New Challenge: Six Months Abstinence From Alcohol In South East Asia

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How different would your life be, if you did not drink any alcohol whatsoever? How differently would you behave? What would you find out about yourself, if you took a vow of abstinence from alcohol, for a selected period of time? Would you cope in social situations?

I’m about to find out. From this moment, I’m announcing a comfort-zone challenge and I am going absolutely teetotal for half a year from now.

This is going to be an extremely hard challenge for me, which is going to take a massive amount of discipline and willpower. I’m currently on a tropical island (Langkawi), during peak season, cheap booze at my disposal – with a New Years Eve beach party, just around the corner.

The drinking culture is massive over here and people drink every single night. It’s a predominantly Muslim state too! So why would a guy, who actually enjoys getting drunk want to cut out alcohol for so long?

Quite a few reasons, read on…

Budget Worries

I don’t actually have a lot of money out here, I’m not exactly raking it in. So when a traveller is on the road and concern starts over expenditure, one must prioritise and see what’s important to the individual, in order for their travel journey to be the best as possible.

And so I have to ask myself; is drink an absolute necessary spend? Of course it’s not. Food and accommodation are the only compulsory expenditure right now and that’s all I need to have a great time. Also, there are recreational activities that I would like to take part in, such as extreme sports – way more of an importance than my drink fund.

The alcohol here in Langkawi is actually really cheap, the cheapest that I have ever known, at about £1 a pint in most places. However at the minute, every penny counts. I am in a transitional period and I have a dream to make this thing sustainable, so I’m going to have to make decisions like this in these vital earlier days.

Health & Fitness

One of the major reasons for my desire to have a life where I can do what I want, when I want was the reclaiming of my fitness. I want to be healthier: I don’t want to have to shop around for better health insurance quotes yet, I want to be fitter and in better shape than I ever have been in my 28 years on this planet.. I want to sport a lean body with impressive muscle mass – beer isn’t going to help me get closer to that goal. I do NOT want a beer belly!!

Beer (and any other alcohol) is empty calories and it’s also not too good for the old liver. All of my hard work, exercising on the beach is being ruined every night with putting crap into my body. I honestly believe that we can handle almost anything that life chucks at us, when we have a high level of fitness. Our mind is sharper and our thoughts are more positive. We can move mountains we’re fighting fit.

I Lose Days With Hangovers

I feel like absolute poo in the morning when I’ve had a session. This is a vital moment in my life when I have to really make stuff happen – or I’ll be going back home and feeling as if I’ve failed. I don’t take very kindly to failing.

I can’t afford to stay a few hours extra in bed, or to feel groggy when I have to create the magic.

Because I Want To

Unless you’re hurting somebody or something, or marrying a serial killer – is there a better reason to do something?

Social Experiment

Many people rely on alcohol because they believe they need it, or that it makes them more interesting to be around in a social situation. I don’t want to be one of those people.

I’ve Got Some Issues

I’m not a psycho or anything, and I’m certainly on the right path. But like anybody else I have some emotional shrapnel that needs taken care of and I don’t think getting sloshed all the time will help that.

It’ll Force Me to Meet the Right Type of People

What I mean by this is, if I meet someone who thinks it’s weird, or takes some kind of offence that I’ve taken a vow of sobriety – then I know they aren’t the type of people who I want to be around. I find these types of people small-minded and unbearable to be around. Live and let live!

We owe it to ourselves, to hang out with those who support us, especially if we are intending to become happier people.

And to finish off – the things that I may find difficult with this challenge:

I Like Getting Drunk

I actually like getting really drunk and I’m quite a good drunk person to be around. Some people just shouldn’t drink at all because they get aggressive, but I’m all about having a good time when I’ve had a skin full.

Peer Pressure

Do you think peer pressure stoops when you leave school? Oh please! Peer pressure is everywhere and it will be around until the day you die. And where I’m from, peer pressure is very prevalent in the drinking culture. If you turn down a drink on a night out, you’ll often here the cry of; “be a man, and have some more drink.” (Or something similar).

