When you day-dream about a vacation, most times you envision laying on a tropical beach, sipping some exotic alcohol beverage. Right? But what happens if you don’t drink? How could you possibly have fun? I used to think that too, but for the last three years I have done just that. Sober vacations, an alternative way to travel, has many benefits that people may have never considered.
Let me elaborate a bit. Three years ago, actually closer to four now, I made a decision to eliminate alcohol from my life. It was a choice I made for many reasons; health, lifestyle, past history alcoholism in my family and for clarity. When making that choice I didn’t really think about how this simple decision would trickle its way into every single aspect of my life.
Needless to say, it was a huge adjustment that I wasn’t aware of until things starting coming up. Little things such as not having wine at dinner, going out for drinks (seemed pointless), parties, holidays, concerts, Red Sox games, on vacations….and the list was endless. I didn’t notice until I stopped drinking on how much our society is completely focused around drinking. Before, my vacations would consist of nonstop binge drinking. “It’s okay, we are on vacation.” Well, at least that’s what I thought anyway.
I’d wake up with a mimosa, have drinks at lunch, drinks all day, wine at dinner and then even more drinks all night. I’m not sure how I did it to be honest, but I do remember spending many days of my vacation nursing a hangover, canceling early morning excursions and just feeling foggy and cruddy during the days. Only to come back from vacation ending up sick from exhaustion and letting my immune system go to shit.
After all, this was what a fun vacation was all about! Until I realized how much more fun the experience could be taking sober vacations. Now I’m not writing this to convince anyone this is how you should vacation. Most of you will think I’m nuts for even considering this type of vacation, especially hard-core backpackers and the younger travelers, I get it. This is all you do on vacation, I know. I am however, older and have learned a lot through my years and found that experiencing my travels with a clear head and choosing a healthy lifestyle is what makes me happy now. I just wanted to share a different perspective of travel than you usually hear about.
So, are you intrigued? If so I’m sure you are thinking about what do I actually do then? I came up with a list of things I do instead of the usually drinking times, which was ALL times. This example is if I was at a tropical beach destination. (It varies depending on location, obviously.)
drinking vacation: wake up, usually late and feeling like crap, but ordered a mimosa or a bloody Mary with breakfast. “Hair of the dog always does the trick..NOT!” Oh yeah and tons of strong coffee…’gotta get myself up and going’. “Did anyone pack Advil?”
sober vacation: wake up, do yoga on the beach (if I was on one) or in my hotel/airbnb, take a walk or jog and probably be up at sunrise before everyone else catching a glimpse of the sun starting to peek out. “My pictures during this time of day are always so beautiful”, I think to myself. Plus I get to enjoy the peacefulness of some alone time, which is aways good for the soul.
drinking vacation: mid-morning- was supposed to go snorkeling, but felt a bit queasy and too tired, so I decide to sleep on the beach, with orders of Corona’s of coarse…keep them coming.
sober vacation: mid-morning-snorkeling and swimming and having a great time in the sun with my friends and family. I capture lots of great underwater pictures.
drinking vacation: lunchtime yay, the food looks amazing, but the drinks look even better. I think I’ll get one of each. No room for food. I need a nap.
sober vacation: lunchtime yay, the food looks amazing. I want to order the most authentic food that is of this location. This is great and I love learning about a place through its food. “I think I’ll take some food porn photos and write about it, maybe even make it at home to remember this awesome place I was fortunate enough to visit? Yes, I am definitely going to do that.”
drinking vacation: late-afternoon- more napping, with interval periods of drinks. The view looks pretty but I’m too out of it to take it all in, nevermind capture the moment by taking a photo. “Where is my pina colada?”
sober vacation: late-afternoon- “I’m pretty full from my amazing lunch, I think I’ll go for a hike and then a swim, maybe even take in some footage or photos of this beautiful place.” After that I’ll relax on the beach reading and enjoy a smoothie. So refreshing and rehydrating.
drinking vacation: dinnertime-Getting ready is a major chore. I fell asleep on the beach and now have a weird-looking sunburn on only one side of my body. Great! I also feel very dehydrated and bloated. “Do we really have to get all ready to go for dinner?” Seems like too much effort.“Yes, we do.” Dinner looks good, but I’m not really hungry. I think I’ll order some more yummy drinks, That should make me feel better. Yup, “I’m on a second wind..I can’t wait to go out tonight, my sunburn doesn’t even hurt anymore!”
sober vacation: dinnertime -I’m excited to try out one of the many dining options. “Lets go to the hibachi sushi place!” That sounds like fun. I get ready, feeling a little glow from being kissed by the sun. I go to the sushi place, meet and talk to a bunch of new folks from all over the world and have a blast.
drinking vacations: drinks, drinks and more drinks. “Let’s go dancing”.… I don’t remember the rest.
sober vacation: We go shopping a little in the local markets and then see a live show. After that, we go for a cappuccino and walk on the beach at sunset. I sit and do a mini-meditation thinking about the gratitude I feel for being where I am, trying to take it all in. ” I am so thankful for this great day, I can’t wait for tomorrow!”
That scenario is just an example of typical, tropical vacation of mine, both ways; drinking and non-drinking. I know it sounds pretty extreme. Evidentially, I guess I really drank a lot? I didn’t even notice how much I drank on vacation until writing it all on paper (well, you know what I mean?) and what it did to me physically and emotionally. I’m actually a bit embarrassed. I’m sure not all people drink like that on vacation, but I did, and many that I have traveled with did too. I thought that this is what you are supposed to do to enjoy yourself, when in reality, it was to excess. It dampened my experience and dulled every aspect of my vacation.
The first time I experienced a sober vacation, I’m not going to lie, it was hard. I was so out of my element and didn’t even know what to do with myself. It was so foreign to me to not go find the swim up bar or order a drink the second I got to my destination. After readjusting my ways, I found it very empowering almost. I was able to enjoy just being somewhere without having to have a frosty beverage in hand to have fun, where many others couldn’t dream of doing that. I became very aware that most vacations are designed for drinking (isn’t that where they make all their money?), and almost everything revolves around it.
It really does take a conscious effort to live an alternative lifestyle and you have to be able to handle the comments and awkward encounters when you tell people you don’t drink. I’m not sure why this makes people so uncomfortable? What do they care if I don’t drink? That doesn’t mean they can’t. It’s a weird thing, but I get more and more used to it.
This post wasn’t written as a “don’t drink on vacation post”. If that’s what you like to do on vacation, by all means, cheers to you. I just wanted to show that there are alternatives to vacationing styles that people may not even considered before. As a travel blogger I noticed that this subject is kind of overlooked and I’d like to shine some light on it, especially for those who perhaps, have just became sober and are looking for a way to adjust to their new lifestyle, vacations included.
The best thing that I can can say about sober vacations is not just that I feel happier, healthier, fully present, and I get to see things in a whole new perspective, but I save so much money, it is ridiculous! I can literally do two vacations now, at the same cost as one before. And to me, that is priceless!
Have you ever gone on a sober vacation?
Here are a few links for sober travel: