In the past when my husband and I were looking around at travel locations and resorts, one factor which weighed heavily on our decision was the alcohol. We’d investigate the bars, what brands of alcohol they offered and the general vibe of the place because we were looking for a lively, upbeat place where we could enjoy our drinks of choice. These days as a sober traveller, I still investigate this but for the opposite reason. The last think I want is to end up at a resort jammed with partiers who are looking to get hammered all week.
When you’re travelling, you’re essentially stuck somewhere for the duration of the holiday. This can be like heaven or quite the opposite and as someone in recovery from alcoholism it’s imperative that we prepare ourselves for any and every possibility. Life doesn’t end when you stop drinking, I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be able to enjoy travelling in sobriety but thankfully I was wrong. Things are certainly different now, I’m not looking to make besties with a bartender anymore; I’m more likely to be found lounging with a good book by the pool or snorkelling in the ocean rather than bellying up to the bar or moaning with a hangover until 1pm.
As the years have gone on, I’ve learned some things which have helped us plan and enjoy some amazing trips. I didn’t actually realize that there was a need to share these here until I was in a conversation where some friends pointed it out to me. They also asked me if I had my head in the sand…because my friends are VERY good at helping me remain humble. So here is what I think will be the beginning of a “Sober Travel” section here, one which I hope will be of service.
Tips for Sober Travel
Research the hotel/resort – look online, ask friends who have stayed there or a travel agent. Make sure the resort isn’t geared to an alcohol-centric atmosphere. Usually if it is, their marketing will make it easy to spot. You’ll see things like 24/7 bars, ads for booze parties etc. In general, the alcohol will be among the primary marketing points. If the resort offers booze in the rooms, simply request they remove it for you…be forward here friends!
Find local meetings – Once you’ve decided on your location, have a look online and find local 12 Step Meetings. I usually go to a meeting while I’m away, it helps me reset and also exposes me to meetings around the world. If you’re in AA there is a world map with meetings listed HERE. If you’re on a cruise, have a look at the itinerary daily there are meetings on several cruises listed as “Friends of Bill W”.
Strength in numbers – Bring along a friend or a bunch of friends who “get” it. I travel with my husband or friends in recovery who truly understand the vacation I’m looking for. By surrounding myself with like-minded people, I’m less likely to end up in a bad situation.
Consider a “Sober Holiday” – There are organizations who rent out resorts for strictly sober holidays which they arrange in groups of travellers. If you google it, you’re sure to find some.
Plan ahead – Take a look at possible activities and plan your holiday out. This will make it less stressful, more structured and you’ll have an outline of your activities which will limit the chances of you responding to a call from alcohol if it happens. The fact is that resorts actually have TONS for people to do other than drinking…who knew?
Change perspective – With the changes in your life, the things which bring you enjoyment will have changed. Take this perspective and apply it to travel, these days I’m jazzed to go to yoga, chef demonstrations, shopping, exploring on foot and snorkelling rather than the activities I chose in the past. Because I’m not hanging in the bars late in the evening, I’m not exposed to the temptations and my overall experience is just different.
Remember you’re not that important – Okay that seems harsh but as a non-drinker we can feel like there’s a spotlight on us when we’re in an environment where others are drinking. The fact is that we’re just not that important to others. Usually if people happen to notice I’m not drinking and actually say something, they really aren’t bothered when i respond “no thanks”. This is because they’re on holidays themselves and not overly concerned with a person they’ve just met.
Try new things & avoid the old – Take time to explore new things, seek out non-stressful activities which you haven’t yet tried. If your time was spent in the night club drinking…avoid it now. Don’t set yourself up for triggers, you’re a different person now so go see what there is in life!
Watch for H.A.L.T. – While on your holiday, pay attention for symptoms of H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, Tired) just as you would in your daily life. Stay connected with your body/emotions and ensure you’re staying healthy.
If you have any tips, I’d love for you to share them with my readers by commenting below and who knows…maybe one day we’ll all take a sober holiday together!
Wade @ Serenity Thailand Rehab says
Excellent tips I am going to share this on my rehab’s Facebook page. Keep it up this is one topic that I hadn’t really thought about much before. We prepare people for returning home, returning to work, having to attend a wedding where people are drinking, etc. etc. etc. But I have never though about people going on holidays in recovery with the exception of the sober holidays companies.
Fantastic post Julie. Just got back from a girl’s getaway at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. I sipped on Virgin Caesars, Iced Tea and lots of water while my friends enjoyed champagne, wine and martinis.
Tip: Keep food and drinks in your hotel room. We had a fridge in the room and kept fresh fruit and veggies, soda water, ice, and juice. Instead of going to a bar we made our own drinks and snacks and chilled on the balcony or on the terrace beside the beach.
Tip: Bring hobbies (knitting, painting, workbooks). We stayed at a beachfront motel with a casual atmosphere. I brought my paints and enjoyed painting the ocean waves.
Tip: Travel with friends that are open to doing their own thing. We congregated for supper, but during the day we often did our own thing.
Great tips Julie! I try and get some exercise in (yoga on the beach is amazing) and not get too crazy with the sugary non alcoholic drinks and deserts. too much sugar really triggers my anxiety. I try and stick with unsweetened ice tea when I’m bored of water. the better I eat the better I feel. Also – I bring really good books! I never thought I would be able to say this but traveling sober is so much better!
Great tips. Thanks for posting!