Traveling Sober: A Drunken Tourist Turned Digital Nomad

Updated: Feb 27, 2018

On Being A Sober Traveler: Bigger Life Adventures is for everyone but we have a special place in our hearts for those on a path of recovery from addiction. Here's a bit of Carrie's story of the journey to becoming a proud sober woman who travels the world as a digital nomad.

The through line of my twenties was my passion for travel, and along with it, my ever-increasing passion for booze. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, holidays and get-togethers with other volunteers were fueled by homemade fruit wine from giant plastic buckets and Kilimanjaro beers. While backpacking through South America, I stopped to work in a party hostel bar for a month, the perks being a free bed and unlimited cheap booze and debauchery. In Europe, wine tasting often became wine guzzling, and Morocco was a pain in the ass because alcohol was so hard to find and so expensive! I always loved traveling, but as my 11-year-love affair with alcohol progressed, exploring new places became less about meeting new people and more about finding “vacation mode”— which to me was an excuse to day drink and drink every day, and find all the best drinking spots wherever I was.

My sordid affair with alcohol came to an end at age 29. I’ll save you the sob stories and the drama; it suffices to say I hit an embarrassing rock bottom and knew I had to change my life drastically. One of my biggest concerns when I got sober was how I would every travel again. I didn’t think it would possibly be as fun or exciting without alcohol.

I have my sobriety to thank for the fact that I am able to travel again today. Getting clean was rough, but gradually at first, and then quickly, goals and dreams that had been on the back burner for years began to materialize, seemingly out of thin air in front of my eyes. I know it wasn’t magic though. It was the sudden and drastic effect of finally having a healthy brain, body, and spirit. “Don’t leave before the miracle happens,” AA people are fond of saying. The real miracle to me, was that somehow, someway, I was vacationing in Cuba at five months sober not even tempted by all the rum and Havana beer!

I actually wanted to stay sober. I was shocking myself! How was that possible?

The slow but steady work of getting honest about my life and learning to face it sober, then learning that dealing with things without a drink in my hand was so much better for me, and actually starting to want to do life that way! The nitty-gritty “how” of this miracle is a much longer story for another post.

At six months sober I was sitting in a hot tub in Hawaii on a work retreat, sober, while most of my co-workers got drunk (no judgement here), having my boss hand me thousands of dollars as a cash bonus for being so awesome at my job. The same job I came *this close* to losing in my darkest drinking days. So of course I politely declined the Fireball shots he also tried to buy me.

And now I get to be a digital nomad freelancer and travel as a lifestyle! The dream I kept putting on hold for so many years came true so fast once I finally removed the addiction that was holding me back.

But how do I do it now? How do I fit into the heavy-drinking crowd of unruly backpackers at party hostels and make new friends as my introverted, sober self? I’m not gonna lie and say I haven’t missed the quick hits of friendship that a night out partying with people you just met in who-knows-where brings. I’ve even questioned why I seem to have to work harder nowadays to find true feelings of joy. There’s nothing like a bottle or a joint to create a momentary connection. But, nowadays, in those rare moments when I do find that connection, I know that it’s REAL. I don’t have to wake up struggling to remember who at the hostel I talked to and what we talked about the night before. Now I’m not afraid to take care of myself by taking a night off from socializing, going to a yoga class or gym, or finding a healthy vegetarian restaurant when I really need to eat a salad. My travels are no longer dominated by FOMO and the desire to be popular and fit in with everyone. When asked, I’m honest about my sobriety and it doesn’t bother me that some people find it weird. I find my tribe and stick with them. Added bonus— I make it to way more of the actual cultural highlights of the countries I visit now that I no longer find myself getting stuck in a dark bar seat. Best of all, my brain is fully awake and my eyes are fully open when I travel now. I get to be there, present and mindful, taking in all the beauty without the hazy filter of alcohol’s influence. For me, authentic travel really started with sobriety, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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