We all love to travel
Nearly every online dating profile can confirm this. We only have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we have a pull to see as much of it as possible. This can be an incredible experience, especially when we’re traveling with fun light-hearted people. When traveling, our guards are often down, and our heart opens to the present moment. The sights, sounds, and smell are all taken in. We are fully present, and this is where the magic happens.
A trip from hell
Traveling the globe is great until it becomes a nightmare. In 2014, I was a counselor for a high school trip, and we had just finished the Inca Trail and exploring Machu Picchu (this is where I got the idea for the 2018 sober travel itinerary to Peru). I had plans to continue my travels after the students returned to Colorado and I was ready to strap on the backpack and let the wind take me. That was the plan at least.
I said goodbye to the group and had every intention of staying sober for the rest of my trip. That internal declaration lasted no more than two hours, and I found myself drunk at the hostel bar later that evening. For the remainder of my stay in South America should have been the sober vacation of a lifetime, but it ended up being a disaster where I wanted to hit the eject button nearly every moment.
Death Road mountain bike tour
After that, I traveled to Puno and visited the highest freshwater body of water on the planet, Lake Titi Caca. Then I visited La Paz Bolivia where I saw Guns and Roses on my birthday. They didn’t sell alcohol at the concert, so I saw it as a sign it was going to be my new sobriety date, my birthday! After the show, I was drunk followed by a brutal hangover for the Death Road mountain bike tour.
After that, I did a jungle tour in the Bolivian Amazon and was so thankful to hear I wouldn’t be near a bar or store that sold alcohol. Well, alcohol is everywhere, and ended up convincing a local to sell me 3 liters of beer. I was becoming demoralized, and the trip was only half done. Next up, my trip involved renting a car and drove (mostly drunk) through northern Argentina, then a 16-hour bus ride over the Andes into Chile where I vomited on myself twice. The bus driver apologized for the windy roads. To the day, I still don’t think he knew I was just flat out drunk. Oh yeah, I forgot about the salt flat in Bolivia and northern Chile. This is usually a highlight for travelers, but I was too hungover to exit the vehicle most days.
Will this trip ever end…
I found myself in northern Chile in the San Pedro de Atacama Dessert wanting nothing more than to just “go home.” I think I even googled “time machine” or “tele-transport” a couple of times in google searches. I was utterly defeated by alcohol at this moment, and I still had ten days left on the trip. I booked a stargazing trip in the desert of Chile which, apart from Machu Picchu, was the best part of the whole trip. During this stargazing excursion, I got a glimpse of the universe. A seed of spirituality was planted in my heart… For a moment, I thought I would be able to go the rest of the trip without alcohol.
Then Lima happened. I woke up every day promising myself I wouldn’t drink. I did so well until the sun went down. I did manage to attend a couple AA meetings in Lima which helped, but overall, it was a total dumpster fire.
I’ve also googled “dolorian time machine” in hopes that I can go back and to that trip again: sober. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I go back and see these incredible places again. The difference this time is that I won’t do it alone.
Great Experience with Sober Vacations
After that vacation from absolute hell, the idea of sober travel vacations first arrived. I said, I love to travel, and I need to find a way to do it without being tempted to drink. Call it fate, destiny, or whatever, I then started the Recovery Elevator podcast, the sober communities Café RE and we just did our first international dry travel vacation to Peru in 2018 with 20 total attendees. During that trip, not one person drank. We had 20 people who have decided to live a life without alcohol and not one person drank. Incredible. On top of that, laughter seemed to be the theme of each day!
Next up is Asia January 20 – 31st, 2020. We will be flying into Bangkok, Thailand and departing Seam Ream, Cambodia. Apart from exploring two top destinations in Southeast Asia, we will be doing service work with Ourland, an elephant sanctuary, in Kanchanaburi. This sober travel tour should be the trip of a lifetime and simply cannot wait.
If you can’t make a Recovery Elevator sober travel vacation, and you still want to travel, here are some tips.
Tips for sober travel
- Go with a friend who knows you won’t be drinking. This person can hold you accountable and give you support in those difficult moments. Make sure this friend doesn’t prioritize alcohol.
- Go with a sober travel buddy – even better! If you have a sober friend ask them to travel with you.
- Attend an AA meeting. I’ve attended AA meetings in nearly a dozen countries and not only is it great support, it’s a quick way to meet locals. I went to a meeting in Mexico and then was invited to a BBQ at a local’s house. It was so much fun.
- Keep recovery in your pocket – My recommendation is Café RE, but there are several supportive online recovery communities.
- Don’t risk it – Wait till you have some solid sobriety footing before embarking on a sober vacation 2019. If you’re in your first 30 days of sobriety, it may be prudent to wait another couple of months.
- Do not stay at the party – many hostels are where the party happens. Do your research and make sure you have an exit strategy when you’re ready to call it a night.
- Be strategic with your destinations – If sobriety is your goal, then the Spanish party Islands Ibiza, probably shouldn’t be on the itinerary. Maybe think about visiting Morocco where alcohol isn’t part of the culture.
Don’t let your goal of sobriety hinder your travel plans. There are many ways to do this. I’ve been to over 15 countries sober, and I plan to add to that list! Sobriety has given me a life I could never could have imagined. Thanks for being part of it.
I am approaching three years of sobriety. Recently, I have been distracted enough to not consider the convoluted emotions which typically accompany my sobriety date.
