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The Art of Traveling Sober

It’s funny, I’ve been traveling solo and sober for over a decade now, and I realize as I created this page and started blogging, that I sort of take that for granted.

What do I mean by that?

Well, for instance, all of my initial blogs I have written have been focused on locations, experiences, and/or travel hacks. Matter of fact, I shocked myself when I went to look for a blog dedicated to sober travel and realized I hadn’t even written one specifically on the subject!

For a sober travel blogging website, I think it’s safe to say I’m doing a poor job there, to say the least.

So, let’s fix that now – Introducing....

The Art of Traveling Sober - A Guide to Booze Free Adventures

Let me start off by saying I started my sober travel journey with a little bit of sobriety under my belt, about 4 years or so. Having more time sober certainly has made it easier to stay sober while traveling, as a baseline. However, that doesn’t mean what I do, or what you can do, changes much during sober travel. It certainly doesn’t mean you have to get sober first before you start traveling booze free as well. It might just mean a bit more attention and organization needs to be made before and/or during your trips.

I’ll be sure to touch on ways, as a newly sober individual, you too can have success. I think you’ll find the formula for success is quite similar for all of us, regardless of time.

Let’s begin with the basic question- Why Travel Sober?

Bora Bora, Scuba Diving, Sober Travel, Nomadic Addict, Sober Adventures
Underwater Adventures in clear waters of Bora Bora, French Polynesia

If we don’t answer this, then there’s no point listing details to stay sober during your holidays, vacations, etc. So, let’s give this topic its due attention.

For starters, does traveling sober bring you any added value versus traveling with substances?

Of course, it does!

Have you ever had a layover/long flight hungover?

While champagne in first class feels glamorous at times, the reality is flying makes you dehydrated, AND most airline food (first class or otherwise) is loaded with salt to help make sure it preserves better. Adding alcohol to this will only make you feel even more dehydrated, and zap the life right out of you. This is likely to START your trip as well.

Who needs that?

If you do stop after a simple glass and manage to get enough rest and drink enough water to offset what you took in, I suppose the next question is was anything really gained from that? So, we added some calories, our bodies processed the alcohol, and then the required additional hydration to counteract the booze, and now we’re back at baseline - essentially where we started.

Was there really a point to it?

Don’t get me wrong, even as a 17-year sober guy, I’m not anti-booze. I truly believe we all only have one life to live and we may as well do everything we can to maximize our time, including traveling, to explore ways to enrich our lives.

The question will remain, does adding alcohol (or other substances) aid you/me/us in any way for the better - mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally?

That’s what it’s all about.

If it helps your cause in some way, then by all means go for it!

However, in most cases, the majority of us will find that alcohol, and other substances, hinder or set us back more than they do help in any way.

What’s interesting is I heard someone share recently that alcohol is the “modern-day cigarette” referring to the fact that cigarettes, at one point, were so commonly seen as a socially acceptable and desired thing. However, over time that shifted, and the desire to be healthy has shifted with it.

Is that happening now with alcohol? I suppose time will tell!

Which brings us back full circle to the art of traveling sober. How do we do it and why do we want to?

Sober Travel, Sober Adventure, Bali Gate, Gate of Heaven, Handara Gate, Bali, Indonesia
Bali Handara Gate

The short of it is to experience as much of life as we can and to live our lives to the absolute fullest. By staying sober, we energize our mind and body and allow ourselves to be at our best to experience the world around us.

From cultural experiences to new adventures, to witnessing sunrises and sunsets, and beyond!

Being sober isn’t some stick-in-the-mud, boring, lame person’s way of getting around.

Staying sober during your travel saves you money, saves you time, and opens your world up to so many experiences it truly becomes impossible to count.

Let’s start with a few obvious benefits:

1. Save Money:

We all know booze and substances cost money. So it’s easy to reverse engineer this. By not spending money on substances, we have more money available to us to spend on other things, like travel, adventures, or other life experiences. Not to mention food! Expensive restaurants are just that, expensive. However, bypassing booze at dinner is essentially like having a 30% or more discount added to your meals. That means more money for more food!

Or more money for more adventures, however, you slice it.

Four Seasons, Sober Party, Sober Celebration, Sober Travel, Sober Adventure, Nomadic Addict
Sober Birthday Celebration at Four Seasons Hawaii

2. Feel Better:

Have you ever tried to catch a sunrise hike or surf session after drinking the night before? Even a couple of glasses of wine at dinner have a lingering effect. Beyond your body’s ability to break down the booze itself are immeasurable other impacts such as inflammation, dehydration, and even things like pH and electrolyte imbalances affected by booze and substance intake.