Ironically, part of ‘being a man’ is not following the flock and doing whatever the hell you want because you want to – not because you’ve been told to. I rarely bow down to peer pressure, but I’m only human. There is certainly a short-term comfort, following the status quo, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do.

Partying in Penang and New Years Eve

There are a lot of big parties coming up – I’m just going to have to enjoy them sober 🙂

Generosity

People like to buy people drinks, as a nice gesture – I appreciate nice gestures. I was speaking to an American guy at the bar last night and when he left, he slammed a beer in front of me, slapped me on the back and said; “be good” before walking off. It’s going to be pretty awkward when this happens in the next six months!

Drunk People Are Annoying When You Are Sober

Fact!!

I Have Failed This Challenge Before

Long before the days of Man waging a war the clock. I feel a lot more mentally strong now though.

At the end of the day, I feel for where I am in life right now, drink will do me more harm than good. So there we go – the new challenge (and the first ever Man Vs Clock abroad challenge) is six months of abstinence from alcohol. Will update to how I cope!

Have you ever done/failed/completed a no drinking challenge? Maybe you’ve stopped drinking all together? Any tips welcome!

 



Join the Conversation

78 comments

  1. Adventurous Kate Reply

    Anthonyyyyyyyyy…while I admire your desire to challenge yourself, you are going to miss SO MUCH! Have you even had a bucket yet?! Tubing in Vang Vieng…sitting in a bar on Khao San Road…happy hour at Hanoi Backpackers…the greatest party cruise of all time in Halong Bay…it’s the way to meet everybody! Okay, I’m done, and I will support you. Just…WHY DO THIS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA?!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hahah hello Kate

      I was expecting this from you 😛 I kind of mention you on the video (yet to publish, due to this bloody wi-fi) with regards to fun times I’ve had, getting pissed with Travel bloggers! I’ve not had a bucket yet, but I’m close to being skint, mate. Every drink I buy, will be one step closer to going home and feeling suicidal!!!

      Can’t I meet people in bars and not drink alcohol? If they don’t want to get to know my awesome self, just because I’m not drinking then I don’t really want to know their fickle arse!

  2. Nathan - As We Travel Reply

    great challenge dude!

    Like we talked about, this will be a great test for you on so many different personal levels and will give you a deeper core understanding of your life and how everything works and fits together – you don’t need a drink to express that awesome personality you have – and staying longer in Asia is also another great reason – rock it doood! 🙂

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Nathan,

      Cheers mate, I survived my first night out! LOTS of peer pressure, but they soon got bored and I had a good night, once I met the right type of people (open minded people). Staying longer in Asia is pretty much the icing on the cake – and also getting to South America from here. Cheers for stopping my, mate 🙂

  3. Hogga Reply

    AWW I am SO proud of you right now!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers Lindsay 😀

  4. Jo Reply

    This is a great idea for a challenge. I’ve always wanted to hear what some of the typical SE Asia experiences are like for people who don’t drink (specifically tubing, as mentioned above!)

    I went a while without drinking while I was at university, and things weren’t as different as I thought they would be. It can take a while to adjust to being sober in some situations, but once you’re used to it you’ll be fine.

    Overall, I imagine alcohol will be easier to avoid than refined sugar, and you seemed to do pretty well with that one!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Jo,
      Thanks, it’ll be interesting to see what I find in SE Asia, I’m sure there’s more to it that just getting hammered – I could do that at home. Good point you make there, going without refined sugar was ridiculously hard, no peer pressure there though. I’m seeing already that this is maybe the biggie to overcome!

  5. Adrian Collins Reply

    I was a teetotaler when I was a teenager, refused to touch a drop of the stuff for my own reasons. I had to overcome a lot of peer pressure ( especially from my brother! ) Also, I’m from Ireland, a country where you can do practically nothing that DOESN’T involve drinking in some shape or form! I DID start drinking though but it wasn’t until I was 21 and it was actually my own choice.

