It’s been eight months since I had me some booze.
I’ve been in Colombia for seven of those eight months. Living in a foreign country, with the many cultural differences, not least language issues, has been difficult. Throw into the mix that I initially didn’t know a soul here and you get the idea of how time can drag.
In previous trips abroad, either passing through or longer stints (e.g. Southern France when I spent a summer, or backpacking down the west coast of the U.S), I would focus all my energy on the weekend.
Getting tanked up as a way to meet the locals in a more comfortable setting – one that I knew only too well being an Irishman – was an easy short-cut to the buzz zone.
There have been far fewer temptations here. They don’t drink anywhere near as much as back home. In fact, the only drunks that I see on the rare occasions I do visit El Parque de Poblado or Parque Lleras are the European and American gringos.
A big reason why I used to get stocious was to get from one uncomfortable place, to another, little less uncomfortable one. Unfortunately, I would often over-shoot the mark and things would end badly.
I try and avoid being a dry shite now by doing a few things. If anyone is considering travelling, especially solo, and wondering how to do it without the social lubricant of booze, here’s what I’d suggest.
- Learn the local language and practice daily. If I had a euro for every blank stare I received since I arrived here, I’d be flying back to Ireland first-class. Skin thicker than a rhino though.
- Find a social hostel. Or if staying in an apartment, spend evenings outside in a coffee shop or in a social setting. I picked up a couple of friends this way. (Unfortunately they were absolutely gormless so I dropped them like a hot snot).
- Line up dates, either for Language Exchange or actual Romantic Dates. Keep your calendar populated with places to go and things to see. Even better if you’re meeting a local who can show you the best spots.
- There isn’t the same stigma in South America about not drinking compared to back home, so you don’t have to keep answering the same question all night (was my excuse antibiotics/driving/detox or an early rise?)
- Instead of driving the carnage, be a willing passenger. Don’t be that prick that has to comment and judge. Engage in the banter and get outside your own head. Surf the enthusiasm of drunken friends in that small window where they are genuinely good fun, then calmly disengage. You’ll know when that point comes.
- Learn to dance, or at least how to shuffle while smiling. The bar won’t be a great refuge, especially in a heaving crowd where your need for another coke isn’t worthy of thirty minutes of queuing. Open spaces can be your friend. A sober Irish person on the dance floor in a foreign country is something even the Jap tourists will flock to take pics of.
- Bars and clubs will cease to be much fun after 1am. Your swollen belly of fizzy drinks will suggest cutting and running, but your mates might not be too happy – “Sure he’s no craic sober anyway,” even though up until that point you had more than held your own. Have an exit strategy planned, ideally avoiding the rush for the exit, preferably when your mates are on jelly legs. They’ll not remember.
When I come back to Ireland, there will be greater temptation to get back boozing. Good ol’ peer pressure, bless ’em. I could list many things I’ve enjoyed since abstaining, but on the other hand there are some things I’ve missed by giving it up to be honest.
That’s something I’ll need to consider when I step back into the Dragons Den of Temple Bar in Dublin. I can feel my liver sweat at the thought.
What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without alcohol? Was it more fun off than on?