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 hard to find and 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 an excuse to find all the best drinking spots wherever I was, day drink, and drink every day.
My sordid affair with alcohol came to an end at age 29 when 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 ever travel again. I didn’t think it would possibly be as fun or exciting without alcohol.
I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t missed the quick hits of friendship that a night out partying with people you just met brings. There’s nothing like a bottle or a joint to create a momentary connection. But, now, 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 I talked to the night before. 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 odd.
But there’s more. I now make it to many more of the actual cultural highlights of the countries I visit instead of getting stuck in a dark bar seat. Best of all, my brain is fully awake and my eyes are fully open when I travel. I get to be 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.