No lager, no sunset: could you have a sober vacation? | To travel


A A few years ago, before a two week vacation in the Algarve, I decided not to drink. I thought it would be difficult. There would be no more vinho verde to baste a sea bream grilled over charcoal. It would be adeus to the Sagres frozen lager that pairs so perfectly with these fatty and yellow Portuguese fries. Aside from the taste pleasures, I was worried about being sober. Drinking is part of the British holiday routine. If I did not participate, it could also endanger everyone else’s enjoyment.

In addition, it was part of my “personal brand”. It wasn’t that I was an alcoholic, but I thought that being sociable, and generally willing to have a good time and a pint in the sun, was one of the reasons people wanted to go on vacation. with me. At 32, I was worried about risking projecting Big Midlife Crisis Energy years before my time.

The first few days, abstinence was tough. The rhythm of the holidays is linked to consumption: the first beer of the day; aperitif time; experience local wines. Diversion tactics were needed. I’d drink dummy, gin-less G&T, or say, “I’ll have one in a moment” every time a drink was offered.

Little by little, it got easier. Instead of drinking alcohol, I swam lengths and ran in the hills. I avoided my usual vacation regimen of silly thrillers to read books that required concentration. I was able to bring everyone back from long lunches to the beach. In the morning, I became unrecognizable, perky, advocating tennis “before the sun reached the court”. I was, said a companion, unbearable. When I got back I felt like a million euros.

I am not the only one not to be particularly worried about my alcohol consumption but also to want to drink less on vacation; the pandemic has accelerated a growing trend towards sober vacations. Lauren Burnison launched her alcohol-free travel business, We Love Lucid, in March 2019, a year before the pandemic, but says there has been a 60% increase in bookings and inquiries over the past 18 years. month. While 70% of its customers do not drink alcohol, 30% are simply “sober and curious”. In June, the New York Times reported that a survey over 20,000 Americans found that nearly a third planned alcohol-free travel after the pandemic. According to the Global Wellness Institute, a U.S. non-profit organization, by 2022, global wellness tourism will be worth nearly $ 1 billion, or one-fifth of the market.

The rise of non-alcoholic beer and non-alcoholic spirits is further proof that Britons are slowly changing their attitude towards alcohol consumption – there is money in these mocktails. The consensus is that the coronavirus has had a polarizing effect on British drinkers. While consumption in pubs and bars, which were closed, fell dramatically, home consumption increased. Drinking alone has increased and 2020 was the worst year for alcohol-related deaths in 20 years; over 7,000 have been registered. For some, however, the pandemic has spurred a health campaign.

“A lot of people have made positive lifestyle changes,” says Burnison. “Coupled with the desire to get out after being locked up, the pandemic has meant people are choosing different types of vacations. Often times, they’re blown away by how it feels after a sober vacation, without the horrible hangovers or empty wallets. She returned from Spain to the UK in 2018, and says a problematic relationship with alcohol on vacation is more prevalent in Western and Northern Europe. “In Spain or Italy, they can drink in the evening, but they don’t force-feed themselves in the same way,” she says.


Tthere problem is, i love the weird frenzy. I know some people are able to measure just one glass of fine wine with dinner and leave it at that, but they seem to me to be models of self-control. The language around sobriety puts off the dabbler: “Sober” and “alcohol-free” are not words that make the heart leap. The sweet concept of “well-being”, tinged with images of green juice and dawn yoga, makes me cringe. While I hate the idea of ​​a “retreat,” which feels like somewhere a gong might ring at any moment, I do admit that I feel like taking a break from an existence of hard work and celebration. There is, however, a conceptual leap between trying to drink less while on vacation and going on a “sober vacation,” with its 12-step and recovery implications.

“Words can totally put people off,” says Burnison, “especially people who just want a break, and maybe think,“ I don’t want to go off with a bunch of people with serious drinking problems. “” His next tour will be led by Piers Burnell, who gave up drinking after catching a cold in 2018 after a particularly drunken ski trip to Austria. “I live in Henley, a town where you drink all the time,” he says. “My younger sister passed away 10 years ago; she drank too much. I didn’t want to follow the same path. He joined his first We Love Lucid tour last year. It turned out so well that Burnison invited him to work with her. “A lot of people who have just become sober can find the trips quite intimidating,” says Burnell. “You have to help people see that they can socialize and have a good time without the help of a drink.” His trip to Cornwall this summer will include kayaking, boogie boarding, baking lessons and dining out. “When you’re sober, your food appreciation skyrockets,” he says.


