This article was created for The Travel Project by Nathan McCallum, from the Central Coast of Australia, New South Wales, who is 28-years of age and an ex-visual merchandiser for fashion label General Pants, but who now runs his own blog, bangarang, full time...
There's a perception throughout the world that we need to drink to have fun. But is that really the truth? It's so easy to get swept away by the drinking culture; to think that you need a glass of beer or wine to settle the nerves or wind-down from a hard day at the office. But have you ever reflected on your relationship with alcohol? Is it healthy? Is it unhealthy? Are we doing it as a result of the pressures of society, or are we just uncomfortable within ourselves?
You see, alcohol contributes to a number of global issues and is up there as one of the most abused substances in the world. It’s a depressant drug which slows down the communication between the brain and the body and in Australia alone, the number of deaths from alcohol is four times Australia’s road toll. A total of 15 Australians die every day from alcohol, 5,554 each year. Can you imagine the hospitalisation day in and day out? How this flow and effect affects our government, our policies, and the rules and regulations imposed? It likely even contributed to the lock-out laws in Sydney, which were introduced in February 2014 with the objective to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.
So why have lock-out laws in Sydney been introduced? And why do people have such conflicting views on this over in Australia?
Perhaps it is due to the fact it hospitalises 430 Australians every day, and 157,132 each year. It costs Australians over $15.3 billion a year – with the alcohol taxes generating over $7 billion!
Now, I’m not here to preach or take sides for or against the lock-out’s, but it’s become a significant part of the Australian culture, and is considered a social norm.
The painful truth as much as we like to shy away from it, is that more than 60 types of diseases can occur as a result of alcohol, and we are now at serious risk of developing health problems over the course of our lives if we don’t rein in our boozy habits. One of the worst things alcohol does to your body is that it’s toxic to your liver cells, and heavier drinkers may even be at risk of developing Cirrhosis (a type of liver disease that may be irreversible).
With this in mind, my name is Nathan McCallum. I grew my blog, bangarangblog, whilst I was working full-time and officially left my job 18 months ago. I honestly haven’t looked back since. But alongside co-owning a personal training business and running my blog full-time, I am also a teetotaler. In actual fact, I have only ever drunk alcohol once in my entire life, and yet I couldn’t be happier. Here’s why…
The day I finished school, I had a few drinks and that was it. I didn’t feel the urge to drink at all after that. I’ve never needed it to let loose and have a good time, so why waste my money and health on something that doesn’t serve me? I decided that alcohol just wasn’t for me- and to this day I’ve stuck to that decision. Instead, I focus and invest my time on the things that matter – like my health. I train hard 6 days a week and really couldn’t do this if I was affected by alcohol. And come on, my shirt says it all – I’m happy go f***ing lucky!
My attitude towards health is a strong and passionate one. Health = wealth. And amongst many other things, I believe there’s a strong correlation between the mind, body and soul. If you have a healthy mind, you end up with a healthy body. So for me, this was a simple decision to make. And as cliche as it may sound, my body IS my temple and I have to live with it for the rest of my life, so when people ask me ‘why?’, I say, ‘why not? It’s my body and my #1 priority is my health, and this is only one example of how I can protect my health. I really don’t believe that drinking enables me to be the very best version of myself I know I can be, and this is why I have made this lifestyle choice. It’s as simple as that.
The thing is – I’ve noticed progressively that we’re all creatures of comfort. We also ALL have bad habits that are hard to shake. As I continue building my business, and as I continue travelling all over the world, I’ve noticed that we really don’t need to drink on our travels just to have fun. That’s just the perception we as humans believe; that the more we drink, the more fun we’ll have. But as I continue travelling the world, learning from others, observing others, I believe we can travel and not drink AND have fun.
Just think back to that last day, weekend or month that you didn’t touch a drop of alcohol? I certainly remember my days, weeks, months and years. I like not feeling hungover every morning. I like waking up on a Sunday and feeling fresh. I can wake up and make the most of every opportunity that presents itself for that day. I can go on adventures, hikes, and use nature as my playground.
Most of us already know that drinking isn’t beneficial to our health, but it often gets overlooked. We think we need it to have fun. We think we need it to be less socially awkward. We think we need it to muster up the courage to go on a (Tinder) date. But in fact, spending your mornings, days or nights hungover, can make you miss amazing opportunities. And let’s face it, if we spent less money on alcohol, we’d probably be able to afford to do other things – like travel, or starting up your own business etc.
Did you know that alcohol instantly impairs the brain and leads to memory blanks? And did you also know that the long-term effects are even more damaging and may result in serious dementia one day? Notice yourself forgetting what you ate yesterday, or what you did last weekend, or who you even saw last night! Yep – that’s alcohol doing its job.
Fortunately enough, as a result of not drinking, I feel as though my memory is never tainted. I can somehow recollect those everyday moments and the great nights from when I’m out and about or travelling, whereas if I was drinking (a lot) it probably becomes a bit of a blur, right? Instead, I like to make the most of the sunshine and the outdoors. Whilst recently travelling on Contiki’s Bangkok to Singapore trip I absolutely made the most of what was in front of me – national parks, jungle, the great outdoors etc.
I guess this path and my choice is a very personal one. It’s not for everyone. And if you ever come to this crossroad where you feel like you want to give up drinking, you have to do it for yourself, not for anyone else. I made this choice for me, and me alone.
So my advice? Just be confident in the person you are. It’s not to say that you can’t have a drink now and then, but learn how to be yourself, and let go of inhibitions or negative preconceptions you had of yourself. It’s important for self-growth. This was such an incredible experience, seeing the beauty of South East Asia in its purest form, with some unforgettable memories made surrounded by such different individuals. Asia is freaking incredible and a place you will never forget (but may forget, if you’re hungover all the time) Haha!
"I think most people use alcohol as a bit of a crutch; something to lean back on when they are out of their comfort zones. But by pushing yourself in those situations, you learn more about yourself and discover comfortability within yourself. That's my secret..." - Nathan McCallum
Why not take on a personal challenge this year and try going one month without alcohol and see how good you’ll feel? Studies have shown that it takes over 21 days to shift your mentality, but an average of 66-days to truly break a habit. Maybe, just maybe, 2017 is going to be your year to take on a new challenge and truly break outside of your comfort zone…
Nathan McCallum travelled with Contiki on the Bangkok to Singapore Adventure (completely sober) as part of The Travel Project. Want to contribute your own story and become a contributor to six-two? Find out more here.