How to Travel Sober

Nervous at the thought of traveling sober? With a few smart moves, we can travel anywhere—and stay sober.

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We think of what travel used to be like—the booze cruises, the wine-filled happy hours at sunset and the late, late nights, and we wonder how we’ll manage. Sure, the thought of traveling like that does still make me nervous, and thus I don’t do it.

Now, I travel differently. At sunset, I paddle board or walk the beach as opposed to sit at a bar (after all, you can see the sunset nearly anywhere outside).  I took some time to figure out what I wanted travel to look like after I became sober. That’s the first tip.

1) Accept that sober travel is going to look different.

I personally love islands, and spend a lot of time in the tropics. People ask me all the time how I manage beach days without the booze. For starters, I find I can only sit on a beach sober for maybe two hours, max. When I was drinking, I could easily spend an entire day and night on one beach, so long as it had a bar. These days, I pack books, healthy snacks and coconut water, and I don’t stay all day. I get my sun, then I spend part of the day moving, whether with a walk, a local yoga class, a swim or shopping in town.

2) Find a sober ally.

I love traveling with people who don’t need to drink to have fun. Typically, that’s who I ask to travel with me. Granted, if I’m traveling for work, I don’t always have a sober ally. On work trips, I notice who else is drinking club soda, and then I tell them that I don’t drink. That I chose to give it up. Half the time, it turns out they have the same story. The rest of the time, it’s women who are pregnant, or people who just don’t like drinking. Still, it helps to have these people who aren’t getting drunk. To make sure I’m seated next to the teetotalers, I arrive early to work dinners (and, in my experience, sober people arrive early and leave early).

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3) Hold yourself accountable.

Tell your sober friends the exact dates that you are traveling, and ask them to touch base. Ask them to text or call you during this time. Every point of contact helps. And, when I’m traveling internationally, I always call my cell phone company and ask them to turn on the international plan for the time, so I take advantage of discounts on calling and texting. And, when I have Wifi, I use Skype to talk with the women who help keep me sober.

4) Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts!

Sober podcasts are lifesavers, especially when in the airport or on the plane. I download episodes when at home (favorites include The Unruffled Podcast, Solis R’s Sober Texas Podcast, and The Sobriety Network podcast). Before a flight, I walk around the airport, listening to the wise words of my people. This keeps me happy and filled up, as opposed to eyeing the bar. And, if the bar is brightly lit and serves food, I will sit and order a drink. My go-to is a club soda with a splash of pineapple juice. It doesn’t have a name yet. I’d love it if this had a name that caught on!!!! Pineapple Freedom? The Sober Hawaiian?

5) Spend time with your people.

If you’re someone who attends meetings, do your homework before you leave for your trip. Find out when and where the sober meetings are. And, when you can, call Intergroup and ask to have someone from that meeting reach out to you. Then you have accountability on the local level also. Score!

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