Sober Vacations Offers Alcohol-Free Destinations for Travelers in Recovery
When vacation time arrives, millions of people have a distinct set of summer traditions: the beach. The sun. The sand. The bar. For many, rest and relaxation are tightly interwoven with cabana chairs and drinks with tiny umbrellas in them.
This presents a problem for vacationers in recovery: how do they unwind in a way that nurtures the sobriety they’ve fought so hard to achieve? In fact, many people in recovery avoid popular vacation destinations altogether; when so many Americans soak their vacations in alcohol, how can a recovering alcoholic find a vacation spot that’s not fraught with temptation?
That’s exactly the problem Steve Abrams decided to fix. In 1987, the recovering alcoholic attended a convention at a Club Med all-inclusive resort. Faced with the wide array of entertainment and amenities available, it hit him: “We can have FUN in sobriety!” From that moment, he began building Sober Vacations International.
The company offers a 5-7 trips per year across a wide range of destinations; catering to all age brackets and all levels of sobriety. However, SVI has managed trips accessible to families with children, as well as trips attended by vacationers over 90 years old. By far, their most popular offering is the Sober Village: a week at Club Med, with all its associated luxuries—but none of the alcohol. The past six Sober Villages have been sellouts, with over 500 attendees each year.
“Every time we go we walk way with at least one lifelong friend,” Wendy K. says. She’s experienced five Sober Villages, and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. She heard about SVI from a friend, which makes sense: Steve Abrams says word-of-mouth is still SVI’s most effective marketing tool.
For Wendy and her husband, it’s even opened up vacation opportunities outside of SVI. “We thought we could never sit on a beach without a cocktail…SVI showed us we could [stay sober and]vacation anywhere.” Since SVI taught them sober vacations were possible anywhere, why do they keep coming back?
It may have something to do with the community of recovery she finds. SVI trips abound with 12 step meetings dealing will all different types of addiction, as well as, spontaneous “pop-up” meetings that occur when recovery stories turn strangers into fast friends. Wendy says she benefits from sharing the “experience, strength, and hope” of the other vacationers she meets.
SVI continues to grow, marketing more affordable trips for younger vacationers and moving into ever-more exotic locations. With a Galapagos Islands trip under their belt, they’re headed on an African safari this September and are exploring destinations such as India and Thailand for future trips.
It may be a niche market, but SVI is filling a deep need for thousands of recovering alcoholics. And, as Wendy says, there will always be a market for “adventure, friends, and laughter.”