My latest Ask Rolf column at World Hum features a question from Brian of New York, who writes:
I’ve enjoyed your writings for some time now and want to set out on my own travels, but I have a “limitation”: I’m a recovering alcoholic with 13 years clean and I was wondering if you could give me any advice concerning dealing with social situations where booze and drugs are part of the culture. I wouldn’t travel with the aim of insulting people, but I also don’t want to go on an intercontinental bender. Any tips?
Since travel is by nature a social endeavor — and since alcohol is a social lubricant in every part of the world — Brian asks a very valid question. However, I told him that it shouldn’t be too hard to have socially rich travels while still staying “dry”:
In some places, such as North America, most of your hosts will understand and respect your desire to avoid alcohol. In other places, such as Muslim and Hindu lands, avoiding alcohol is a religious virtue, and tea or coffee is the primary social drink. For this reason South Asia or the Middle East might make great destinations for you (not only to avoid awkward drinking situations, but because these places are culturally rich and famously hospitable).
There are some parts of the world, however—and I’m thinking of East Asia and Eastern Europe in particular—where drinking is such an ingrained part of the culture that it might be difficult to continually turn down alcohol.
For the full answer to Brian’s question — including strategies for avoiding booze in drinking cultures — click over to World Hum here.