential to deepen divides in Europe by playing on some negative stereotypes.

Leaving the station

A free Interrail pass could increase the number of young people traveling across the continent. But if the European Commission is looking to build stronger ties across Europe, this scheme won’t necessarily be enough to challenge negative stereotypes, let alone save the European idea. The commission will need to seek out other ways to maximise the impact of the scheme.

Giorgis Charalampidis, Author provided

Getting young tourists to narrate their Interrail experiences on social media could help achieve that. It wouldn’t be difficult: those who take up the pass could be asked to contribute to a blog, Instagram page or Facebook group. This would create a place for young travelers to describe how they feel about the people of different nationalities, ethnicities (including migrants) and genders they encounter on their travels, and where residents are given the chance to respond.

The ConversationThis would present an opportunity for all to honestly reflect on moments they shared together – both enjoyable and uncomfortable. Ideally, the commission would encourage all to think critically about the prejudices against one another that circulate throughout the media. Travel and the use of social media won’t eliminate racism. But they could well help people from across the continent to empathize with one another – and that is certainly a goal worth funding.

Nikolaos Papadogiannis, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary History, Bangor University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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How to Protect your Private Data When You Travel to the United States



What do you do if a border official asks for your phone PIN?

Photo Courtesy of Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Author: Paul Ralph

On January 30 – three days after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order restricting immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries – an American scientist employed by NASA was detained at the US border until he relinquished his phone and PIN to border agents. Travelers are also reporting border agents reviewing their Facebook feeds, while the Department of Homeland Security considers requiring social media passwords as a condition of entry. The Conversation

Intimidating travelers into revealing passwords is a much greater invasion of privacy than inspecting their belongings for contraband.

Technology pundits have already recommended steps to prevent privacy intrusion at the US border, including leaving your phone at home, encrypting your hard drive and enabling two-factor authentication. However, these steps only apply to US citizens. Visitors need a totally different strategy to protect their private information.

The problem

Giving border agents access to your devices and accounts is problematic for three reasons:

1) It violates the privacy of not only you but also your friends, family, colleagues and anyone else who has shared private messages, pictures, videos or data with you.

2) Doctors, lawyers, scientists, government officials and many business people’s devices contain sensitive data. For example, your lawyer might be carrying documents subject to attorney-client privilege. Providing such privileged information to border agents may be illegal.

3) In the wake of revelations from Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, we have good reason to distrust the US government’s intentions for our data.

This problem cannot be solved through normal cybersecurity countermeasures.

Encryption, passwords and two-factor authentication are useless if someone intimidates you into revealing your passwords. Leaving your devices at home or securely wiping them before traveling is ineffective if all of your data is in the cloud and accessible from any device. What do you do if border agents simply ask for your Facebook password?

And leaving your phone at home, wiping your devices and deactivating your social media will only increase suspicion.

What you can do

First, recognize that lying to a border agent (including giving them fake accounts) or obstructing their investigation will land you in serious trouble and that agents have sweeping power to deny entry to the US. So you need a strategy where you can fully cooperate without disclosing private data or acting suspiciously.

Second, recognize that there are two distinct threats:

1) Border agents extracting private or sensitive data from devices (phone, tablet, laptop, camera, USB drive, SIM card, etc.) that you are carrying.

2) Border agents compelling you to disclose your passwords or extracting your passwords from your devices.

Protecting your devices

To protect your privacy when traveling, here’s what you can do.

First, use a cloud-based service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or to backup all of your data. Use another service like Boxcryptor, Cryptomator or Sookasa to protect your data such that neither the storage provider nor government agencies can read it. While these services are not foolproof, they significantly increase the difficulty of accessing your data.

Next, cross the border with no or clean devices. Legally-purchased entertainment should be fine, but do not sync your contacts, calendar, email, social media apps, or anything that requires a password.

If a border agent asks you to unlock your device, simply do so and hand it over. There should be nothing for them to find. You can access your data from the cloud at your destination.

Protecting your cloud data

However, border agents do not need your device to access your online accounts. What happens if they simply demand your login credentials? Protecting your cloud data requires a more sophisticated strategy.

