Maintain the Tequila. The Dawn Is All Some Vacationers Want.


A year after the coronavirus pandemic started, months of gaining weight and feeling light-headed, Mayra Ramirez stopped drinking. And this summer she will set a new milestone for her sobriety: a completely alcohol-free vacation.

Ms. Ramirez, 32, spent the first 12 months of the pandemic working remotely from a tiny Brooklyn apartment, drinking every weekend and many weekday evenings. In March, like many others in that tough year, she found that her alcohol consumption was beyond purely social levels. She has been sober for three months now. When she started looking for places to take a break with a couple of not sober friends, she suggested Sedona, Arizona, where everyone will hike and get up early, avoiding potential pitfalls like nightclubs and beach bars.

Many Americans turned to alcohol to ease stress, isolation, and anxiety in the past 15 months: An October study in JAMA Network Open, the journal of the American Medical Association, found Americans drank 14 percent more than the previous year. Now as vaccination rates rise and Americans return to the streets and to heaven, sober travel, a subset of vacations once reserved for just 12 steppers and recovering addicts, is becoming mainstream.

In a June survey by Branded Research of more than 23,000 people, 29 percent of those surveyed said they were planning an alcohol-free trip after the pandemic. 47 percent of respondents to American Express’s Global Travel Trends Report in March said wellness and mental health are top travel motivations in 2021, and analysis of social media chat from Hootsuite, a social media management company Platform found mentions of the term “sober vacation” jumped more than 100 percent on Memorial Day weekend. Airlines are also getting dry: after the ban on alcohol in the cabin in 2020, several airlines are postponing a return to serving alcohol thanks to unruly passengers.

“If you had asked me a year ago, I would have been unable to think that I would stop drinking forever,” said Ms. Ramirez. “But the pandemic of being at home and just sitting with my thoughts made me flip a switch and say, ‘I can’t do this anymore.'”

For the trip in September with her friends, Ms. Ramirez will fill the Airbnb fridge with non-alcoholic beer and act as the designated driver of the rental car. To complement a new meditation practice that has helped her sobriety, she has planned visits to Sedona’s supposed energy vortex to aid in meditation and healing.

“I was afraid to plan the trip because I am newly sober and I knew that traveling sober with other people who are not sober would be an obstacle,” she said. “But my friends supported me so much.”

Ruby Warrington, who published the book “Sober Curious” in 2018, regularly asks questions about sober travel in her Facebook group of the same name, whose membership has increased over the last year. She followed up that book in December 2020 with The Sober Curious Reset, a 100 day guide to rethinking your relationship with alcohol. Both of Ms. Warrington’s books opened up the global “sometimes sobriety” movement shaped by trends like Dry January and #mindfuldrinking.

“The pandemic really shed light on our drinking habits,” said Ms. Warrington. She herself stopped drinking in 2016 and found travel to be the last and most daunting hurdle.

“Drinking on holiday is definitely the drink I’ve held onto the longest. It was the only hall pass I gave myself, ”she said. “Many people looked at their drinking habits during the pandemic and don’t want to go back to what they were. And they don’t want a vacation to get in the way of their progress. “

Alcohol-free travel companies like Travel Sober, We Love Lucid, and Sober Outside organized completely dry trips long before the pandemic. Now they’re seeing a surge in popularity: Steve Abrams, who founded Sober Vacations International in 1987, said trips for next year were almost sold out. “I think we’re going to break loose,” he said.

The Art of Living Retreat Center, a vegan, non-alcoholic wellness retreat in North Carolina, reports a 50 percent increase in attendance specifically seeking a sober vacation. Their ranks have also grown at Rancho La Puerta, a fitness and spa resort in Tecate, Mexico, where no alcohol is served in the dining room. “Many guests said they drank more than ever before during the challenging year, mostly at home,” Guest Relations Director Barry Shingle said in an email.

Sober travel is a close relative of wellness tourism, a sector currently valued at nearly $ 736 billion and set to grow by $ 315 billion by 2024 as the pandemic has increased our desire to optimize our health.

“Wellness trips and the sober trips that go with it are becoming more and more attractive to people who want to keep their immune systems strong,” said Dr. Wendy Bazilian, an exercise physiologist based in San Diego. “After the pandemic, we will long for many different resets.”

Fay Zenoff, an addiction cure strategist, will lead a workshop for the sober curious this September in Mexico. She calls sobriety “a new wellness principle” and her workshop offers strategies for assessing one’s relationship with alcohol. “We’re all recovering from something and you don’t need to be sober to benefit from recovery practices, ”said Ms. Zenoff.

The pandemic also drove travelers into the great outdoors, forcing many to skip the drinks.

Carlos Grider, 37, who runs the travel blog A Brother Abroad, said that given city lockdowns, his readers shifted their priorities when planning trips to national parks and campsites.

Mr. Grider has been doing sober travel stages for four years, all of which correspond to intense adventures: a motorcycle tour through the rice fields of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam; meditation training in a monastery in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

“If you go on a hike or a hike, you have to take the alcohol with you and no one wants to carry that extra weight,” he said. “It’s a positive outcome of the pandemic that has made travel a lot richer.”

Sarah Fay, 29, agrees. She stopped drinking two years ago and her desire to climb the volcanoes on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala helped her stay sober during the pandemic.

“I’ve kept telling myself that when the world opens up, that’s what I want to do,” she said. “It was a health goal to be able to climb this height.” Ms. Fay made it to the volcanoes at the end of April. She shared her journey to sobriety on her travel blog, where multiple readers searched for sober travel tips. Sobriety is particularly important for women.

“It’s safer as a single female traveler,” she said.

The possibilities for non-alcoholic fun are also being expanded in cities. Spire 73, the open-air bar above the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown, has responded to the demand for native drinks by adding non-alcoholic wines to its bottle-service menu. In Regent Singapore, mocktails are prepared in the renowned Manhattan Bar with freshly squeezed juice and soaked tea infusions.

Non-alcoholic morning raves like Daybreaker and Morning Gloryville had to go virtual during the pandemic to expand their global audiences. With the return of personal parties, according to organizers, more and more travelers are coming to the drug-free dance floor.

Eli Clark-Davis, a co-founder of Daybreaker, says outside-of-town guests have tripled since personal dance parties resumed in May.

“Instead of only activating in 28 cities, we were in 112 countries. Now they want to visit the real thing, ”he said.

New sober or sober-nosy travelers should plan ahead, said Holly Sprague, the co-founder of Dry Together, an online non-alcoholic community for middle-life mothers, scouting websites for mocktails and rethinking habits like drinking at airports.

Ms. Sprague, 46, has been dry for almost three years. Megan Barnes Zesati, her co-founder, is also 46 and is fourth year dry. A sober vacation, said Ms. Zesati, completely changed her travel experience.

“Nowadays, during my vacation, I enjoy sunrise like sunset,” she said. “In the past vacation I rarely used the morning. Now they are my favorite times. “

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