I really can't believe I haven't written a specific post about this before. Most of you know that traveling is one of my favorite things and it's 1000% better now that I'm sober. Travel can be intimidating when you're newly sober. I am often asked about places to avoid, what I do differently now that I'm sober, and overall how sober travel compares to drunk travel. I'm going to answer these questions and share my experience on how sober travel is for me now and how it was when I first got sober.
The first thing you need to know is: You should never avoid any place. As far as travel goes, I guess there are some destinations that are considered to be party places and those that aren't. But, one of the most important things I've learned in my sobriety is that EVERY place can be a sober place, just like any place can be a party place. It's up to the person, not the place. I know two people who got sober after living in the Caribbean (one in Cancun, one in the Bahamas) and they are now scared to go back. I can understand those places are where their drinking habits escalated and there may be some bad memories associated with them. I just think it would be a shame for each of them to never experience such a beautiful place ever again because of fear. Don't let this happen to you! I hit my rock bottom in the Caribbean AND I got sober there AND I go back as often as I can.
I was a travel fraud. In theory, travel seemed great and I had moved to a couple different places in my life, but I didn't really understand travel or follow through with it during my drinking days. When I moved to Cancun one of the reasons for moving I always gave was, "to travel," which was a load of BS. I wanted to, but I didn't! I might have traveled 2 or 3 times during my first 4 years living there and what I remember from the trips was being hungover or drinking. I lived in Cancun for a year sober and did more traveling in that year than in the previous 4. I went to Mexico City, Coba, Tulum, Isla Holbox, and Akumal just to name a few. Finally, when I got sober I had the mental and physical capacity to actually save for, plan for, and go on fun trips.
I am a lot more capable than I thought was. There were trips I took during my drinking days when I needed a babysitter. With my sense of direction and my tendency to blackout, it was not safe for me to travel alone. I was probably the worst travel partner too. I never tried to help figure out where we were, how to take the subway to the next place, or find a place for dinner. I always threw my hands up and said, "I don't know where we are and I can't figure it out!" I didn't care enough to try and this left me at the mercy of my friends and family while traveling. Today, I realize that although I haven't been blessed with a natural sense of direction, I take the time to plan ahead, research destinations, and use Google maps to help me find my way. The best part is I have confidence in myself that I can do it, and I think others do too.
The best thing about sober travel is using my time wisely and remembering everything. Sober travel is amazing because I have so much more time to see and do everything. I'm not hungover sleeping through excursions or doing them with a massive headache. I'm not twiddling my thumbs on a tour wondering what club I'll be going out to tonight. Traveling sober has allowed me to be in the present moment while experiencing something new and different. You know how when you first get sober and you feel everything? Every single emotion? Traveling sober is like that. It's awe-inspiring. Not only do I feel like I'm in an amazing dreamland when I travel and see new things, but I can actually remember everything. I can tell stories about my trips, talk about what I saw, and what it means to me. This is very different from what I used to talk about after I traveled: alcohol, men, and the occasional historic sight that I looked at for 30 seconds.
Sober travel is travel and travel is... life. If you're sober, you shouldn't have to do anything special to get ready for travel. Alcohol will be around on your travels; it's impossible to avoid it at all costs. The truth is alcohol will be around you during life, period. You have to be strong enough to want to stick with sobriety, whether that's at home or abroad. For me, it doesn't matter where I am because I am no longer a person who drinks alcohol and that's just the way it is. With that being said, it doesn't mean you won't have an unexpected run-in with alcohol, like I did this summer while I was in Canada. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you should let your guard down. Read ingredients, smell your glass, and ask the waiter twice if they are sure there's no alcohol in your drink.
Just like sober life, sober travel is better than I could have ever dreamed. It's only now as I reflect back on my addiction, that I realize I actually used to think about places I wanted to travel to around the world, and wonder how it would be possible if I drank. I guess I should have known then that my drinking was out of control. I thought to myself, how would I find my way after 8 drinks in a strange European city? In fact, I had that problem living in Cancun. I got myself into several dangerous situations in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people.
Today I am able to have awareness that keeps me safe in new places and I have sobriety to thank for that. The only fear I have is the healthy fear of the slight possibility something could go wrong on my travels, and that's no different from everyday life. I am lucky enough to say that I have the tools I need to handle whatever situation arises, in life and in travel.
My advice is travel as far as you can, as fast as you can. Start living this amazing sober life. Life is short and my only regret is that I didn't start traveling sober sooner.