PThe art of cultural resistance to quitting alcohol on vacation comes from how we learn to drink. From the ceremonial pint at the airport to the duty free trolley ride on the way home, vacation and drink are intertwined in the British imagination. It’s just as true whether you’re a beer lover in Wetherspoon or the kind of elegant potentate who prefers a G&T in the Concorde Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5. From Byron to Patrick Melrose to Withnail in the tea room to Inbetweeners, British culture is replete with examples of drinking alcohol while traveling.

While drinking while on vacation in my youth seemed purely hedonistic at the time, in hindsight it was one of the ways I measured becoming an adult. Traveling the mainland as a teenager was to step into the future briefly and visit a universe where, for a splendid week, I could order a beer and say hello, before returning for the AS levels. Drinking emboldened me linguistically, helped forge new friendships, and covered the cracks of old ones.

Still, I got to a point where I got tired of coming back and saying variations of “I think I need a vacation to get over the vacation”. After the stress, cost, and hassle of organizing the break, I was crankier, fatter, and more tired than when I was gone. For many, returning to work is an opportunity to restore some sober order. But as a food and drink writer, there was no lack of opportunities, bordering on obligations, to permeate in the name of professional advancement.

Like Burnison, writer Ruby Warrington, author of the 2018 book Sober Curious, has quit drinking for good, but says the holidays have been the hardest drinking event. “The holidays were what I held for the longest, in part because I hadn’t learned to relax without alcohol.

She says it’s getting easier and easier for people to re-evaluate their drinking. “Before, you had to hit a devastating bottom before considering quitting. Now I think there is more permission for drinkers across the spectrum to question things. Drinking is not an aspiration like in the 90s. From climate emergency to political turmoil to economic collapse, we are more aware of external pressures in the world. Drinking does not make these problems go away. We need ways to feel calmer, and alcohol exacerbates anxiety. For me, a vacation would be to delete all my social networks and go somewhere with as few people as possible.

My first alcohol-free vacation turned out to be temporary, but the throbbing sensation didn’t go away. After a few nights of confinement last year, when I shamefully overcooked it, I decided to take another vacation in the sauce. I have a 17 month old child; my desire to be there for her fits well with my desire not to have a hangover when someone jumps my head at 6am. The problem was, the holidays were against pandemic restrictions. Instead, I gave up alcohol for the first two and a half months of this year, sort of a dry January extended vacation of my lifestyle. Again, it was difficult at first, but it got easier. I lost 2nd place, felt better and wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. Then I ran out of drink, picked it up, and enjoyed the glasnost of post-Covid 19 hospitality.

Holidays are meant to help you reset and recalibrate. For many people, that means drinking. But it is not necessary. Learning to drink was part of becoming an adult, but learning not is also part of it. It’s a shame it took me 15 years to figure that out. I am going back to Portugal for a fortnight next month, consenting to Covid, and I will not drink. After the past two years, we’ve all gained a break from ourselves.

Mine tonic water: five tips for a drink-free vacation

Planning activities
A lively vacation, whether it’s walking, swimming, climbing, skiing, diving or yoga, makes it easier to skip the fridge or the bar. Do not miss the visit to the vineyard.

Explore alcohol-free alternatives
There are a lot of good non-alcoholic beers out there now, as well as non-alcoholic spirits and appetizers, like Seedlip or Ghia. If you are independent, refuel.

Be the designated driver
If you volunteer to be the driver, it will be easier to avoid drinking – and you will earn eternal gratitude from everyone else.

Choose the right destination
Choose places where the culture is less focused on alcohol: Morocco rather than Magaluf. A secluded cabin or campsite may have fewer alcoholic temptations than cities or resorts.

Assert yourself
Peer pressure is mostly in your head. Nobody really cares if you don’t drink. But you might find it easier to have an answer ready in case people ask you why: for example, “I’m just taking a break” or “health or fitness reasons”.

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