    Of course, I got a bit carried away and did it every weekend for a while a few years ago. However, now I only do it every now and again and can control myself most of the time.

    That all said and done, I admire the challenge you have set yourself and I know its going to be tough going at times. Also, from previous experience, its still very much possible to be the life and soul of the party without alcohol, its just a little harder. 🙂

    Good luck with it.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Adrian,

      Wow, being a teetotaler in your teens AND being Irish is major kudos to yourself! So do you only have a few when you go out nowadays? I went out last night and had an awesome time, even though the peer pressure was strong – the resistance was greater 😉

      Cheers, mate!

      1. Adrian Collins Reply

        Truth be told, I tend to overdo it slightly whenever I’m out BUT the going out bit is happening less often as I want to save my money more often than not. Also, I don’t need to go the pub again the next day for a ‘ cure. ‘ That is stupid, if you ask me, curing a hangover with more drink!?

        1. Anthony Reply

          Haha the old “hair of the dog” bullshit!

  6. Craig Reply

    Bloody Hell you don’t half a tought one to start. Tough one for three months, but I admire you,will be interesting to see what you see while those around you slowly slip into drunkeness, Good Luck

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Craig, haha yeah mate! I’ll be updating my muses (muses, or musings?) on a regular basis. Thanks 🙂

  7. Julia Reply

    Wow, this is going to be tough, mate. Not sure I could do it to be honest. And if you think a pound a pint’s cheap – try the 13p beer in Vietnam! But having said that, it’s a great idea if you think it’s going to save you cash and help you in the long run. Good luck!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Julia,
      I would have said the same thing, a year ago! 13p, oh shit!!! Yeah, the way I’m going I’ll be going home if I don’t take massive action. Does this mean you and Mr Offmybackpack will now shun me when you’re over here? 😛

  8. hayadith Reply

    like what u have said earlier..stick a motivational picture/poster on the wall, in your bedroom to remind you everyday of what u want to achieve…

    ..hmm..i think instead of beer belly, i think u will have a big float round belly filled with malaysian foods..hehe.

    it’s okay, u can protect your six packs with a layer of fat.. 😀

    i don’t want to wish u luck, because i believe, we need to work hard to gain something. However, i do want to wish u all the best!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hayadith,

      I like what you said about luck! Hahaha, you might be on to something there – too many teh tariks and roti canai could sort out that belly in a few weeks 😛

      Thank you 😀

  9. Poi Reply

    I don’t like this! I had visions of late night alcohol filled football benders when you came to Thailand!

    Tell me football days aren’t included?

    1. Anthony Reply

      Dear Poi,

      I knew this would upset you 😛 Sorry to ruin/delay the dream, but if I was to carry on the way I was – I’d be Tweeting you from back home again and not actually in Asia, as I’d run out. Aye, football days included too – I’m still a laugh when sober 😛

  10. Niall Doherty Reply

    Great stuff, man. As you know, I’ve been off the drink now for almost a year, and I really haven’t missed it at all. And somehow methinks I’ve also managed to have one of the more social years of my life. I still enjoy going to pubs and meeting people on nights out, but I no longer rely on alcohol to get talking to strangers or to relax and have a good time.

    And yeah, not drinking definitely helps with the finances, too. Wishing you all the best with the challenge, bud!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Niall,

      Cheers man, so how do you handle the “why aren’t you drinking?” Yeah I remember telling you I’d planned to do something similar and it’s a case of putting my sterling where my mouth is 🙂

      Had a fantastic sober night, last night! Cheers mate 🙂

  11. Will - My Spanish Adventure Reply

    It starts. Next comfort zone challenge: abstinence.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hahaha “putting a time limit on pretty much anything pleasurable.”

      Refined sugar was hard enough!

  12. Chris Reply

    Good on you dude. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing the ‘no drinking’ thing many times in the past, but it’s never lasted long.

