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/ March 3, 2022

Being on vacation sober… what’s it really like?

“Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Rexing, may I offer you our complimentary drink of freshly pureed mango & tequila to officially welcome you to your stay at…..”

Stepping out of the car wondering how best to politely decline this warm gesture, at the gates of this gorgeous five-star resort, just inches from my hand.  How does one say, no thank you, I’ll have the kiddy cocktail version instead (which of course they graciously offered without missing a beat).

I don’t think I realized it until I became sober, how alcohol is everywhere, especially on vacations.  From the tequila & fresh limes waiting for us in our hotel room, to the hotel pool with what seemed like every adult casually holding a drink in their hand.  It seemed as if in just the first few hours of our arrival, I was noticing alcohol everywhere.

Which to be honest was no surprise, after all, that’s how we’re taught to unwind. The hallmark of being “off”. A drink in hand. At least that’s how it had been for me.

I remember my first trip sober last March when we took the kids to California like it was yesterday. Let me rephrase that, I remember my anxiety around that trip like it was yesterday.

I was freshly sober, just two months in, and the last time we were in California (just months before), almost every sunset included a glass of rose in my hand. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal.  I’m still not sure if it is or isn’t (and to be honest, is sort of irrelevant). I never thought of myself as having a problem. We were on vacation. It was a sunset. It was a glass of wine.

So if it wasn’t a big deal then, why did it feel like a big deal now? Going on my first vacation, sober. Why did it feel like a big deal?

Deep down, I think I was scared. Nervous if I could/would really do it. It felt easy enough to get away without drinking at home (especially with covid and no social obligations) but continuing with this habit somewhere warm. On a beach. Somewhere we had had drinks many times together before, scared me.

It was my first test. The first of many.

To be honest, I wasn’t very vocal about it then because I wasn’t sure I could do it. For some reason, I think I was downplaying my yearning to live a sober life.

I was telling myself that I was taking it “day by day” but I knew deep down that my heart ached for something bigger. A different way of living. But the idea of “all or nothing” felt too big. So “day by day” was my mantra.

I talked about it at length with JP leading up to our trip. Was I going to drink? Was he? Would we have alcohol in the house? Was he going to buy it? I needed a plan.

The irony is, as soon as we got settled in California, on our very first day, JP and I walked the 1/2 block to the beach from our air BNB, watched the sunset with two sparkling waters, and I didn’t think twice about drinking from that moment on.

It was done. I was there. On the beach. Watching the sun set. And I didn’t miss that glass of rose for a second.

I could breathe.

That trip was almost a year ago.

Since then JP and I have had many other trips (together and alone) celebrations and milestones…all sober. 

Some easier than others.  The one thing they all had in common, there was a choice.  A moment a conscious decision was made.  A moment of fear, and then a moment of calm.  Recognizing that the trip WOULD be different, the birthday dinner WOULD be different, the holiday WOULD feel different.  But that different wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in fact, there was a possibility that different could mean better.   

On this past trip to Mexico, I had a lot of questions from all of you. What’s it like being on vacation sober?  How does it feel?  Is it as fun?   Which is what prompted this post.

I remember when I first became curious about being sober. Vacations, holidays, weddings. The big things always *seemed* like they’d be the hard moments.

A year later, they actually feel like the moments that are easier. Because in truth they’re so much BETTER sober.

After we settled into the gorgeous One & Only Palmilla last week, I didn’t think twice about not having a drink in my hand at the pool, at dinner, or at any point.

Sure, there are moments when habitually (or culturally) you feel like you need something in your hand.  And the beauty is, there are plenty of options out there.  

But truth be told, I think think this was the BEST vacation I ever had, not despite being sober, but BECAUSE I WAS SOBER.

No, I didn’t have a glass of rose around the pool, 

But here’s what I got instead…

Amazing sleep.

Waking up at 5 am naturally to watch the sunrise with my husband

Energy and a desire to work out and move my body every day

A desire to eat well and fuel my body with gorgeous nutritious food

Energy in the afternoon to get in one more swim, one more walk, one more paddleboard (no afternoon naps needed)

Great meaningful conversation over dinner

Staying up late reading listening to the sound of the ocean

This was the first vacation we came home, where I didn’t feel like I needed a vacation after my vacation.  I came home rested.  Restored.  Relaxed.  Happy.

Would those things have happened had I/we been drinking?  Maybe.  I don’t know. 

I’m in no way trying to encourage anyone to go on vacation and choose to be sober.  Those are such personal decisions that only you know.

But I will tell you this.  From the way I see it.  From living a life with both, alcohol and sober.  Life is so much more beautiful when you’re fully present.  But our minds and our bodies keep us trapped thinking we “need it” To relax.  To be social.  To have fun.

It was something I believed for 40 some years.  

Until one day I decided to make a choice that was bigger than how I felt in the moment.  To say, sure I might mess up, maybe I will have a drink at some point, and I don’t know if I’m going to make it more than “one day” – but I sure as hell am gonna try.

I want to see how beautiful life can feel when I’m fully awake.  I want to see how good my body can feel fully relaxed, nurtured, and restored.  I want to see what my relationships feel like when I’m fully present.  

And so far, it feels pretty damn amazing.  


If you’re at all curious about what it’s like being sober, or what prompted my sobriety journey, you can read a little more about it here, Unexpetedely Sober, and here, “Answering your questions on sobriety”.  Everyone’s journey is different, and other are no black and white answers when it comes to our bodies and alcohol, but I hope that sharing a piece of my story helps you in some way to make choices that feel good in your own life.  




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  1. This was beautiful, Katie. I am currently is Kauai. This is my fourth sober holiday. I no longer suffer from mai tai envy. I am fully present and this vacation seems to be twice as long. Mahalo for this article.