For many, drinking is a cultural experience. It’s something that people do when they visit with friends, attend special events or escape on a vacation. It’s associated with fun and relaxation, holidays and celebrations. However, as dear as our drinking customs may be, anyone who has enjoyed one beverage too many can vouch for alcohol’s adverse effects. It’s these same unpleasant consequences that have nudged many to become what Author Ruby Warrington refers to as ‘Sober Curious’ as they begin to explore their relationship with alcohol and its role in their life.
And just as bars and restaurants are showing their support through N/A offerings like Instagrammable mocktails and alcohol-free beers, it’s important for travel advisors to explore how they can best serve Sober Curious travelers as the movement continues to grow.
What Does It Mean To Be Sober Curious?
Whether for health reasons, a New Year’s resolution or just because, many of us have wondered at one point or another what our lives would be like without or with less alcohol in them. In 2018, with the release of her book by the same name, Warrington coined a term for that feeling: Sober Curious. “To be Sober Curious really just means to allow yourself and give yourself permission to answer and investigate those questions that arise for many normal drinkers,” said Warrington. “Most normal drinkers have associated some problems attached to their drinking.”
For Warrington, some of those problems began to bubble up as she entered her mid-30s and dove deeper into her career. “I began to realize that alcohol was causing me quite a lot of problems. I would always feel hungover no matter how much I drank, even if it was just a glass of wine,” she said. “It was interrupting my sleep; it was spiking my anxiety, and I just sort of began to question how healthy this was and what the real impact of drinking was on my overall well-being.”
However, at the time, conversations about society’s relationship with alcohol and the solutions for those who wanted an out were quite limited. “To be asking those kinds of questions would automatically put you into the category of alcoholic. ‘You have a drinking problem, and you need to go to AA and be part of this program and you can never drink again’ … it seemed very extreme,” said Warrington. “I sort of began thinking of a different way to frame what became my evolving relationship with alcohol over a period of many years as I experimented with longer and longer periods of abstinence whilst asking a lot of these really deep questions about why I was drinking. Why I felt the need to drink, why I felt like there was so much pressure to drink, why there were so few options for non-drinkers and what my life would be like if I didn’t drink. I called that questioning process being Sober Curious.”
Alcohol’s Role in Travel
An airport cocktail, something fruity for the beach or a glass of suds with dinner to wash it all down, alcohol is commonly associated with a vacation state of mind. Booze is strongly tied to how we kick back and unwind, and committing to a dry getaway can be challenging for travelers early on in their Sober Curious journey. “Vacation drinking was what I held on to for the longest, and I think that’s because I had such a strong association between alcohol and relaxation,” said Warrington. “I didn’t know how to relax without alcohol because alcohol had always been there for me anytime that I wasn’t working, whether it was dinner with friends, vacations or parties. Alcohol was always there so the thought of going for a long weekend or even a week or longer without drinking and without having work to distract myself was, well, really intimidating.”
And while there will likely be obstacles at first, a Sober Curious-friendly vacation is totally doable. In fact, travelers might even find that they come back from a booze-free retreat feeling even more well-rested than they did previous escapes. “I remember the first sort of sober vacation I did, just coming back feeling like I had actually had a vacation,” said Warrington with a laugh. “Vacations are about relaxation, and it’s not just we perceive alcohol as helping us to relax, the after-effects and the overall impact on our physical well-being, not least our sleep, can actually take away and take away from the quality of our relaxation.”
Tips for Planning a Sober Curious Vacation
Travelers who choose to be mindful of their alcohol consumption, or those who decide to oust it from their lives completely, don’t need to miss out on the fun. “There’s no need to not go to fancy restaurants or, I don’t know, take a cooler of drinks to the beach or to have barbeques,” said Warrington. “It’s just kind of a switch-up. If I’m doing a city break (I’ll think), ‘what are the coffee shops I want to check out,’ instead of, ‘what are the bars I want to check out,’ you know?”
While there is no one-size-fits-all vacation for the Sober Curious traveler, limiting alcohol consumption often results in more energy and early mornings to enjoy making these travelers great candidates for active holidays. Warrington notes walking holidays, camping holidays and sailing holidays as a few that have caught her eye. Similarly, group and wellness-focused activities are both excellent choices, “These kinds of group activity vacations would definitely appeal to this sector because it’s something to do that’s not just lying around a pool with a cocktail, and it’s a way to meet like-minded people on what can be a lonely or alienating path.”
Sober Curious Vacation Ideas
N/A Beverage Tours
Help travelers experience their next destination through the power of taste and smell with an N/A beverage tour. From coffee and tea to mocktails and soda, the world is full of unique (and delicious) flavors to explore.
Wellness-Based Activities and Excursions
Sober Curious travelers can find their Zen when they embrace wellness-based activities during their next far-flung getaway. Whether it’s a yoga class on the beach, a calming meditation session or an afternoon at the spa, they’re sure to leave feeling relaxed and refreshed. Or, for a more active approach, travelers can opt to partake in a local fitness class or hit the trails for a scenic hike.
What better way to get acquainted with a new city than to experience it firsthand? Travelers can discover a destination’s top sights and get some exercise in the process with a walking or biking tour. And, as an added bonus, these tours are a great way for visitors to learn their bearings.