    I’m lucky enough to not get hangovers, but I do dislike the excessive spending and the piecing together of the occasional lost evening. The beer belly certainly isn’t a huge check in the pros of drinking column either :-p

    Good luck with it mate!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers Chris,

      hahaha no the beer belly is far from a pro, especially on someone with slim limbs 😛

  13. Friday's Recommended Reads: Double Edition - Aussie on the Road Reply

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  14. Kjersti Reply

    First of all, you are hilarious. It’s my first visit to your blog, and I love it already. Secondly, you must be completely mad! You deserve some serious respect for doing this though, keep us updated on how you’re doing! It might be we have to do this ourselves, as we’re leaving for SEA in a few weeks and we are on a very tight budget (and we’re Nordic, which means we drink a LOT..). Good luck!

    Cheers,
    Kjersti

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Kjersti,

      First – thanks 🙂 Secondly – it has been said before haha!

      Well I have kind of Nordic blood, because our city was taken over by vikings and that’ll explain why we love a beer or 7. I’ve just added your blog to my bookmark, where do you land first? Thanks for stopping by.

      1. Kjersti Reply

        Yeah, sorry about the viking thing.. I promise, we do not leave such a mess when we visit other countries these days. We’re landing in Singapore, but getting out of there pretty fast and heading in the direction of Malaysia and Thailand. I would buy you a beer if our paths cross, but well.. A coffee maybe! 😉

        1. Anthony Reply

          haha well actually, they built some beautiful buildings and integrated with local people and law! I think films depict you lot worse than you were 😉

          Oh if you come to Malaysia, you MUST try the Teh Tarik!!

          1. Kjersti

            Will do, thanks!

  15. Toni Reply

    Well you’ve certainly picked the worst (or best depending on your view) continent in the world to start this challenge but GOOD FOR YOU!
    I’m not teetotal but I don’t drink that much and it became REALLY difficult on my African adventure fielding the ‘why are you not drinking’ interrogation when most of the others drank every night and did booze cruises when they had the chance. They couldn’t understand that I had my reasons!
    I think, now that you’ve announced it on here that you plan to stop, it will, in a sense, make you accountable for your actions. I guarantee that if you do have a drink, or think about having one, your guilt will probably stop you. And if it doesn’t, I will come over there and beat you =D haha Good luck hun!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Toni,

      Hmmmm, well for low costs – yes. However, I’m a red wine kind of guy (Argentine Malbec, oh sweet Lord) so I would guess that South America would be the toughest continent. This is still nails though! That’s it right there – the interrogation that’s the battle at the minute. I personally believe only one of the many reasons posted, should be enough as an answer – but some people just don’t wanna know.

      Oh yes now that I have committed, I highly doubt that I’ll go back on my word. Especially if you’re threatening me with a fight, maybe that’ll be my next challenge 😛

      Cheers!

  16. Micamyx|Senyorita Reply

    Nice challenge we have here! 😛 Do you have plans of coming over to the Philippines? Beers here are cheap hehe 😀 Goodluck on your new self-imposed challenge and i hope that by this time, you’d be able to succeed with flying colors! 😀

    1. Anthony Reply

      Thanks, indeed we do 😛

      I do plan to go to the Philippines, yes Is that where you are now? : ) These cheap beers are going to be dangerous haha. Thanks, will keep you posted!

  17. Gaelle Reply

    Yeah, congrats! Hahaha, I kind of remember you waiting for Langkawi so much because of alcohol… and here you are :p Just drink other stuff! If you order a Virgin Colada, you don’t have to tell people that it’s a no alcohol cocktail… unless the question-answering session is part of the challenge 🙂

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Gaelle,

      Hehe thanks, yes I was looking for ward to it – and then I looked in the bank and then at my belly 😛

