Sober travel? A sober holiday? No alcohol at all? Once upon a time I would have scoffed at the concept and told you that it was not possible, but also of no interest to me. And yet, I did it and – I loved it! Because it was such a success I’ve put together some sober travel tips for you to help you on your first sober holiday.
But first, some background info: I went on holiday to Northern Spain to walk a 117km section of the Camino de Santiago. At the point of flying out I had been sober for three weeks. Before I went I was under the impression that, due to the fact it was an active holiday, alcohol wouldn’t play any part in it and it would be easy to avoid temptation. I was wrong.
Let’s start this tale off on the first night of the holiday where I met the group I’d be walking with for the next week. Some members of the group appeared at the meeting point with bottles of wine in hand, ready to get this bonding party started, offering to pour everyone a glass. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the manager of the hotel then appeared with a tray literally stacked with free booze.
“Here’s some wine, gin, beers, and ciders for you all. Take whatever you like and there’s more where that came from.”
“Greeeeeat. Thank you.” I responded through gritted teeth.
I had to sit through this welcome meeting, sipping on water, and pretending that I am not the kind of person who drinks free wine when offered. Hilarious, Universe, really.
This theme continued throughout the rest of the week. The obvious way to celebrate the completion of a big day of walking was with a pat on the back and a beer. I found myself ignoring my gluten intolerance to have 0% beers as a placebo. I figured I had to pick the lesser of two evils – gluten or alcohol.
There was one day where my walking companions decided to pub crawl their way through the entirety of that day’s walk. We stopped every 2km at a pub where they had a beer and cheers-ed to their general joy and merriment. There are only so many coke zero or orange juice stops I needed before it became slightly tiresome and I wanted to just keep going. The drunker they got, the quieter I got. I felt on the outs from the group fun.
On the final night of the trip we celebrated as a group by going to a more upmarket restaurant. The wine list was extensive and soon enough the table was covered in bottles of both red and white. I sipped my 500th coke zero of the week and tried not to feel sad it wasn’t wine. I have to note here though – the sadness wore off towards the end of the dinner when the rest of the table were drunk and rowdy and causing a scene in the restaurant. Where, once upon a time, I might have been shrieking and singing alongside them, being sober meant that I was very aware of how loud they were, and of the dirty looks from other diners.
I really threw myself into the deep end for my first sober holiday. Was it good luck or bad luck that I ended up on holiday with a group of heavy drinkers and party animals? I personally that think it was good luck. I was properly tested and came out the other side still sober and shining my halo. I also had a fantastic holiday.
Based on my own experience, I have compiled a list of sober travel tips for getting through your first sober holiday both alcohol free and triumphant.
- READ MORE: 10 Benefits of Going 50 Days with No Alcohol
Sober Travel Tips
1. Alcohol free alternatives
A disclaimer for sober travel tip number one: I know that these can be triggering for some people. So please don’t have alcohol free alternatives if they will threaten your own sobriety. Manage your own sobriety as suits. For me, being able to drink a 0% beer was really helpful. Rather than just drinking coke, water, or orange juice continuously, having one of these gave me the feeling of being involved in the end of day celebrations and the beer taste was enough of a placebo for me.
Bonus: if you happen to be staying in self-catered accommodation then you can even make your own mocktails. Simple Mocktail Recipes has lots of yummy ones to try.
2. Read quit lit
Bring along a quit lit book or audio book. Being able to read a few chapters and having a regular reminder of why you’ve stopped drinking and the benefits of not drinking will really help if you’re on a holiday and surrounded by temptation.
Here are some links to fabulous quit lit books:
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3. Tell people you won’t be drinking alcohol
Tell the people that you’re travelling with that you won’t be drinking alcohol. Most people won’t actually care that you’re not drinking so don’t be afraid to let them know. This will (hopefully) stop them from offering you drinks and you won’t have to have awkward conversations every time you order a soft drink when everyone else is working through the cocktail list.
4. Make the most of the mornings
If you’re anything like me, you’ve lost quite a few holiday mornings to boozy, late nights. Embrace the fact that you wake up feeling fresh each morning. Go for a walk, have an early morning coffee and people watch, fit in a morning work out, sit on the beach and journal if that’s your thing. I can guarantee that you’ll feel fantastic for making the most of the morning time. Plus, you’ll feel extra smug when the hungover crowd finally crawls out into the light of day (sunglasses on) and you’ve already had a few hours of holiday under your belt.
5. Go to bed when you want to go to bed
If you’re not a night owl, do not feel like you have to stay up late with the drinkers. If you start to flag after dinner and would rather go to bed and read your book than stay out – go to bed! This is your holiday too so you should absolutely do what you want to do and not stay out past your limit to appease those looking to party. If you’re sober and a night owl then by all means, keep going until the wee hours, and also let me know where you find that energy!
6. Treat yo’self
Here is the last of my sober travel tips and my permission to treat yo’self guilt free. I had an ice cream every day of my holiday, and it was one of the highlights of my day. I got such a burst of pleasure from enjoying those nightly scoops of joy. It gave me something to look forward to each evening that wasn’t a sunset beer or a wine with dinner. Find whatever works for you and enjoy it.
Despite daily temptation and a huge amount of alcohol being drunk around me, I had a brilliant sober holiday. I never would have believed that was possible once upon a time. There is a past version of me hungover on a beach somewhere who is thoroughly impressed by (and jealous of) the current me.
I hope that these sober travel tips are helpful for you and that your first sober holiday is just as great as mine was. Let me know your success stories in the comments!
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