Without question the worry people seem most concerned about when they are about to embark on their first solo trip is eating out by themselves. I get it, it’s unusual to go to a restaurant alone. Dining out is a social experience and if you’ve never done it by yourself before it can be pretty daunting. It’s easy to assume people will look at you like you’re a freak and wonder why you’re alone (“will they think I’ve been stood up?!”) but I promise you, everyone is far too absorbed in their own plate of pasta to give it much of a thought. After you’ve done it a couple of times, you won’t care. You may even start to enjoy it.
I’m very into my food, so a big part of my trips away (by myself or otherwise) are dictated by restaurants and cafes I’ve researched and want to try. I’ll plan out certain places I definitely want to go and actively hunt them down, working them into my plans as much as I would seeing the Colosseum or reaching the top of the Empire State Building. Taking an active interest in the local food is a huge part of experiencing a new place and often ranks highly among any travel lovers’ interests, but it’s also a pretty good way to ease into dining alone. If you’re excited about that little Gelateria you’ve read about or the banging tacos you’ve seen on Instagram, the anticipation of finally getting to try it yourself should help to settle the nerves of going there on your tod.
Hopefully your desire to try that burger you read about has gotten you to the restaurant. How do you get through the meal without feeling awkward and at a loss without someone to speak to the whole time? I always take a book with me to restaurants when travelling solo; it’s a good chance to get stuck into some new pages whilst taking my time over some food and a glass of wine. Reading also makes me eat slower and really enjoy a meal, rather than rushing through it to get back out into the hustle and bustle of exploring. It’s good to pause. You’re away to relax, after all!
I’ve talked before about having no shame in keeping in contact with friends whilst I’m away. We live in a modern world connected by the internet, and whilst switching off can be fantastic and great for the soul, I have friends I speak to very regularly both when I’m at home and whilst I’m away. It’s important to me to keep a level of connectivity and so much of our lives is lived out online that it isn’t weird to me to be what’s apping the GC (group chat, not Gemma Collins) whilst I’m on holiday, and to be frank mealtimes are a good time to catch up. It’s not for everyone but if it’s going to ease your anxiety about eating solo, why not? There aren’t any rules. You do you.
I love sitting outside if I can, as the people watching opportunities as everyone walks by absorbed in their daily life is always entertaining. It forces me to stop and take everything in a bit more, and really get a feel for the place rather than not taking much notice, as I would be more likely to do were I dining in a group or with a friend. I’ve often had people strike up conversation too, so it can even lead to meeting new people. Only recently in Rome I got chatting to the manager of the restaurant and a friendly couple from the States who brightened my afternoon.
After you’ve dined solo a couple of times you’ll be totally used to it and it won’t phase you anymore. But hey, if you don’t fancy tackling a restaurant by yourself every night you’re away, or it feels overwhelming at first? Ordering room service or getting a picnic of bread, cheese and meats from the local supermarket to eat in your Air BnB is a highly underrated thing to do on holiday. Staying in can be just as good as going out sometimes.