• Sarah Habsburg

Ukraine, Covid, and Adaptation Energy: What is it and why we need more of it


My regular scheduled blog post just didn’t seem to fit this week, so I pulled it, and am sitting down to write a more human one.


Just three days after Putin invaded the Ukraine, my 6-year-old son tested positive for Covid. The very thing we have tried so hard to keep at arm’s length and outside of our home was finally with us. And I was surprised how invaded I felt.


And yet of course this is nothing compared to the atrocities going on just two countries away from Austria.

But just like the clamour pressing Boris Johnson to resign, Covid has taken a back seat. Even in our home, it was met with resignation – especially since my son had few and light symptoms - and conversations wandered quickly back to the Ukraine war. The threat that has haunted us for two whole years now does not feel quite so invasive when so much suffering is happening at the gates of Europe.


Yet out of so much sadness, grief, and despair we always find examples of that collaborative human spirit that makes hard times just that little bit easier, even if only for just a handful of people at a time.


Social feeds are filled with calls for donations and the media continuously highlights acts of generosity. From British school children raising money for refugees by selling dog treats, to Elon Musk sending truck loads of Starlink dishes to the Ukraine, there is no doubt that there is so much good in this world.


And that is something we can, and should, all hold on to.


The hospitality industry is of course doing its bit too.


Two wonderful initiatives stand out.


Hospitality Helps, started by Michael Widmann from PKF Hospitality in Vienna, aims to connect Ukrainians in need of somewhere to sleep, with accommodation owners who can donate rooms. Even if only for one night, the warmth of a comfortable bed after days fleeing a war-torn homeland, is a priceless gift. In just one week, Hospitality Helps now lists 132 supporting hotels in 18 countries.




Hospitality for Ukraine, a global campaign organised by Stay the Night – a hospitality marketing agency, and Kash Bhattacharya, content creator for Budget Traveller. Again, this site aims to help link Ukrainian refugees seeking accommodation with providers who are willing and able to host them.



There are many, many other initiatives that warm hearts and are making a real and true difference to those most in need.


My friend Vicky Smith, founder of Earth Changers - a unique, curated collection of the most inspirational and transformative tourism from around the world - has put together a superb list of resources detailing global and regional support initiatives.


Read more here:

https://www.earth-changers.com/blog/stand-with-ukraine-refugees



I must add in here my thoughts on donating nights in the Ukraine via Airbnb. Well-intentioned as for sure this is, I am not the only one who holds some reservations about exactly where the value of the donated night(s) will actually end up.


Dennis Schaal from Skift raises concern by saying that “Airbnb doesn’t expressly identify professional hosts so a chunk of the funds may be unwittingly going to big property managers that aren’t even based in Ukraine”. And Travel writer Simon Calder tweeted “Warning: were I a Russian scammer, I would be setting up fake Airbnbs in Kiev and Odessa as fast as I could to cash in on those noble intentions.”


This may sound cynical as I have no doubt that some people in dire need have benefitted from this good-hearted action, but I believe there are more transparent ways to help. One option is to donate to Airbnb’s Refugee Fund - a fundraising initiative to expand on the existing Airbnb.org foundation support of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. Hosts can offer a place to stay, or anyone can donate to the fund. Take a look at this link to find out more: https://www.airbnb.org/help-ukraine



Back to how the world can cope with the relentless headlines detailing pain, distress, and unthinkable atrocities.


I know I am not alone in saying that this week has tested my adaptation energy to its limits.


What do I mean by adaptation energy?


The ability to handle a demand or change of expectation.


We watched and waited, hardly daring to think that a war can happen in today’s world, not now, surely not now. Before the 24th February, it could still be stopped. Then the invasion began, and the world had to accept that this is possible, and it is happening even as we attempt to sluggishly emerge from the most challenging 2 years many of us have ever faced.


During the pandemic, we talked a lot about resilience. Adaptation energy is different.


Resilience relates to our ability to acquire new capabilities in order to (hopefully) emerge stronger from a certain struggle, whereas Adaptation requires us to preserve existing resources.


Ultimately it means keeping our own energy buckets from depletion.


Self-care is the obvious way to do this.


And another way to feel better is to be kinder to others.


Right now, we have many reasons to do this.


But why does it take a global pandemic and a declaration of war to really make it happen?


It happens far too often that we only give thanks when we are reminded how lucky we are. This led me to do some soul searching this last week.


I found myself thrown by my daily frustration that I simply couldn’t get much work done because I had a 6- and a 4-year-old quarantined at home. And yet I knew that 10 full days with my children is a gift to cherish. And I have a home, and a warm bed to sleep in.


I was annoyed that, despite our most wholesome efforts to keep our family safe, one of my children still got the virus. And yet he was not desperately ill like so many have been from Covid. And we have access to great medical care in the eventuality it would be needed.


I was angry that people like Putin exist and blatantly show such disregard for human life. And yet I am not facing the despair of being forced to leave my home without knowing when, or if, I would return.


As is normal, these thoughts resided in my subconscious and boiled over only when I accidentally broke a glass. My dog hid from my expletives, and I took refuge in the bathroom, so my children didn’t hear the rest.


My adaptation energy was depleted, and I needed to get it back, so I am actually able to help those who need it the most.


How to do that is astonishingly simple in such a perplexingly complicated world.


By choosing to be kinder. To ourselves, to those around us, to others we don’t know but who need kindness the most, and to the planet so that there will be a future to enjoy.


Why this can seem elusive and hard to do when we are in the throes of everyday life is a mystery because it is glaringly obvious that it is the right thing to do.


Ultimately it starts by waking up every day and making a choice to set our intention. As a result of this week’s soul searching, I have set my intention to walk more slowly, listen longer, share more readily, and laugh that little bit louder.


I won’t change the world I know, but I will be more grateful and present, and that will leave me with more of that adaptation energy to help those – near or far - who need it the most.


I invite you to join me in this intention and I leave you with this quote to inspire you further.






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