If you’ve followed my shenanigans for a while – you know that I’m no stranger to taking on a new city solo. I don’t mind being alone – it’s grounding for me to be away from other people and just be with myself. In fact, it’s my way of recharging. It’s one of the reasons that I love transcendental meditation because it trains you to be alone with your thoughts in a mindful way.
Traveling the world alone is a great experience but some things about it can be quite nerve-wracking – like rocking up to a restaurant solo. If this rings a bell, let’s take a moment to understand why you have such a hard time kicking it with one person: yourself.
Instead of writing it off and not taking in the full experience of a city, let’s talk about some ways you can tackle it properly. Learning to dine alone is an adjustment, so here is my guide to make things go a bit smoother during your next trip.
Get Over Yourself.
I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t gone through my head: “Is everyone watching me? I must look so stupid.” Let’s get this one out of the way because it’s the most important thing I’d like you to tell yourself:
There’s a good chance no one is actually watching you – and even if they were, who cares? Read that again. You’re at a restaurant to enjoy a culinary experience – so allow yourself to do that…just like everyone else in the restaurant.
Choose your restaurant or café.
Planning your spots ahead of time is king.
If the experience of going out solo is causing you anxiety, then adding the pressure of picking a restaurant without any research or planning is going to make your experience a hell of a lot more stressful.
Spend some time researching before you leave for your trip. Check out blogs, ask your network for recommendations and make a list of restaurants in the city that you’d like to visit. If you’re feeling extra bold – go ahead and make that reservation.
Picking a nice place to eat will give you something to look forward to. Instead of thinking about how awkward the experience is going to be, you’ll be thinking about the unique location, the exciting menu and the experience you’re going to get.
PS. I’m so proud of you for doing this.
Choose Your Time Wisely
If you’re nervous to tackle a solo dining experience, travelling at peak hours may cause you the most anxiety. Start small and visit during quieter hours.
At peak meal times, it may be more difficult to find a seat as a table for one may land you lower on the priority list for tables. On the flip side, asking for a spot at the bar may just get you blowing past lines and make your experience a breeze.
When dining alone, I pack my AirPods and make sure I have a podcast or audiobook downloaded and ready to go. It’s easy to want to download a movie or bring work along with me – but allow yourself to still to enjoy the experience without having yourself start at a screen!
For The Shy Traveller
I have literally walked into Michelin star restaurants alone because I straight up don’t care what people think of me. After all, it’s my trip – and there’s no way I’m going to get myself get in the way of not having a good time. BUT – if you’re shy, take baby steps.
If dining solo is causing more anxiety than you hoped, but you still really want to give it a go, do not pick a massive + busy restaurant for your first solo dining experience. It’s best to pick a place that isn’t going to be overwhelming to your senses. Even eating alone in a café for your first-time counts.
Taking it step-by-step rather throwing yourself in at the deep end is what will make dining alone a more enjoyable experience.
For The Traveller In A Foreign Country
If you’re not in a country that speaks your native tongue, you’re going to have to understand some of the language to order authentic food.
The best way to avoid any unfortunate orders of platters for 6 people and questionable menu choices is to bring a translation app or count on our dear friend google.
Google Translate is free and has a feature that lets you take pictures of menus to translate them. It’s not always wholly accurate but it’s better than going blind. Being able to know the difference between chicken and fish is going to make the dining experience a lot easier.
Tip: if you are travelling with a severe allergy to a country that isn’t in your native language, please get an allergy card made in the local language that you can have your server show to the kitchen.
Enjoy The Food.
Guess what? You came to the restaurant to eat. You didn’t come to impress the table next to you.
You are getting to enjoy some amazing food by yourself without someone trying to have a conversation with you. You are allowed to just eat when you’re alone instead of trying to eat really delicious food and hold a conversation. The only person you’re going to have to talk to is a member of the waiting staff.
I love just being able to savour my food and really enjoy it.
Eating alone doesn’t have to be a scary thing. I love it because I get to just enjoy the experience without unwanted distractions. Taking time to devour my food then just enjoying the atmosphere can really help to give me perspective. It’s also a great time to just watch people go about their daily lives.
Take it for what it is, it’s an opportunity to experience something new. Reminder: this experience is about you. Order that glass of wine – and yes, for the love of god, get the dessert hunni.