Eating alone seems to be one of the biggest challenges for solo travelers. Let’s change that! With solo travel on the rise–one in four people will seek their own adventure in 2018–it’s time to dispel the myth that people who choose to eat by themselves are sad outcasts.
With sass and spunk–check out the quotes I’ve found–you can conquer your dread of eating alone. I offer some ways to build your confidence so you can actually enjoy the food you’ve traveled to taste!
“One of the best reasons for eating alone is the assurance that you’ll enjoy the company.”
Truth time: How many times have you been at a restaurant and the couples around you eat their entire meal in silence? Yep, you know what I mean. Maybe a few words are exchanged: “How’s your chicken, Stanley?” “Want to split dessert, Mavis?” But mostly they stare at their plates or blankly around the room.
You? You are there because you love food and are ready to enjoy the experience. Do NOT let anything stand in your way. I’ll bet that couple is envious, wishing they could be in your chair…let’s get started!
- If you’re brand new to eating alone, go for breakfast or lunch. Plenty of people do that. It’s easy to read the news or check your device while you eat. Plenty of people do that, too. These meals aren’t long, either. You’ll feel inconspicuous…and it will cost less, too…more money for gelato.
- Speaking of lunch, make it your main meal of the day. Portions are smaller, but also less expensive. It can be more informal, too; for a traveler with limited wardrobe options, you may simply feel more comfortable in casual clothes. It’s also a good break during a day of walking and sightseeing.
- In a country with a “café culture,” plop down at an empty table. Order wine, coffee, soda, sparkling water, or juice. There may or may not be snacks. But that table is yours until you beckon the server for the check. Look around: Others are doing the same. Relax and take your time. Read or journal. You look like a local! (My friend, Ann Cavitt Fisher, has a great blog post about Paris cafés)
“I know what I bring to the table…trust me when I say I’m not afraid of eating alone.”
Maybe you’re ready to try a solo dinner. Good for you, brave traveler! Here are a few strategies for eating later in the day:
- Check the menu! Make sure you understand the restaurant and the prices. Nothing will deflate your ego faster than paying more than you wanted for food you don’t like. Menus are often posted outside the restaurant or online. Check out the dress code, too, in case you might out of place. Of course, if you know you’re headed to a Michelin-star establishment, pack accordingly.
- Eat earlier, before the rush. Restaurants usually open a few hours before they become crowded. Yes, we’ve all laughed about “early bird specials,” but it can be a great time to enjoy dinner without feeling stressed or rushed. In some countries (Spain, Italy) people don’t begin the evening meal until 9 pm. For many tourists, that is simply too late. You’ll find other travelers are hungry before then, so you won’t be the only one in the bistro.
- Pretend you have a reason to be eating alone. Go ahead and laugh–but this works! Bring your journal and take notes after carefully tasting each dish. Voila–you’re a food critic. Tell the waiter that your partner doesn’t feel well–or got called away for an emergency. Make up a story for yourself and have fun.
“There’s nothing like like sharing a meal with someone you love–yourself!”
Sometimes we aren’t up for a restaurant meal. Maybe we’re just tired, or haven’t found the “right” place, or we are hungry–but still don’t feel ready to eat dinner by ourselves.
- Try sitting at the bar. This is really easy to do, because you’re automatically with others who are also by themselves. Order a drink and ask if they have a menu. A small plate or a couple of appetizers may be enough. Chat with the bartender and watch TV, even if it’s in a different language. Some bars don’t serve food at busy times, so check when you go in.
- Fast food can fill you up. I think it’s fun to try McDonald’s in other countries–they cater to locals, so you’ll find more than hamburgers. Walk-up windows, kiosks, food carts, pizza-by-the-slice…everywhere you go, there is a version of fast food. Point to a picture or the food. You’ll get an inexpensive meal that local residents like. Give it a try!
- Go to a grocery store. I always do this, partly because I like to see what people buy and partly because it’s the very best place to get food at reasonable prices. Cheese, bread, baked goods, chocolate, drinks…it’s all there. Gather up supplies for a picnic or to take back to your room. After a busy day, it can be a great way to relax, on your own terms.