First, add all of your passwords to a password manager such as LastPass, KeePass or Dashlane. While you’re at it, change any passwords that are easy to guess, easy to remember or are duplicates.

Before leaving home, generate a new master password for your password manager that is difficult to guess and difficult to remember. Give the password to a trusted third party such as your spouse or IT manager. Instruct him or her not to provide the password until you call from your destination. (Don’t forget to memorize their phone number!)

If asked, you can now honestly say that you don’t know or have access to any of your passwords. If pressed, you can explain that your passwords are stored in a password vault precisely so that you cannot be compelled to divulge them, if, for example, you were abducted while traveling.

This may sound pretty suspicious, but we’re not done.

Raise the issue at your workplace. Emphasize the risks of leaking trade secrets or sensitive, protected or legally privileged data about customers, employees, strategy or research while traveling.

Encourage your organization to develop a policy of holding passwords for traveling employees and lending out secure travel-only devices. Make the policy official, print it and bring it with you when you travel.

Now if border agents demand passwords, you don’t know them, and if they demand you explain how you can not know your own passwords, you can show them your organisation’s policy.

This may all seem like an instruction manual for criminals, but actual criminals will likely just create fake accounts. Rather, I believe it’s important to provide this advice to those who have done nothing illegal but who value their privacy in the face of intrusive government security measures.

Paul Ralph, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Soulivity Featured Artist: Valeriya Vygodnaya

Valeriya Vygodnaya, Collaborator

Soulivity Magazine



Valeriya Vygodnaya is a Russian-born photographer, who lives and works in London and Paris.  Her inspiration is based on theater, ballet, and cinematography. While traveling around the world, she collects impressions of different movements in contemporary art.


Valeriya’s musical and acting background helps her to explore and understand the psychology of the performer on the stage, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. She treats each shoot as an adventure and experiment, carefully prepared but leaving a space for a chance and very special “decisive moment.”

(For full-size photos, please click on image to enable the lightbox)

The Jump
The Jump
© Valeriya Vy
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Valeriya Vygodnaya is Russian-born photographer who lives and works between London and Paris.  She studied photography at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and London College of Communications. Valeriya developed an interest in art, fashion and dance photography and started her career shooting mainly on 35mm black and white film. Nowadays she is using mixed practice with analog and digital technologies.


Her work has been exhibited in London, Paris and  Saint Petersburg with limited editions of her silver-gelatin prints being held in private collections. In 2011 she teamed up with her friends and established the concept photography boutique “Double Vie.”

Make sure to follow her on social media:

Facebook: VygodnayaPhotography

Instagram: Vygodnaya_Photo

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Why Winter City Breaks Are Best




Whether it’s a short holiday,  or a weekend, a city break is always a great idea. Since transportation and hotel accommodations are usually included, these vacations are typically fantastic deals.  Choose one city you want to spend time in;  and then,  make the arrangements. It’s that easy! And, in winter, city breaks are especially attractive.


Not convinced? Here are some reasons city breaks are a good idea:


1. Lower Rates

From airfare to hotels, you will find lower prices in the winter. Entire packages are much cheaper, even all-inclusive ones. Even some luxury hotels offer lower rates in the winter time.


2. Fewer Crowds

Winter is not the typical vacation time for most people.  You will find admission to museums and even popular tourist attractions to be easier and faster, due to the lack of long lines.  You can enjoy: viewing works of art; taking hikes; riding public transit; shopping; or, your favorite activities.  All are without crowded conditions.  This opens up possibilities that might not be open otherwise.  How many times have you decided not to do something because of crowds or long lines?


3. The Winter “Blahs”

City breaks are just the thing for a winter getaway. Depending on where you live, winter can get very long, cold, and grey. Even visiting cities with similar weather gets you out of the house; and, into a fresh and new environment. If you take a city break in a tropical location, or other warm area of the world, winter is the perfect time to enjoy the sun and heat.


Here are some of the more popular destinations for winter city breaks:


Other popular destinations for winter city breaks include New York City and Paris, France. Don’t wait! There are still others – look into popular tourist sites for winter deals, or choose out-of-the-way, little-known cities for a unique vacation.


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