      I think I’ll answer to however tired/cocky I’m feeling at that time 🙂

  18. Alison Reply

    Good luck with this! I can definitely relate to your reasons for not wanting to drink. I’ve had some fun times drinking, but it is a money and energy zapper and I agree with you that the peer pressure element is always there. I have been for nights out and not drank before when everybody is getting plastered. It’s not the same. As a shy person, I have always felt more pressure to have some ‘dutch courage’. But, at the end of the day, I would rather stay in an amazing place longer and have more genuine experiences than spend months getting pissed.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Thanks Alison,
      Great comment, drink is all of the above. I don’t have a problem with being shy (any more) so well done to you for doing that when you are. Langkawi is beautiful and I’m ‘coping’ with feeling fresh and working out on the beach at sunset 😀

  19. Tom Reply

    You’re starting your no-drinking resolution in South East Asia of all places?! GOOD LUCK! I’ve had bouts of not drinking for a while, but that’s always been down to being broke rather than personal choice haha!

    I know what you mean about health though – if I’ve put on a few pounds and am on a health kick, alcohol is the first thing I cut out. Some of my friends think its odd when I don’t drink (“but I loooove drunk Tom, he’s so dirty!”), but your real friends won’t give you a super hard time about it, maybe just some mild teasing – and then you can fill them in on how they were outrageously flirting with the neighbourhood creep the next morning in vivid detail 😉 (sobriety has its benefits).

    Like you, I love getting pissed as well – I’ll actually be up partying in Newcastle for New Year’s, so I’ll have a few in your honour!

    Keep up with the good work, and like they say here in Korea – “FIGHTING!”

    1. Anthony Reply

      Het Tom,

      Aye, I do like a challenge 😉 Hahaha I never thought of the joys of having scandal on your mates the day after (it’s actually ALREADY happened). Haha we’re actually swapping (ish) for New Years Eve, stay safe – Newcastle will be awesome on, matey. I’m honoured you are drinking in my honour!

  20. Macca Reply

    Good on you mate, I honestly think you should’ve done this years ago. Imagine a history clear of drink.

    No taboo moments, no pink or smedley, no stalker girl at the McEwan’s centre, no getting sloshed on vodka & staining my carpet with acid puke, no asking you mom not to tell your mom while she propped you up, no chatting up a mate’s pyscho ex…

    The list goes on mate, good luck. love you x

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hahahaha

      I think the Taboo moment was the worse from the list, then again McEwans stalker girl was a fail of epic proportions. Smedley and Pink were beautiful inside, mate.

      1. Macca Reply

        To be honest, the cat suit amost won me over too… hahaha! Taboo!

  21. Sam Reply

    That’s a pretty big count down clock you have, best of luck!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Sam,

      Yup, long road ahead! Thanks 🙂

  22. Scott Reply

    Wha-Wha-Wha-Whaaat?!?!? Ok, now that I am back on my chair, let me comment in a rational and sober way. Wha-Wha-Wha-Whaaat?!?!? Just kidding man. I actually didn’t drink til I was 21, so I know all about being the sober guy at the party. You can totally do it and it will help your budget immensely. It is shocking how much we spend on booze, even at the cheap rates in SEA. Cold turkey does seem a bit extreme though, maybe an exception for New Year’s and a major festival here or there, it seems like the right thing to do. Cheers!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Scott,

      Hahaha I know you envisaged us getting pissed together and I am sorry to break your man-heart. I can’t make any exceptions, it has to be none for 6 months. A challenge isn’t supposed to be easy and I’m an extreme kinda guy 😉

      I spent the last 10 New years Eve pissed and only enjoyed 2, the other 8 were awful. I need a new angle 🙂 Cheers mate 🙂

  23. Tom Bartel Reply

    Alcohol is sort of like Morris Dancing–best practiced in moderation. Or, in the case of Morris Dancing, total abstinence is also fine.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Tom Bartel,

      There goes my next challenge and life-long dream of Morris Dancing 🙁 I hear “the chicks dig it”

  24. Mike C Reply

    All I can say is good luck pal.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers, mate 🙂

  25. Shaun Reply

    Hi Anthony

    I have never drunk alcohol in my life, well maybe just a sip once in a blue moon. I have just never been into it. I still go to bars and party’s with friends and I do get some strange looks when I order a coke or orange juice lol. Good luck in your challenge mate it will be hard I’m sure but stay true and you get there 🙂

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Shaun,

      Thanks matey, so far – so good 🙂 Ginger Ale’s quite refreshing in the sun!