Alcohol is also a depressant, and it impacts our body’s dopamine reward system and neurotransmitters, even with a little bit ingested. Therefore, we are chemically altering our mind’s baseline and then asking it to bounce back as it’s processing it later.

It sure seems a lot easier to leave it alone, but hey, that's just me.

Let’s keep going.

3. Sleep/performance:

Substances, including booze, also impair/impact our sleep which plays out in our ability to be present for others and activities as well. If you’re a diver, like me, drinking is almost certainly going to increase your risk of a dive-related accident as well, and I assure you it won’t help your freediving breath-hold.

Staying hydrated is always going to be better for the body and will lead to better performance in any and all things that you do in your life.

Imagine being hungover and diving in these situations.... no thanks!

4. Spiritual Component:

I live in Bali so naturally, I’d be doing a disservice not to list this as well, but I swear there’s something to it. Having a substance in our body blocks our ability to be fully present with the earth’s energy around us. This can lead to missed opportunities you had no idea even existed and truthfully have no chance of witnessing if a substance continues to be ingested. Adding a mind-altering substance, if only slightly, means we are literally and consciously choosing to disconnect ourselves from our grounded reality.

Something to consider, even if it feels a bit “hippy-ish”.

Elephant, Sanctuary, India, Sober Travel, Sober Adventures, Nomadic Addictt
Elephant Sanctuary in India

The ART of traveling sober: Art or Science? What if I'm New?

Like most things in life, while there can be calculated methods of travel (travel hacks, points saving, etc), sober travel is an art more than a science. A lot of this is done by feel, as well as formula.

Let’s start by looking at HOW to stay sober if you’re newer to sobriety and traveling.

To start, reminding yourself why you’re staying sober or wanting to travel sober in the first place is the most important. Hence, all of what we covered above.

Ask yourself - Is it for yourself or someone else? Do you want to feel better? Are you wanting to save money?

All the above?

Perhaps it’s a “Sober October” or “Dry January” challenge you heard about. Sobriety and alcohol-free living are trending right now, and maybe you’ve just heard about it and want to try it out.

Whatever the case may be, the more ammo you have to arm yourself with, the greater your chances of success.

Much of the art of sober travel comes from having a strategy or a game plan once you have decided why you want to not pick up.

Friendly reminder...being sober does NOT mean being boring

The Gameplan: 10 Ways to Keep Sober While Traveling

Going out to clubs/social gatherings while traveling? Maybe you met some new friends at the place you’re staying (like the guest house above).

Did you know much of any socially related anxiety of drinking comes from strictly having/not having a drink in your hand?

Really, it’s true. Try it.

1. Replace a cocktail or beer with a mocktail or sparkling water with lime and carry it around with you. Most won’t even ask if you’re drinking or not, they’ll simply assume you are. You’ll likely hardly notice the difference yourself. The majority of our “highs” come from the energy around us anyway. Loud music, people dancing, all that wears off onto you, whether you’re drinking or not. You’ll be amazed at the impact it can have, without ever needing a drink or substance.

And just think how hydrated you'll be after 6 soda water and limes! Yay, no hangovers.

2. Decide when you want to leave and have a plan. If you have an early morning surf lesson, a hike, or just want some time for yourself to watch the sunrise, don’t feel the need to stay out until 2 am just because some people invited you to. I’ve traveled a ton and it’s rare I ever need to be out past 10 pm. Call me a grandpa if you like, but nothing much except for drinking and drugging happens after then anyway. And we’re not here for that so let’s stay focused on our real goals!

3. If you’re trying to travel sober and stay sober, there are PLENTY of opportunities to meet quality people during sunlight hours. While I’m sure there are great people out late, I don’t spend much time looking for them. I spend my time focusing on sunlight-oriented people. This has led to epic hikes, awesome temple and spiritual experiences, meaningful chats that are remembered, and lots of other cool adventures along the way.

4. Look into things you want to do on your trip and stay true to you! It’s your trip after all. While meeting people can be fun, and usually is awesome, don’t be afraid to cruise solo and stick to your plan. I have done lots of sober solo travel and it usually means bouncing from one group of people (or person) to another as paths cross and plans shift.

That’s great!

We’re all just sharing this journey of life. There is no rule that says you have to stay with people for a certain period of time. Allowing people to come and go is one of the best parts of being in the flow of life around you. Allow the good people to come and go without attaching to moments longer than needed or happening naturally.

Stay your course for your plans, you’ll be happy you did, I promise!

