I’ve always enjoyed occasionally eating out alone, especially as a traveller who loves trying different ethnic dishes wherever I go! I love the idea of having some space for some alone time to treat myself to a nice meal. It gives me time to clear my mind, reflect, relax and enjoy moments of silence and solitude while taking in the beauty of my new surroundings. Sometimes you just need to disconnect yourself to refuel and replenish your energy. But, I quickly realized that for some people, the idea of eating out alone in public at a restaurant makes them feel uncomfortable, giving them anxiety and some even see it as an embarrassing activity.
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Here are some of my best tips on how to eat out alone (and enjoy it!):
1. Address the Issue & Change the Way You Think!
What exactly is it about eating alone that gives you anxiety? Is it the thought of what people might think of you? Do you feel as though people are judging you and staring at you simply because they feel sorry for you? What exactly is it about eating alone that gives you anxiety? Society tends to attach negative connotations and stereotypes of people who are seen by themselves, as being lonely or as socially inept.
This couldn’t be more wrong. When you see someone eating by themselves, it just means they simply enjoy it and feel very comfortable and confident in doing so!
You have to stop caring so much about what other people think because no one cares as much as you think they do! Stop thinking so much into it, get out of your own head and change your mindset on how you actually feel about being alone. People that go to restaurants are so preoccupied with eating and going about their business, they would probably never notice that you’re there by yourself! You’re in a foreign place surrounded by rich culture and new surroundings, so do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a good meal. Chances are, you will never see these people again, so stop worrying so much about what they think!
2. Start with Brunch or Lunch first
If this is your first time eating alone, I suggest you start with brunch or lunch. These are the times of day where you’ll most often see people eating by themselves. The mornings are more relaxed, and you can often find people reading their newspapers, enjoying their coffee, and eating breakfast. The same for lunch – most people take an hour off from work to quickly grab something to eat. Meals in the earlier part of the day are shorter and more relaxing. Ease into these meals first, then when you’re comfortable enough, try dining alone in the evening.
3. Timing – eat at off peak hours (fewer people around)
If being in a room full of people makes you feel uncomfortable to eat alone, eat at off-peak hours. There are fewer people around and restaurants might even offer better pricing on their menu items during their down time. Make sure to look up the restaurant online or call in advance for their hours of operation and ask about off-peak times (remember off-peak hours may be different from your home country).
4. Seating Arrangement – communal tables, bar/chef’s counter or patio
Call the restaurant in advance to ask about seating. Make reservations to sit at a communal table, at the bar/chef’s counter, or on the patio. I personally love sitting on patios to enjoy the beautiful weather and people watch; one of my favourite things to do when in a foreign city!
5. Bring something to keep you occupied – phone, laptop, newspaper or a book
Having something with you to keep you distracted will help ease any awkward feelings you may experience initially while eating alone. This is a good chance to catch up on that book that you’ve always wanted to read, pick up the paper to read up on any current events, or send emails to family and friends back home to update them on your trip.
6. Go grocery shopping, order takeout / room service
Drop by the local grocery store to see if there’s anything you can pick up, eat at the food court, or buy from a food truck and take it back to your place. If you’re staying at a hotel, order room service. If you prefer to eat out but don’t want to venture too far off, dine at one of the hotel’s restaurants or bars (you’ll often find other solo travellers eating alone there as well).
*If you enjoy solo travel, but occasionally enjoy dining with someone too. Here are some ways to connect with other solo travellers:
7. Solo Traveller Meet Ups & Facebook Groups
Do a search on Facebook for solo travel groups, one that I recommend is The Solo Female Traveler Network (very supportive and active group of women, with over 130,000 members and its free to join!). There are tons of groups you can join for free on Facebook for solo travellers. Create a post to see if anyone is currently in the same city as you looking to meet up. Some websites and apps I’ve heard great are: Meetup, Travelmassive, Backpackr, EatWith or use the engagement hashtag #teamkaptainkenny and/or follow @teamkaptainkenny on Instagram to connect with other travellers.
8. Meet people by joining tour groups
Sign up for city group tours. You will almost always meet other people who are travelling alone as well. You’ll find that the travel community is very welcoming and friendly, so striking a conversation and meeting people will be easy!
9. Volunteer Abroad, You’ll never have to worry about eating alone again!
One of the many benefits of volunteering abroad, is always having the flexibility and the option of having someone to travel and eat with, so you won’t feel lonely! I would often travel with another volunteer on the weekends, map out places we wanted to explore together, but also book in times where we wanted to just venture off on our own. We’d schedule a time to meet up later on for dinner at a local restaurant and share stories over some good food and wine! You really get the best of both worlds!
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