Solo travel and dining alone

SHE-WENT-WILD

HOW TO FEEL COMFORTABLE EATING ALONE WHEN TRAVELLING
 

by Anna Kernohan

 

If you're joining the thousands of women travelling alone you may be starting to think about how to make the most of your trip. Anna Kernohan from Carry on Wandering has given some handy advice for ensuring you enjoy eating in the places you really want to go!

What is it about eating alone in a restaurant that makes people feel so vulnerable? Why is it when traveling alone we often hide ourselves away with room service or take out meals or choose “easy” things to eat when in front of others instead of ordering what we really want which is the burger so big it requires 2 hands and an unlocking jaw to eat. 

If we eat alone in public will we be perceived as lonely and a loser rather than just enjoying the solitude? Will we be judged on our apparent lack of friends or dismissed as having something wrong with us? Whether it’s a product of society or something within ourselves there is often a perceived shame at having to ask for a “table for 1” and we hastily follow this request with an apology or an explanation.  

I don’t know the answer to why people fear eating in a restaurant alone but I do know it is a common problem amongst travellers. They might be brave enough to travel across the globe throwing themselves into the great unknown only to then refuse to eat in a restaurant alone and survive on snickers bars and Pringles instead.  

So if this sounds like a fear of yours then here are some tips to help you enjoy the experience - 

Choose wisely. Go somewhere that makes you feel comfortable and invited which is cosy, casual and where the menu caters for individual plates of food rather than sharing platters. 

Sit at the bar if they have one. This can be great way to meet people as it’s often assumed if you sit at a bar you want to be talked to. Whether by the bartender, by other people sitting there or people coming up for drinks - you’ll get a hello at the very least and this is a great way to expand your solo trip and be open to new experiences.

Sit in a booth. If sitting at the bar leaves you feeling too exposed try sitting in a booth where you can hide in the back corner or sit with your back to everyone so they can't see you. 

Bring your armour. Read or have your phone/ipad/laptop with you. Or even something to write with as people will think you're a famous writer and be curious about you instead of pitying you. 

Sit and listen. I love people watching for the simple fact of just watching their behaviour and listening in on their conversations. It’s fascinating listening to the accents, how people respond to each other, how different their body language is. A fun game is to try make up stories for people and assign them backgrounds and histories as you try to figure out relationships. First date? Affair? Best friends?

Practice. Eating alone is not just a travellers issue as eating alone in your own city can be just as daunting. Before leaving on your great solo adventure, try eating in a few places close to where you live knowing that if you get weirded out you can always go home again or call a friend to come meet you. 

And if all else fails - remember that, in reality, no-one but you actually cares you're alone. How many times have you seen someone eating alone and felt bad for them or given them even a second glance? Chances are if you did notice, you admired them for doing it and made a point of saying hello or acknowledging them in some way so why should it be any different for you.

Yes, eating alone in public can seem daunting but remember that people are so wrapped up in their own worlds that they probably haven’t even noticed you or given you a second thought. The guy in the next booth is worried about whether his shirt looks too feminine, the couple 3 tables over are arguing but pretending not to for appearances sake, the waiter just wants his shift to end so he can continue playing Pokemon Go and the group of friends at the bar are just trying to one up eachother with the best story of the day.

That leaves you in the empowering position of being able to actually enjoy your food and the whole eating out experience. You don’t have to entertain someone with your stories and you don’t have to pretend interest in theirs unless you want to. You get to actually concentrate on what you're eating and enjoy your foods textures, flavours, smells etc and you can eat at a time you want without waiting for someone else to arrive and where you want without pandering to someone else's diet restrictions. How liberating that seems!

After eating alone in public a few times it won't seem such a big deal and you might just be surprised at how much you enjoy the experience. You’ll get more out of your travels by putting yourself out there instead of hiding in your room plus I’ve seen what a month of snickers and chips does to someone so you will definitely be healthier for it. So if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one at the bar with a pint of beer and the pasta sauce spattered shirt without a care in the world and assigning you an imaginary background to keep myself entertained. You should try it sometime.

Written by Anna Kernohan, Founder of Carry on Wandering.

Anna can help you help you plan your Solo Trip, give you help and advice to reach the places you've always wanted to go.