BEST Vacations in Recovery – Sober Summer Travel

sober vacation lake view

Flood the senses – the splendor of Lake Superior in Copper Harbor, Michigan.

 

Every year at this time I think of those who are new to recovery. Summer vacation, a time to relax and enjoy life can be stressful to the newly sober traveler. In my drinking days vacation began with the first glass of wine on the plane. It often ended with bruised shins, battered relationships, and a hangover from hell, but it didn’t deter me from Bahamian breakfast (a beer before 8:00am) or zipping wine shooters into the pocket of my hiking backpack. After all, there are no rules on vacation, and what is the point of reaching a mountaintop without a celebratory toast, right?

 

Wrong. These days, I don’t even think about drinking alcohol, but if I harken back to early recovery, I remember I was afraid to go on vacation. Why? Because everything was a reminder of the days before recovery. Airports were triggers, Jimmy Buffet songs made me think – DRINK, and unscheduled time was dangerous. There is nothing to fear about going on vacation in recovery (in fact, your family/friends will thank you for it). The trick is thinking ahead and picking the best sober vacations with a minimum of time for temptation.

 

BEST Vacations in Recovery

This doesn’t mean you have to stay home and study the big book. And a summer vacation can be just what the doctor/addiction therapist ordered. It does mean, however; that you should plan for triggers to relapse and create a schedule for the time you will be away. You should also consider your destination and vacation partners carefully.

 

Scheduling vacation time? Planning for a trigger free environment? That doesn’t sound like fun – it doesn’t even sound like a vacation.

 

 

The definition of vacation is, “an extended period of leisure and recreation; especially one spent away from home or in traveling.” Vacation is not defined as a bingeing free-for-all, so let’s get that out of our heads. The good news is that sober vacations sans strong drinks with umbrellas are:

  • Less dangerous or accident prone
  • Less expensive
  • More energetic
  • Happier (no late-night drama or pratfalls into the pool)
  • More in-the-moment and appreciated

 

But vacations also mean you will be away from familiar 12-step meetings, recovery routines, and escape plans. So pre-planning and control is a good idea. You do not want to end up on “shore leave” from the cruise ship at a Senior Frogs drinking contest!

 

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For  more on early recovery:
The Brain And Body Healing Effects of a Sober Tropical Vacation
Flying High – Why Airports are Triggers for Those in Recovery
Dynamics of Early Recovery

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Let’s take a look at the best sober vacations 2022

 

Explore your State

During the pandemic, trends toward closer-to-home travel emerged and it is great for the skittish traveler. If you drive your own car you can avoid airplanes and high priced rental cars and you have a built in escape hatch (even if you don’t use it). Travel someplace you’ve never been in your own state and immerse yourself. Watch a sunrise or a sunset transform a familiar place!

 

sober vacations

The spectacular sunsets at Wilderness State Park, Mackinaw City,

 

Islands in the Sun

An island getaway is a great place for a sober vacation when you define “vacation” properly. Sunrise on the beach, hiking, snorkeling, hitting the straw market or wholesale jewelry stores, and sightseeing are all great sober activities in the islands. And if you have access to a boat, snorkeling is the perfect exercise for those in recovery. Water in the face, rigorous exercise, exquisite scenery and early to bed. Make sure to pack the cooler with sparkling water and go!

 

Bahama blue – the color of freedom, inspiration and imagination!

 

Educational Getaways

If you’ve always wanted to see the Vatican, get the lay of the Sleeping Bear Dunes or sit quietly on the banks of Loch Ness, now is the time to repair brain function and live in the moment. And with a clear head, excellent balance, and stamina the experience can be greatly enhanced. You will actually read the plaques in the visitor center, lead the charge up 320 Vatican steps and research Nessie sightings before you arrive in the Highlands.

 

Lead the way – good for the heart and soul!

 

Yoga and Spa Retreats

When you are with a community that is passionate about wellness, fitness or mindfulness you do not have to explain why you’re not ordering a Mai Tai at lunch. The best sober vacations renew the mind, body and spirit and there are so many options for a retreat vacation from eco-friendly to luxury. And many spas do not serve alcohol and have 12-step meetings on site. A retreat is also a good option for solo travelers.

 

sober vacation man on dock at sunset

Traveling solo? Spa vacations are a great way to meet kindred spirits!

 

Museum and Gallery Staycations!

Take a long weekend staycation and visit every museum in your town and (if you don’t live in a big city) surrounding towns! You will be amazed by how many options present themselves. New York has MOMA, but also the Museum of Ice-cream, And near Grand Rapids? We have everything from Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to the Bruce Dice Mineralogical Museum.

 

Guided Tours, Camping or Try Something New

Can you see yourself herding cattle on a dude ranch? Stretch your imagination and think of all the things you’ve never tried (but would love to try). Learn to play third base or row a skiff. Hike the Grand Canyon, camp in Copper Harbor or bike through the Cotswolds. It doesn’t have to be dangerous or expensive – it might be a guided birding tour. And when you do something that has a guide or instructor, they will take you seriously. And you will have accountability as well as boatloads of fun.

 

best vacations in recovery heron flying

Bird nerds – get out the binoculars and take a birding tour.

 

Traveling is For Those in Recovery!

When you think about it, vacations are for the sober. We get up refreshed, early and ready to experience the day. Since 2020 we have certainly learned to live in the moment, curious and passionate about our interests. And we are unencumbered by the need to pack or find our substance of use on a remote island, backwoods village, or camelback excursion. We have done the kind of inner searching that illuminates what we want out of life. And what we don’t want.

 

So, jump into the sober vacation. With proper planning, risk avoidance and the right destination and company, you can literally have the time of your life! And after all we’ve been through, you deserve it. Remember to pack a mask (just in case), review any possible restrictions/regulations in your vacation destination, and join the dance of life.

 

Marilyn Spiller is a writer, sober coach, recovery advocate, and student of the world. (She also holds a bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing). Eight years sober herself, she penned one of the first sobriety blogs, "Waking Up the Ghost" in 2013. The blog garnered an international following, allowing Marilyn to communicate with thousands of folks in all stages of recovery. Marilyn is Sanford's Director of Marketing and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford online magazine, "Excursions". She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board, JACK Mental Health Advocacy.