5. Stay connected. While this might sound contradictory to the above, having grounded people to check in with is my point here. Whether it’s a sober friend back home, a family member, or even a local AA group or yogi bunch that is alcohol-free, having others around you with whom you can check in and who support you will prove to be one of the greatest assets in your sober travels. While sober travel can involve a lot of solo travel as well, it is not meant, nor needed, to be done completely alone.

Matter of fact, they say the opposite of addiction is connection. And regardless of your reasoning for choosing to be sober during your travels, that fact remains true for us. We’re social creatures, and connection will empower us to continue!

Sober Travel, Iceland, Volcano Hike, Sober Adventures
Sober Travel in Iceland - Into the Volcano with my parents

6. Book Activities: Nothing keeps you sober more than a schedule and something positive to look forward to doing. Whether that’s surf lessons like I mentioned previously, group hiking trips, or a yoga/meditation retreat, adding movement to your trip and structure will support you in your sober travel.

I can guarantee this for those new and old in recovery/sober journey.

7. Seek out local gym/group fitness programs during travel: Many community-style gyms, like CrossFit or similar, are transient in nature and have weekly social gatherings to get you connected as well. In addition, most gym/fitness-oriented people are going to be less inclined to drink, in my experience. So you get to meet health-oriented people, stay fit and moving, and travel sober?

Those all feel like wins to me!

*In Bali, for example, I go to S2S fitness and they offer fitness holidays and weekly community dinners. Most of my friends there are very rare drinkers, if they drink at all. So, at community dinners and events, I rarely feel out of place not drinking.

Sober Thanksgiving 2023 in Bali, Indonesia with my ex-pat gym family

8. Nurture your body: Plan something nurturing for your body on any trip you choose. Massages, yoga, sauna/steam rooms, breathwork courses, whatever you choose. Be sure to stop and enjoy the positive feedback loop your body gives you when you energize and nurture it. The rewards are real, and acknowledging them is super important for sustained recovery as well as a desire to remain sober.

9. Just say NO: It sounds silly I know, but if you didn’t like a certain food, you’d probably not think twice about turning it down. Or, if you were allergic to oranges and people kept trying to get you to drink orange juice, you’d probably just leave, or tell them “no” a bunch of times and get annoyed.

Why can’t the response to alcohol be the same?

It really is as simple as looking at it that way. I don’t want it. I don’t like it. I don’t need it. Whatever the case may be, a simple no truly is good enough, and then stand by it. It’s fine if others want to drink but that doesn’t mean you have to. If someone is pushing that hard for you to drink, that says a lot more about their need for people to drink than your need to satisfy them.

10. Lastly, celebrate your wins! Compliment yourself! For real, you’re doing great! It may sound silly but building yourself up is huge. Think of a weight lifter or a professional athlete before they go compete.

They pump themselves up!

Don’t be afraid to do the same. Too often we live in a space where we think complimenting ourselves means we have a “big head” or an “ego” when in reality we all deserve those atta-boys/atta-girls along the way. There’s nothing wrong with giving them to yourself. Every day you travel, stay sober, explore a new area, meet new people, and try that new thing that’s something to be proud of yourself for. Be sure to stop and give yourself credit.

You deserve it!

Bonus #11: Remember not to take yourself too seriously.

While being sober can feel overwhelming at times, and often does mean that we are feeling "all the things", don’t forget that you’re out here traveling! How cool is that?

Remember we’re all just humans, doing the best we can.

One of my favorite quotes is from Plato- "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle".

This applies to anyone you meet on this road of life, as well as you.

Go easy on yourself: You probably would if it were someone else you were speaking to, so apply that some loving, kind, and supportive voice back to you along the way.

Sober travel is really just your mindful decision to be conscious of the world around you.

It’s your heightened awareness from being sober, and your commitment to meeting others while being your full and authentic self, that you're placing at paramount importance.

I commend you for that, and quite frankly can’t wait to meet the real and authentic you. My guess is the world feels the same way, whether they know it yet or not.

Be sure to stay tuned for more sober travel tips, tricks, and details. I’ll be sure to spend more time focusing on ways to stay sober in specific areas and situations, and as always welcome your guys’ feedback on ways I can support you further.

Feel free to check out my newly launched YouTube episodes highlighting sober travel and ways to support yourself along the way.

Much love always my friends and safe travels.

F-18 Fly by, Super Hornet, US Navy, Jets, Sober Travel, Nomadic Addictt
F-18G Super Hornet in Whidbey Island, WA

The world Is open, I look forward to seeing you out there!

Stay Tuned for more videos, interviews, travel tips, and blogs on the way my friends! Appreciate you all.

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