Three years ago, while trying to save money for a big trip, I cut out purchasing alcoholic beverages while out. I used this exact wording (for myself) because drinking at home was still OK as was drinking if someone bought me a drink. Now, don't get me wrong, I still went out. But now, mostly, I was the sober friend. The one who would drive everyone home and had no problem ordering a water with a lime. This saved me tons of money. It really is true, you don't realize how much you're spending until you stop.
Fast forward to preparing for the trip. I was mostly solo traveling so I made the decision to not drink while traveling. The reality was I was a youngish girl traveling alone and I didn't want to put myself in a bad situation.
Problem was, I was so afraid of telling people "nope, no drinks for me tonight". Would not drinking in hostels be isolating? Would travelers look at me weird? There is a stigma that comes with saying you aren't drinking. And, oh god, what questions would they ask me after??? As scared as I was of all these social interactions, in the end, I was more afraid of what type of situation I may put myself in if I did drink.
The trip came and went, and three years later I still don't drink when I travel. Along with the added savings, the lack of hangovers, and the safety issues I mostly have quit drinking while I travel because it wasn't weird - at all! There was absolutely no stigma attached and it wasn't the least bit isolating. If I stayed at a hostel, I still was social - I simply choose water over wine. I sat at numerous bars, in many different countries, and ordered a meal instead of a drink. Conversations still happened with the staff and others around me. I even went on pub tours to meet people but told the tour I wanted to join sober. No one batted an eye.
This is when I realized not drinking wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it would be. Sure, people asked why I was having a water instead of a shot but the key was answering confidently. "I just prefer not to." Five small words and that's it, no other questions.
You know what questions did come after? Where are you heading next? What's the best place you've ever been? How long are you staying here? What sites are you seeing tomorrow? And the best part was, I remembered all the conversations. Plus, the next day, while others were groggy and guzzling water, I was out sightseeing and exploring.
If you're thinking about giving sober travel a try but are worried, let me reassure you, you will be fine. It isn't the end of your late-night life, your crazy adventure life, or your fun life. Those things are all still there. You just have a water in your hand instead of a tequila shot.
Here are some quick tips for traveling sober:
- Don't over explain. Pick a sentence to tell people when they ask and say it confidently.
- Pick destinations that have so much more to do than drink.
Here is a good list to get you started.
- Don't shy away from going out just because you aren't drinking.
At the end of the day, remember that you don't have to be all or nothing. Look at the title of this article, it's why I rarely drink, not why I don't drink. You don't have to be in one bin or the other.