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I tried 'sober travel' after ditching alcohol last year. It was a better experience than drinking on vacation.

Stephanie Pryor   

I tried 'sober travel' after ditching alcohol last year. It was a better experience than drinking on vacation.
  • I decided to stop drinking last year, but already had a trip to Europe planned.
  • I was worried about what sober travel would be like, but it was actually wonderful.

When I quit drinking, there was no fanfare; no days-long hangover or humiliating mistake that made me give it up. I simply didn't enjoy it anymore, and even a single drink worsened my sleep and anxiety.

So, on Jan. 2, 2023, I decided to part ways with alcohol. In the year that followed, I encountered highs and lows: starting my own marketing agency; the death of my beloved dog, Bella; and a European vacation years in the making.

If Taylor Swift can do the entire Eras Tour without drinking, I could do the same on my one-week trip to Germany. Here are three reasons I'm glad I did.

I learned I didn't have to drink alcohol to enjoy my vacation

Before I arrived, alone, in Munich last August, I admit that it crossed my mind: Would I be missing out on something by choosing not to drink?

After all, Munich plays host to Oktoberfest — an internationally known celebration of Bavarian heritage. For the non-German, it conjures images of lederhosen, massive steins overflowing with German beer, and drunk tourists stumbling through the streets.

As it turns out, Germany is also the largest market in the world for no- or low-alcohol products. I can substantiate this through experience: Every beer garden I visited had alkoholfreie bier on its menu, in which I gladly partook.

Not once did I feel FOMO when choosing the alcohol-free option.

I was fully present on my trip — for the good and the bad

For all the wonderful parts of traveling, there's annoyance, frustration, and anxiety, too.

Here's a great example. Before meeting my friends in Marburg for the second half of my trip, I stayed in Munich. It had been 14 years since I first visited with my high school exchange program, and my German was rusty. When I tried to order lunch at a stand near the famed Viktualienmarkt, I couldn't understand what the employee was saying.

It didn't help matters that he wasn't very friendly, but I understood. It was hot, and it was busy. Still, I cringed mightily at my mistake. If I'd been drinking, the social anxiety would have melted away. I'd have had the confidence to waltz up to the stand without fear of ordering in a foreign language. But, as it was, I wasn't drinking, and I was nervous.

After the embarrassment subsided, I sat with my very plain, very sad Bratwurst and pommes frites, and I realized something. Despite the abrasiveness of the interaction, I was fully present in that painfully awkward moment. It wouldn't be shrugged off or forgotten, but instead, weaved into the fabric of my story in Germany.

These experiences gave me a new, genuine kind of confidence. All the difficult moments were still stressful, but they were a lot easier to manage without "hangxiety" heaped on top. And, all the fun things were more vibrant and memorable — a nine-mile running tour through Munich, a day at the Bundesgartenschau in Mannheim, and a trek to the castle at Heidelberg.

The physical and financial benefits were noticeable

Flying hungover sucks. IYKYK.

The most obvious benefit to sober travel is feeling physically well. No one wants to spend their precious time away nursing a hangover, yet drinking is associated with our idea of vacationing as adults.

Sober travel means you get to skip the headache, fatigue, and sick stomach (barring any bugs picked up along the way). You trade the hangover in for improved sleep, memory, and energy while you explore a new city or kick back on the beach.

Additionally, your wallet will thank you when you don't indulge. Quitting drinking can save thousands of dollars a year — not only the amount you would normally spend on alcohol but also, impulse buys you make while under the influence.

Give sober travel a try in 2024

Ultimately, I found I had worried for nothing when I planned my solo trip to Germany.

Sober travel only improved my experience; if not for feeling good and saving money, then for being fully immersed in every moment and building genuine confidence instead of dulling the highs and lows with alcohol.

If you're considering cutting back on your alcohol intake come the New Year, give it a try. You might find that life on the sober side is a gift that keeps on giving.

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