Statesman Alexander Stubb speaks to the importance of flying
Professor and politician Alexander Stubb is a serious globetrotter and a Finnair frequent flyer. Travel has shaped his career, writing, and global perspective ever since he took his first flight more than 50 years ago.
“Travelling is a key part of my identity,” says professor Alexander Stubb, the former prime minister of Finland, who has held numerous leading positions in European politics, and was one of Blue Wings magazine’s longest-running columnists.
Finnair is part of the Finnish national identity according to Stubb, whose current directorial posting is at the European University Institute in Firenze, Italy.
“We are an island and Finnair has been our connection to the rest of the world for a century. It’s one of the rare national airlines that has been able to continually renew and reinvent itself successfully — even during challenging times such as war,” he says.
“We want to be unique, to have an airline of independence, especially given our history with Russia.”
As one of the leading voices on the future of Europe, Stubb has a diverse political and academic background.
Among his numerous academic achievements, he holds a PhD from the prestigious LSE, the London School of Economics and Political Science. Over the years, he has published 16 books on topics ranging from politics to fitness, and written hundreds of columns for leading media including the Financial Times (FT) and Dagens Industri, the Swedish business journal.
Active ambassador for Finland
Stubb says he still receives positive feedback for his Blue Wings columns (2005-2017), which were published as two books: The Naked Truth and Other Stories about Finns and Europeans and The Power of Sisu: Stories About Finland.
“I wrote about topics close to my heart. Sometimes I would make fun of European stereotypes; in other columns I would tell French presidents and Italian prime ministers about Finnish cuisine. When I became a government minister, I started writing about how to brand Finland, Finnish architecture, and travelling in Finland,” he says.
Those 120 columns even led to long-lasting friendships for the self-confessed bookworm.
“After I mentioned Adam Grant’s bestseller Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Adam reached out and we became friends. So much so that we recently met up at Davos,” says Stubb.
Finding a moment of offline in the air
Affectionately dubbed by the FT as “Finland’s fitness fiend,” Stubb is also widely known for his significant athletic achievements, which include being a European triathlon champion in his age group.
Running, cycling, and swimming are an essential part of Stubb’s routine for staying mentally and physically fit, whether at home or travelling. “One hour of exercise gives you two more hours of energy,” he says.
During the snowy season, Stubb practices the popular Finnish pastime of winter swimming, which is going for an invigorating dip in a hole carved into a lake or the sea.
Many frequent flyers around the world use cold water immersion as a way to stay in top form and even combat jetlag.
For a CNN feature on Finland being named the World’s Happiest Country, Stubb took British travel journalist Richard Quest for an icy dip followed by a sauna, that quintessential Finnish steambath that’s trending globally.
Finland has now held the title of world’s happiest country for six years in a row based on a range of life quality indicators.
As Stubb’s high-profile career has often placed him in the media spotlight, the statesman says flying provides him with a mini-break.
“And I always feel welcome when I step onboard a Finnair flight,” he says.
As Finnair marks its 100th anniversary, we share stories from our celebrated international travellers.