Not a day goes by when I am not authentically grateful for the disease of alcoholism; along with the unexpected gifts in recovery.
Lately my world has been in a constant state of cerebral dysfunction, with the long overdue separation of my youngest daughter and the societal expectation of public school.
Meanwhile, I feel I cannot possibly take on another role, yet find myself with three new sponsees. What in THE hell is my HP thinking? Does the universe not SEE that I am falling on my ass on a daily basis? My OWN ass. How do I have the mental capacity to guide three adult-type people through the early stages of recovery?
One night, while lonesome, I found myself momentarily missing a remarkably unhealthy relationship, for the mere fact that it offered companionship. Lost in thought, I found myself romanticizing that toxic union just as I would a glass of merlot; the familiar allure of poison.
A newcomer calling for guidance. I had just met her at her very first AA meeting.
The triumphant laughter of the universe, cloaked in a shout, when a suggestive whisper didn’t resonate. Jolting me back to reality and out of the very unnecessary abyss of that maladjusted union.
I recently also offered to sponsor another young woman. She shared some thoughts with me that made our short time together completely worthwhile.
We were reading the big book together, accompanied by a few pages of dreaded, yet reliable, homework. I suggested that she try to settle on a task and with humble willingness, she would start to feel better.
She concurred with insight of a different view, as she woefully spoke:
“I feel fear better.
I feel anger better.
I feel anxiety better.
I feel sadness better.
I feel everything fucking better.”
Truth. This is reality of sobriety.
I shared with this newcomer some of my ongoing struggles, and the recent ebb and flow of grief. Recounted the moment I was crying to my doctor, hoping for some Xanax, admitting to my new naturopath, “I don’t want to feel this…” Prior to hitting my bottom, I had been over-medicated in the care of an over-zealous practitioner with Xanax, Klonopin, and Celexa.
What was my new doctor’s remedy, instead of firing off a cryptic prescription or two?
She alerted me to my words that day, ” I don’t want to feel…” and reminded me that I haven’t allowed myself to feel anything except detachment for the past 20 years.
She recommended I sit through these damned emotions, wallow through the despair, allow the waves of grief to flow, until I could…
Written by Kellie Ideson from Pure Life Recovery
When I got sober I felt more alone than I’ve ever been. My boyfriend had just broken up with me, I was living in a foreign country, and I was too ashamed and embarrassed to share with anyone what I was going through. I had a friend in Cancun who was sober and offered to take me to a 12-step meeting, but I was terrified to go. Not only that I was positive I wouldn’t understand the majority of what was said since it would have been in Spanish.
I spent the majority of my first year in recovery alone. I read a lot of books about addiction and I engaged with sober websites and blogs. I attempted to attend 12-step meetings online, but I didn’t connect with anyone in the groups because I didn’t understand what they were talking about and they kept telling me to go to face-to-face meetings. I wasn’t ready to hear them or to take their advice.
As time went on I was finally able to find community, through 12-step meetings here in Florida when I moved, and through my blog and the online recovery community.
Here are 5 reasons community in recovery is everything.
- Group support
There’s nothing more powerful than a group of people collectively healing. Sharing your story is powerful and it can give permission for others to do the same. In gatherings of 12-step meetings I heard my story in other people’s stories and I was surprised and relieved. I felt like I finally could identify with others who had the same struggles as me. Groups can also provide support, advice, and guidance as you walk the sober path.
- Isolation can be dangerous
When you’re alone, whether on purpose or by chance, your thoughts and demons can become overwhelming. You may feel crazy, like you’re not sure what you’re feeling is normal or not, and it can become easier to consider going back to drinking or using. When we’re in recovery we need to be informed about what we’re feeling and if it’s normal or needs special attention. Community support can help with this and create a group atmosphere where everyone shares their successes and setbacks.
- Creating a new lifestyle
A big part of recovery is creating a new lifestyle and daily schedule to follow. We have to get rid of a lot of our old ideas, behavioral patterns, and even some hobbies, in order to be steadfast in our recovery. Finding a new community of people who are also sober, can help you engage in new activities with people on the same path as you. Additionally, these people can help you navigate new situations or activities that you might not know how to approach and vice versa.
- Giving back helps keep you sober
For many of us, finding purpose in sobriety is the key to keeping us sober. You don’t just get sober and that’s it. It’s an ongoing, everyday process, with ups and downs along the way. You may have heard the phrase, “you have to give it away to keep it.” Passing on the message of recovery to others who need to hear it, not only makes us feel good, it can be what another person may need to hear to get sober themselves. Helping out in your community, volunteering to do service work, or just sharing your story of recovery on social media can help give back, and simultaneously keep you sober.
- Accountability and motivation
Being sober is easier when you’re around people who also want to be sober and are working towards similar goals. Having someone you can stay accountable to makes avoiding negative behaviors more manageable. It’s always good to have someone you can call when you need to discuss feelings, thoughts, or cravings you’re having. During active addiction, we don’t have a lot of accountability and sometimes it’s hard for us to trust others or have others trust us, rebuilding we types of healthy relationships is essential in a sober community.
Community has allowed me to connect on a human level with others who are in and seeking recovery online, and in person. It allows me to give back and to pass on the message of recovery. Community helps keep me sober, but most of allow engaging in community has given me purpose.
Written by: Kelly Fitzgerald with The Recovery Village