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

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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