can you go to france and not drink?

does it matter where you live? I don’t think so. are there some cities or cultures or places where there is more alcohol? sure, but you might be surprised at how it’s handled.

my experience. not fact.

in the US and in Canada there are whole events that are constructed – it would seem – solely to be places to drink. baseball games. musical ‘festivals’. the local block party will have an area tarped off to provide shelter for stuck together group consumption. where I come from, ‘want to come and watch the game’ means ‘want to come and watch me drink in my basement’. an invitation to play guitar around the campfire means ‘want to come watch me drink near live fire’. Can you attend these events and not drink? of course. they’re just boring. and long.

on my trips to London, i’ve found whole parts of the city that are basically outdoor bars. Drinking in the pub and outside on the street. You come out of a tube station day and night, and there are people drinking everywhere. It’s a sport in itself. It’s an event. can you go out in London and not drink? certainly. I’ve done it. but I’ve also seen one drunk guy trying to get another drunk guy home on the tube. and I had to get up and move to another carriage. drunkenness and public rail transit seems too dangerous to witness up close. I get it, you want them on the subway and not driving. so the message of ‘don’t drink and drive’ should be updated to include ‘don’t fall down the cement steps, don’t step between the train and the platform, don’t try to exit the train while the doors are closing, don’t start to hustle some young girl while her burly borderline personality boyfriend is sitting beside her’.

Can you go to italy and not drink? apparently. I haven’t been back since I quit. Can you go to spain? theoretically. I haven’t done that either. or Amsterdam. some places I have yet to revisit now that i don’t drink, to see what they’re really like. to have the real vacation. which I’ve up to now missed. like I want to redo all these places again, sober. to really be there.

but I have gone to Belgium sober. and all over France. and I’ve been to London and Scotland, Canada, the US. I’ve gone to Portugal sober. one great thing about countries like france, no one would ever ask you why you’re not drinking. way too impolite. you just do your thing. they do theirs. you’re worried about travelling to italy? you can remind wolfie that it’s always easier than you think it’ll be. remind wolfie of the many new brands of fancy water. remind wolfie of the – oh my god – desserts you have to sample. have to. must.


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • Tree…. Great post. I was honestly thinking of having a drink today. Beautiful sunny weekend. But your comment, ” not today, maybe in the future” stopped me! 40 days. Sober, getting back in my sober car and keeping up the momentum. Feels great, thanks!

    • Nancy, you’re on your way. Just commit to the 100 days and I promise things get better with each passing day. The sober momentum really is a thing. Just follow the simple directions and you will be amazed. This is my 3rd time and I can say from experience, nothing good comes from drinking and so much good comes from just one more day!

  • Belle, I’m on day 299 today after completing my 3rd 100 day challenge. The first 2 times I was undone on trips home to Hawaii, where I visit twice a year. It seemed impossible to be sober there; the beach, the heat, the festive nature of the tropics, and throw in crazy family drama and it’s the perfect storm for me. This round I was determined to not only do 100 days but beyond to 180 & 360. I even considered canceling my trips. But I went and took my determination with me, saying I can drink there in the future but not this time. Well, I just got back from my second visit and I did it. Two trips to Hawaii without booze and on day 299 today, looking forward to 360 and one year sober. I did so many fun physical things that I wouldn’t have done if I was drinking. I know that. A beautiful trip where drinking is not the focus is so much better.

  • I live in Napa. Wine, the finest of the fine is here. Everywhere. Civil enough, you do not have to drink. There are many other lovely ETOH-free and faux alternatives offered everywhere. Not everyone is drinking wine. I am there. It’s ok.

  • Just off on my first sober holiday in years at 130 days sober incredibly excited to be experiencing it all sober as are my kids but also feel very emotional and a like bit sad that I messed up being able to drink like ‘normal’ people and resentful of my husband that he still can!!!!

  • This is awesome, because I planned my first holiday in 7 years. And it’s also my sober holiday. To Portugal, and I’m looking forward to it so much because I’m really gonna ‘be there’ 🙂

    I live in London and it really has a drinking culture. I stepped away from it but it’s so out there indeed. Though London has much to offer for sober people too 🙂

    It’s nice to read about someone who’s been on holiday sober, thanks Belle! Useful post just before I’m leaving!

  • I knew when I quit drinking that a trip to Italy might be in my future. Previous trips had been winefests, so I was a bit worried, no, a lot worried about it for months. I have to admit, while in restaurants, [it] did give me pause. However, when I did not order wine, nothing happened. Waiters did NOT raise any eyebrows, nothing fell out of the sky, no one announced that this red-haired woman was not drinking tonight. So, I drank water, ate my delicious food, and then went up the street for some gelato. Woke up bright and clear the next day to enjoy a full day of sightseeing. Repeat every day for three weeks. Best trip I ever had to Italy because I was there, in the moment, not worried about how much wine I could consume without a huge hangover the next day. Travel, free and clear, with wolfie only occasionally whispering.

  • Always glad to read your posts. This one is spot on for so many reasons. Sober vacations seem hard. But like you stated, are boozy vacations even really vacations? What is the point of spending loads of money to sit at pool/beach and drink away the days? Why not actually explore the culture and land? That certainly doesn’t happen very well drunk. — but as usual. I’m newly sober and I have a vacation that occurs just slightly after I will hit 100 days. I’m incredibly nervous about it. But know it can be done. — Thanks for sharing your thoughts.