This blog post was updated on October 26, 2018.
Traveling solo tends to bring out a confidence and courage you might never know you had.
Despite that courage, it doesn’t mean the idea of dining alone doesn’t frighten the most seasoned of solo travelers.
There is a certain amount of anxiety to dining alone. Is everyone staring at me? Won’t I get bored?
Suddenly the simple act of eating becomes a whole song and dance of anxiety and nerves.
Those questions are all normal for the first time solo traveler stepping into restaurants alone in unseen and foreign lands. If carried out correctly, this experience can be much more than just sitting in silence and eating.
Choose your seat wisely: Just like on an airplane, a solo traveler must choose their seat wisely at the dinner table. You never want to have yourself facing a wall. This might happen if you are nervous and just sit down suddenly. Not only have you shut yourself off to seeing what is going on behind you, but also you will have nothing of interest to see. So much of solo travel is careful observation. It is amazing what you notice, especially amongst people dining, that you wouldn’t see if you had a companion on the other side of the table. Sidewalk cafes spilling out into the streets are ideal for the solo traveler. Seize the moment and your seat. Face out to the restaurant and let the people around you do the talking.
Pick a smaller restaurant: Large, endless tables and chairs of space can make a solo traveler feel a bit in space, especially if these places are deserted. Go for smaller restaurants. There will always be a table for one available. Smaller establishments lend more comfortable atmospheres and usually more personable service. A surly waitress at a big chain may be the catalyst to get you down about solo travel. Little cafes tend to have chatty proprietors who will have no problem giving you a bit of conversation with your chicken.
Don’t be afraid to chat: If someone at a table near you strikes up a conversation, or that chatty café owner asks you a question, don’t be afraid to chat with strangers. If you go into solo dining somewhat apprehensive and anxious, you may have that look on your face and attitude of being closed off to others. A little conversation doesn’t have to be intimidating.
No one cares you’re alone: My first solo travel dining experience I felt like the waiters thought I was strange to be alone and that the other diners had their eyes feasted on me. Unfortunately (yet somewhat fortunately in this case), I am not that interesting and neither is the typical solo traveler eating alone. Remember, no one is staring at you.
Bring an activity: Whether it is the morning newspaper left in your hotel room or a simple pen and paper, having a purpose while you dine can make those dinners and lunches a more active, and maybe even productive meal. Sometimes what you may be reading or doing will draw a stranger to your table who just read what you are reading or suspects you might be a food critic by all of that scribbling. Activities such as reading and writing or just planning your next adventure for tomorrow keeps you busy in the silence or on the flip side, opens you up to more conversations and observations.
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