  26. Runaway Brit Reply

    Wow! I have just come across this post and think you are very brave! I am in the VERY minor category of people who don’t like the taste of alcohol and hate being drunk (yes, even now I can hear the gasps of horror) and I am so sick of the peer pressure to drink, especially when travelling in places like Koh Pha Ngan. I have even been asked why I bother to visit those places when I don’t drink (as if the only thing that Thailand has to offer is alcohol!). People are often very surprised when I sing karaoke or stay on the dance floor until the sun comes up – sober people are meant to be boring, right?!

    I think somebody who likes drinking will have to be very strong to cope with it. All the best, I’ll be watching your progress and looking forward to some posts to show that you can have fun when not drinking!

    As for tips: I usually tell people that I’m pregnant – it’s the ONLY thing that stops them hassling me – but I guess you can’t do that 🙂

    1. Anthony Reply

      Cheers, Runaway Brit!

      I’m with you on that, as much as I enjoy getting pissed – I would refuse to believe someone who said they prefer the taste of beer over a chocolate/banana milkshake! I think wine is the best out of the bunch, the proof is there as it is enjoyed with food.

      I think it’s YOU who is brave for going to the likes of Koh Pha Ngan and staying sober. I’m concentrating on extreme sports and stuff like that for the next few months – perfect distraction, but would find it very hard staying sober at The Full Moon Party. Hahaha, yes sober people are boring and drink makes you more manly (honest). Says the man at the bar who can’t remember the last time he seen his willy.

      That’s it, I’m going out with a cushion underneath my shirt!

  27. Nadia Reply

    I plan not to drink when i get to South East Asia this Feb, why would i drink in a place where there’s so much to explore, i can drink all i want back home, when in a new country i want to be happy and healthy, not hungover and full of regret. You don’t need to be wasted to have fun. (I was a big drinker not long ago, i’ve decided to stop drinking so much lately, and it’s great!)

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Nadia,

      I agree you don’t have to be wasted to have fun, but if people want to get drunk in SE Asia, I’m happy they’re happy. I must admit I was looking forward to the cheap beer, but I do like a challenge of willpower 😉

      Where will you be visiting?

  28. Top 10 Travel Blogs from 2011 Reply

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  29. Ian [EagerExistence] Reply

    I did it once for a year, for a lot of similar reasons… and now after 8 months of travel, I’m almost ready to hit the gym and say no to the bevvies all over again 😮

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Ian,

      So you’re gong for the whole year, huh? Good on you!

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  35. tommo Reply

    I did it for 3 months from the start of the year. Best thing I have ever done, dont like beer anymore, tastes like crap once you come off it and then try going back on it. Water is my drink of choice now, even with a steak, I used to love a beer and a steak… water is much better!

    Good Luck mate! More ppl in the world like you with your open mindedness views world would be a better place!

    1. Anthony Reply

      Thanks Tommo!

      Good on you, feeling fitter and healthier?

      1. tommo Reply

        Yeah mate, similar to yourself I am on a path of personal development. I think not drinking definately makes u feel healthier, fitter for sure… gives u a clear head. Start of being in control of my life… its good stuff… will continue to read ur blog! Cheers!

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    Who’d have thought that upon our meeting you’d eventually inspire me to do the same (and now yet again!!). Well done A-team.

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  42. Craig Wright Reply

    Hi Anthony. How did you get on? That was good reading. Realistic, honest and aware of the challenges and temptations ahead. Keen to know how you got on / how you are getting on. Think you will be able to message me via FB from this post….I think!

  43. Anthony Middleton Reply

    Hi Craig, I managed NINE months in the end! 🙂 Great test of willpower!