The Art of Eating Out Alone from a Solo Traveller’s Perspective
Eating out alone is something I would never do at home. However, life as a solo traveller means that I have had to get used to it. Unless I forever wanted to find a friend, eat at my accommodation or make a packed lunch, I have had to toughen up. Now it is second nature when travelling but would I be as confident doing it at home? No!
So how did I go from that girl who would wait for her friends outside the restaurant rather than head inside and sensibly wait for them there? How was it that, when it was raining, I would arrive late rather than eating out alone but now I’m sat eating out alone at least once or twice a week? Well let me explain.
Back in 2008, I was preparing to take my first solo trip to Guatemala and Belize. Many things raced through my mind when preparing for that trip. Was I going to manage to communicate? Was I going to get lost? What happened if backpacking wasn’t for me and I was making a massive mistake? It never even crossed my mind that I was perhaps going to have be eating out alone…a lot.
And the truth is that I didn’t. I made so many new friends that I eating out alone was never an option. But sometimes it was nice to. The local family I stayed with whilst volunteering for From Houses to Homes didn’t have any Internet. If I wanted to contact friends and family, the local cafe was the best option. I didn’t want to be rude and have my head in my [now oversized] laptop so I would grab a bite on the way and eating out alone became a common part of the routine. The perfect alibi for why I am eating out alone.
Moving on from that trip and with a few more stamps in my passport, I found sharing every moment with people tiring. I was staying in popular backpacking places so everyday I was making friends in hostels, indeed having the time of my life but also having no time to think, or reflect about the wonderful experiences I was having. With WiFi now being in most Hostels on the backpacking trail, there was no excuse to have my head in my [upgraded from laptop to] smartphone. So I would sit, people watch and think of how lucky I am to be having the experiences I am having.
Now that I am travelling the road less travelled, visiting lesser known places and living and sleeping in my car in Europe, I have less need to find somewhere quiet to sit and reflect. However eating alone is never boring for me.
If I want to, so many people will talk to me when I sit at a restaurant table along. I can look open, smile at people or even strike up a conversation with people if that is what I choose. If I don’t, then I gaze into the road, watching people continuing their daily life, put my head in my phone like I am tonight writing this blog post or sit and ponder as to how my life has differed so much since this point two years ago.
So here are some reasons why I recommend you should try eating out alone on your next trip:
I eat when I want to eat. I eat when I’m hungry, as soon as I’m hungry.
Have you ever been waiting with stomach pains and rumbles deep in the pit of your core whilst waiting for someone else to want to / get ready to / choose what they are going to eat? Well you don’t have to wait anymore. When I’m hungry, I eat. All I have to do is wait till the food comes which in some countries can take a while, but still it’s sooner than if I was sitting there with an indecisive friend.
I eat what type of food I want to.
Ever had a discussion with a friend as you want pizza and they want Thai? Well that problem is solved. Take tonight after my fifth week in Portugal, I really fancied an Indian. So that is where I am tonight. The world’s food is your oyster. Eat whatever nationality you like
I always seem to land on my feet.
I don’t know if it’s because people feel sorry for me (please don’t, I’m happy) or if it because I look young and homeless at times. But people are so generous (please don’t does not apply to this). I have people inviting and paying for my dinner. Buying me a drink and even offering me a bed to sleep in rather than a blow up bed in my car. All legitimate people who want nothing from me apart from the act of being nice. Also waiting staff always seem to drop me a freebie, including the free chapati I ate tonight, although perhaps he could tell I needed feeding up. However from that free chapati, it encouraged me to order a chai, my Indian weakness, which ended in a free tipple of port.
I can choose what company I have.
Whether I want to eat alone, have a chat, or half and half, I seem to manage to create that situation if I use my gut instinct about the place. Travelling solo can be a lonely place but I am happy to learn about most people, what makes them tick so whether that is a customer, waiting staff or the person taking a fag break from doing the washing up, I’m OK with that. If I want to be alone, then I will batten down the hatches and drift away into the life of Kathy.
Truth be told, transfer me back to the North West of England and unfortunately, whereas I would now have the confidence to sit and wait in a restaurant for a friend, I would still never eat alone. What happens if someone I knew saw me, thought I had no friends. Luckily for me, no one I know is going to see me, apart from the guy I met at the train station in Moscow that was from my primary school, that guy I met in Bolivia who knew my friend I met in Vietnam or that girl I met in Turkey who knew a guy that Couchsurfed with me 3 years ago.
So why don’t you give it a go?
Have you ever tried eating out alone? Would you consider ever eating alone? Comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog (it’s free) for more posts like this, travel tips and unique guides to places I have been.