A holiday without booze – there’s a sobering thought
A trip to the Maldives proved even more magical when it did not revolve around alcohol
Sober holidays. Just the words themselves used to be enough to strike fear into me. They seemed no more likely to me than choosing to take time off to climb Everest. To me, not drinking alcohol on holiday went against the very grain of going on holiday: it seemed perfectly pointless to go away and not sit on a terrace with a cocktail (or six) pretending to watch the sunset. And speaking of sunsets, I had, until last year, never experienced one on a holiday that hadn’t been framed around sundowners, from drinking huge tumblers of Tusker beer in the Maasai Mara to knocking back pints of Piton in St Lucia. As for sunrises… well, if I had seen one that I remembered, it was usually because of the crushing sense of anxiety that came rushing to me as the sun broke through the horizon, reminding me that I hadn’t yet been to bed. Holidays were the only place you were actually expected to drink all day every day (“you’re on holiday!”); they provided the perfect enabler for my alcoholism.
And then… well then I was sent to rehab, in the autumn of 2017, and started attending AA meetings, and honestly, the thing I was most worried about was not my first Christmas, birthday or New Year’s Eve without a drink, but my first holiday. I knew, in a very privileged, First World way, that our initial jaunt to sunnier climes would be a huge test that would indicate just how successful I would be at this whole sobriety lark. So, somewhat impulsively (moi?), I booked something immediately.
I chose the Maldives, for two reasons: it was the first place I had ever been and I immediately felt a sense of calm; we had gone there on our honeymoon, and all I really remember was the quality of the cocktails and the speed at which the amazing staff would bring you a drink, sometimes when you hadn’t even ordered one. I burst my eardrum – not diving, as you might expect in a place as beautiful as the Maldives, but by drunkenly putting a cotton bud in my ear – and that had put an end to any trips we had planned to see the aquatic life of the Indian Ocean. I felt a bit ashamed at all I had missed. We could have been anywhere hot in the world, really, except perhaps for the Middle East, where such fervent drinking in a bikini would probably have got me arrested.
So this was honeymoon mark II – and without the booze, something for which I was grateful on the three flights out to our chosen island. Before, planes meant free alcohol. Now I sought out mineral water and sat with a hydrating face mask on and got my nails done during the stopover in Abu Dhabi airport (who knew?), feeling relieved that I wouldn’t be arriving with a hangover. We arrived at our resort, Anantara Kihavah, in the Baa Atoll, a Unesco reserve, just before sunset (I was too busy gawping at the private pool in front of our villa to notice it). After a buffet dinner breathtaking in its deliciousness, we went back to our “room” for an appointment with some Slumber Gurus, aka two women who gave me and my husband incredible massages before running us a “bath” filled with essential oils – and by bath, what I mean is a sort of mini pool in an outside bathing and loo area bigger than our entire ground floor back home. I was so tired that I avoided it, fearing I might drown – something that never occurred to me on the umpteen occasions I had arrived on holiday, hit the bar, and jumped in the pool fully clothed. I went to sleep feeling soothed, which I think is what you are supposed to do on holiday.
I soon learnt that the best way to avoid evening temptation was to make
NO TEQUILA, JUST SUNRISEAnantara Kihavah resort, main; Bryony trying aerial yoga