14 things I realized being sober in Thailand

I really didn’t think it through when I pledged 100 days of no booze. There I was after a particularly shit-tastic break-up and my normally loyal and thoughtful brain decided to punish itself, or me, or both. One-hundred days of no booze, it said. Get your life in order, it said. Figure shit out, it said. Ok, I said. It seems it had some good points, but I was drunk at the time, and I forgot one teeny tiny detail – I was going to be in Thailand for 50 of those 100 days.

How the hell does someone do 50 days sober in Thailand? Deer in the headlights. While I can’t tell you exactly how I got through it, as I’m sure it had more to do with a potential brain disorder I should see someone about, I can tell you what I experienced and what I came to understand.

Here is a list of things l realized while sober in Thailand. Some of these are no-brainers. Others, well, you need to be sober to realize it.

When you’re not drinking in Thailand  …

  1. You tend to wake up earlier. This is because you didn’t shut the bar down with the other island-hoppers. You were a sober-Nancy and probably a wet-blanket too. People were busting out the Baht and you busted a move to your bungalow at probably boohoo o’clock. But that’s ok. Sunrises are beautiful to watch, alone, when everyone else is still passed out from the night before.
  2. You have energy to do more. It’s true. Perhaps it’s due to decent nights’ sleep or not being still drunk when you awake, but the idea of a hike up a mountain at 11 a.m. sounds good and exciting. A scuba dive at 7 a.m. is exactly what the doctor ordered. By the time others roll out of bed you’ve hiked around the island and climbed four coconut trees.
  3. You have difficulty scoring. Let’s face it. Most people require liquid courage to approach others, so if you’re being sober Nancy, you probably have high standards – which means you’re a no-go zone. Retreat. Failure imminent. Terrain. Terrain. Unless you’re a super veracious type who can inflict self-confidence upon people, prepare to have a dry-season. (Unless, of course, you find the jewel of the Nile and uncover where the other sober people are lurking. And we do lurk.)
  4. You might read a lot. When everyone else heads to the bar you may tag along, for a bit. When the focus of the evening turns from talking to drinking, unless your resolve is strong and you enjoy watching train wrecks, you’ll probably leave. Plus, you’re probably not getting any. But then what? This is when books or movies help.
  5. You might have to lie about your sobriety. Sometimes it’s easier than explaining about whats-his-name, and sometimes it’s better than getting the deer in the headlights looks the 20-somethings throw at you. It’s better to lie than be cast as the alien in Bungalow 51.
  6. You find touts, tuktuks, ladyboys and every tourism-geared operator a bit more human. I mean, sure, yes, they’re like locusts, but deep down you get they’re just trying to make a living. You begin to see their games, ploys and grifts and realize a friendly smile and a curious look are enough to show them you’re not their mark. The guy next to you is. Plus, you can’t really blame them when you see every single tourist in those ugly elephant pants.
  7. You might spend money a bit more carelessly. Seeing as you didn’t blow 1000 Baht in the bar last night you don’t feel bad buying those cheaply made and over-priced back-packer pants, even though they label you as – I have money and I’m gonna spend it on useless and shitty products. Thirty Baht pad thai? Hell no. You’re getting that 160B club sandwich. You want massage. Yes please. Every. Single. Day.
  8. You become very productive. The laundry is done, your blog is written, photos are uploaded, next destination is researched, your children’s lives are mapped, world peace is solved and your speech for opening the new inter-stellar gateway to the next world has been loosely drawn-up. What else do you do when you’re lying awake listening to geckos squeal and mad beats echo down from the party zone?
  9. You remember everything. There’s no more waking up groggy with a sense of doom wondering what oh what or who oh who you got up to the night before. In some scenarios you even become like a record-keeper, retaining times, dates, numbers, names, scores, debts and other information you could probably start a lucrative black-mail business with. The only downside of this is you have no excuse for forgetting things, like when you forget on purpose to meet annoying people for dinner.
  10. You know real soon who you like. Gone are the hems and haws and long drawn-out trial periods investigating if someone’s got the right mustard to be your friend. The brain fog is gone. You see right through people’s thoughtless bullshit and into their dark plastic souls. That annoying girl with the shrill voice who seems to be boundary-challenged, you hate her. That dude with the bedroom eyes who has conquered every flag in Europe, you’d throw him under a bus. The nice lady bringing you coffee in the morning – you like her, but she wouldn’t work out well in your new blackmail business.
  11. Your crazy-meter gets super accurate. People on holiday change. It’s like they step through that inter-stellar gateway and become someone from a twisted hybrid world similar to earth, but many light years away. You can spot these people from five miles away by the carton of backpacker pants on their head. Sometimes you can feel them walk into a room, or smell them, as they have decided in this new world they will only shower in the freshly fallen rain. Um. It’s Thailand, rainy season is about over. Some people need only speak about the gateway they came through and alarm bells are going off like traffic whistles in Bangkok.
  12. You either get shrewd or sensitive or both. Let me explain. When the boredom sets in you have to create something fun, which is why it’s always enjoyable to tell your drunk friends that so-and-so really was giving them the eye. But then you feel the need to be there for them in the morning (after your hike and coconut tree climb) when they make the walk of shame home in their elephant pants and begin to tell you all the details of their romantic encounter with prince charming and their plans to quit their job and move to Germany or where ever he’s from because it’s love and meant to be. And then you need to be encouraging, but sensitive, possibly shrewd, because he’s definitely not the guy you saw with the Dutch girl the night before when your friend was hooking up with the English bloke. Nope. Probably should’ve spent more energy on that blackmail business. Isn’t it time for a massage?
  13. You learn to relax. Does that even make sense? Apart from all the inner dialogue – because sober you tends to never shut the hell up – some part of you just let’s go. Don’t most people need booze for this? Er. Yes. Yes they do. But in that convoluted mess of your brain you discover that you already thought everything through, everything’s done and you really have nothing to do. Which leads to …
  14. You get bored. Yep. With no magical elixir to throw inane stupidity into the mix, and no whoopsy drunken mistakes, one-night-messy-stands and full-fledged melees to get the night started, there’s very little drama. And without drama, well, let’s face it. Life can be pretty fucking boring.

I’m really not an asshole, as most people need no encouragement when they’re drunk. Besides, what happens in Thailand – well, we all know what happens in Thailand.

So, as you’ve already guessed, I’ve survived, and the impressively stubborn part of me managed to surpass everyone’s expectations, even my own, and complete exactly 100 days of zero booze.

How did it go, you ask? Welllll. Let me just say I’m never going to do anything that stupid ever again.

4 Responses to 14 things I realized being sober in Thailand

  1. “busted a move to your bungalow at probably boohoo o’clock” haha

    Holly Doucette November 23, 2014 at 6:47 pm Reply
  2. Interesting read!!

    Aja Niemann November 23, 2014 at 10:43 pm Reply
  3. Awesome! That’s gold! I feel soo much better about travelling sober in the future, thanks!

    Vince Gardner November 24, 2014 at 9:16 am Reply
  4. Sorry it’s loading so slow. Something’s going on with the server.

    Nearly Intrepid November 24, 2014 at 9:19 am Reply

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