I remember it like it was yesterday. My first time traveling solo was two years ago when I made my way to Thailand – and there I was, in Chiang Mai, standing on a street corner, sweating (only partly because of the 40°C heat). The one thing I dreaded about solo travel was eating alone. What would everyone else think of me, sitting there all by myself? But there I was, on that corner, and I was exhausted and hungry. So I went in. Heart pounding, I chose a table on the little green terrace close to the fan, and ordered a cup of coffee first.
I’m gonna spare you the rest of the story, except to say that I love eating out alone now, especially when I’m traveling – and here’s why (plus a few tips on how to get over your fears!):
Feel like having breakfast during lunch time? Want to try out that one restaurant the lovely girl from the facebook group recommended? Did you leave the house with the goal of eating in every vegan restaurant listed on Happy Cow? As a solo traveler you can make all the choices when and where to eat and nobody’s gonna roll their eyes when you’re having your third gelato of the day.
Lunch is easier than a crowded restaurant during dinner time. Breakfast during the week is more relaxed than a Sunday brunch. If the idea of eating somewhere alone makes you uncomfortable, start with a cup of coffee or a small meal during the day.
Bring a book
Waiting for your meal and feel a little awkward? Make sure you have a book to keep you company! It’s a great time to start that novel you got for your birthday or tick off something from your must-read list.
Plan your day
One of my favorite parts! Take a notebook and a guidebook and browse through the pages finding things to do. If it’s not too busy ask your barista or waiter if something’s worth to see or what they’d recommend. This way you’ll get recommendations from someone living in the city and can skip things that don’t live up to the hype.
Sit back and relax
I don’t know about you, but I’m a very fast walker and generally rush from one place to another. Partly to see more and not spend useless time in transit, party because slow walking people really annoy me. So it’s nice to take a break, sit back and just watch the scene. Take in the vibe of the neighborhood, see if you can already understand bits and pieces of the language, see if you can find any differences and similarities to the last country you visited.
(Also, notice how everyone is busy with their own life and meals and doesn’t give a second thought to why you are sitting there by yourself).
Dining alone can be intimidating at first, but it’s a real mark of independence and the sign of a seasoned, confident solo traveler – so embrace the experience, and eventually you won’t feel weird or self-conscious at all anymore.
Have you had the experience of eating out by yourself? How was your experience?
All photos © Constanze Neubert.