Travel is good for your soul, and every time you get the opportunity to travel, you come back a changed person. There are so many places around the country and around the globe for you to see, and now that you are on track on your recovery journey, there’s no time like the present to check out some new destinations. Although traveling sober presents some special challenges, there’s no reason why you can’t travel successfully while continuing to move forward with your new and healthy lifestyle.
The reasons why anyone should travel are endless. For those recovering from addiction, many of these reasons are even stronger and more important to help build and improve the you that has emerged from the darkness as a stronger and more vital human. Traveling – within your own state or country or outside of it – will give you a changed perspective on the world and on yourself, too. You will experience new sights, activities, people, and foods, and as a result, you’ll come home with a more open mind. When you get home you will view things differently than you did before you left, and you may find that you have fresh insights on everything you encounter. As a clean and sober individual, you have more time, more energy, and more money – and what better hobby is there than travel to expend each of these things in a healthy and productive way? Who knows, you may find travel to be your new life focus, and there’s nothing but good that can come from that.
Drugs & Alcohol on Vacation
Unfortunately, most people do drink and many do drugs on vacation. In a survey of 500 adults by Alcohol Concern of Wales, 92% of people reported drinking on their last vacation, and 75% said they drank more on vacation than they would have at home. Cruise app Shipmate reports on their blog that on a typical seven day cruise, the average cruiser drinks 33 drinks – that’s 4.7 drinks per day; they add that the average American consumes four alcoholic beverages per day during their normal life, which means they drink eight times their normal amount when cruising! Further, a study published in BMC Public Health in 2014 surveyed 3,357 Swiss adults about their habits on vacation and off, and learned that 9% of individuals who responded used drugs on their trip, compared to only 5% at home. It’s clear that drugs and alcohol are a part of many people’s vacations, but that doesn’t mean they need to be a part of yours.
Tips for a Sober Vacation
It’s possible that in the past that you looked at vacations as an excuse to party and abuse drugs and alcohol, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you plan ahead, mix with the right people, and stay self conscious and self aware, you can have a fantastic, sober, drug-free vacation that you will always treasure.
Consider a brand new destination. If you vacation somewhere you have gone before, chances are you will be more inclined to fall back into old habits. You might have a desire to relive the old vacation, and that’s not a good idea. By choosing somewhere you have never been before, everything will be fresh and new – and you can make choices that support your healthy lifestyle more easily. Also, you’ll be so busy checking out this new destination that you hopefully won’t even have time to think about past vacations and how you acted on them.
Choose a destination with a healthy focus. Some vacation destinations are very party-focused and almost every activity is alcohol related. However, the other side of the coin includes a wide variety of destinations that people visit because they celebrate an area’s history, are very physically active, or help visitors dive into nature and the great outdoors. While visiting on of the former type may be risk for you, the latter can be exciting, experiential, and educational. Think about the vibe and culture of the destinations you are considering before booking your trip, and adjust accordingly.
Pack your schedule with activities. If you are busy throughout your trip, you won’t have time to slip! Before you even arrive at your destination, plan out your schedule and make sure you are always on the go. That way, you will see so much more of the place you are visiting, and you won’t have the time for temptation. Looking back on when you were using, your vacations were likely filled with too lazy days and sleeping late – now, the new you can actually get out there and make memories, and immerse yourself in the destination in a way you couldn’t before.
Travel with a safe and supportive friend. As a recovering addict, you know how important it is to have accountability. The best way to achieve this on vacation is to travel with a safe and supportive friend. This friend doesn’t necessarily need to be in recovery as well, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Either way, having a person by your side to help you focus on your recovery and steer you away from tempting situations will be a huge help to you while traveling.
Stay in touch with sober friends. If you’re someone who likes to travel alone, or simply can’t find someone to go on your vacation with you, then it’s vital that you stay in touch with sober friends at home on a regular basis. Today, it’s easy to stay connected via text, phone, and email in most places, no matter how remote or exotic your destination. Before you go, consider setting up a scheduled daily phone call with a friend to check in and to help keep you on track.
Prepare to decline invitations to use. As mentioned above, alcohol is often everywhere on vacation and there will be many opportunities to drink. Manager’s receptions in hotels and free drinks with dinner can be treacherous for you. Furthermore, some destinations, particularly in certain parts of the world, you will be offered opportunities to buy drugs on the street. Prepare yourself for these situations and be strong – in most cases, a simple and firm verbal declination will be enough to survive the moment, with no further explanation required.
Be vigilant against H.A.L.T. Feelings of H.A.L.T., an acronym for hunger, anxiety, loneliness, and tiredness, can quickly lead to a relapse if you’re not careful, so be aware of these feelings and take steps to avoid them before they even begin. Make sure you eat enough, put yourself in challenging situations to grow but avoid ones that make you anxious, check in with others to avoid loneliness, and be careful not to over-extend yourself by getting enough rest. A vacation is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not exhausting and stressful, so be sure to have a plan to avoid or deal with these feelings if they arise.
Attend support meetings on your trip. Unfortunately, addiction is worldwide, but thankfully for you, that has resulted in an environment where there are support groups available and open to all in almost every city, state, and country. You’ll find that these groups are basically the same wherever you go and that they will welcome you with open arms. Alcoholics Anonymous’ website links to the websites of their branches in eighty-seven of the world’s countries (including the USA) and you can click through to find a local meeting wherever you may be. Narcotics Anonymous’ website includes a search feature to look for group meetings across the USA and around the world as well. Addiction.com offers a comprehensive search feature that searches a variety of different types of support groups everywhere. Most cruise ship lines offer daily meetings on board, usually listed on the schedule as Friends of Bill W. And if you can’t make a meeting in person, the Alcoholics Anonymous Online Intergroup even offers online meetings you can attend. As you can see, the possibilities to attend support group meetings while traveling are many, and there’s no reason you can’t find one to join – even while on vacation.
Schedule a support visit after your return. Although it’s great to attend a meeting while traveling, there’s no place like home, and your home support system. Be sure to schedule a support visit immediately after your planned return before you even head out on your trip. It will be comforting to know you’ll have someone to talk to about your trip, the challenges you faced, and the victories you had as soon as you arrive back at home.
Today, there are a variety of resources for people in recovery who want to travel and go on sober vacations with other similar-minded folks. Sobervacations.com and Travelsober.com both offer several group trips a year for people wishing to travel with others without the temptation of drugs or alcohol. Sobertravelers.com also offers trips like these, but also offers a wide variety of resources and vacation listings for those who want to travel sober, including camping trips and connections to people in recovery in other countries willing to assist you with the planning of your trip. And finally, the Clean Fun Network, which bills itself as “the premier community for people choosing a clean fun lifestyle,” offers group vacation opportunities worldwide along with their frequent local events in most US cities.
Traveling while in recovery may seem difficult to some, but with the right attitude and proper planning, it absolutely can be done, and you will find it is fun and good for you. After a few successful trips as a clean and sober individual, you will find it easier, and as a result you will be excited to travel more and more. Get out there and start checking off your bucket list places – the world is yours to see!
Dr. Sola is one of the world’s leading experts in medically-based ibogaine treatment; he has more clinical experience with safe and effective ibogaine administration than any other M.D. in the world today.