Because the dinner table is often the center of our social lives, eating alone can be intimidating, and even sometimes sad. It’s no wonder: we eat to celebrate, we eat to explore, we eat for comfort in times of grief, and we eat to soothe in times of stress. And sharing our joy of food–whether by trading plates, sharing meals, or eating tapas style and then discussing the food, is often an essential part of the food experience.
Simply put, dining alone can feel awkward and lonely. I know a lot of people will bring a book to avoid the awkwardness, but as a traveler, that actually prevents you from being present to your journey, so I recommend doing that only occasionally, when you really, really need that crutch or are feeling incredibly introverted but have to dine out.
To be completely honest, eating alone used to be uncomfortable for me, but over the years I’ve grown to appreciate it and even enjoy it. It allows me some down time when I’m traveling solo, so I can relax, get off my feet, be quiet and actually observe what’s happening around me. I also feel like it gives me the chance to appreciate my meal on a deeper level.
So here are my tips for making “table for one,” fun!
Here are my 5 top tips for eating solo when traveling
1. Think outside the traditional table.
Sitting alone at a table with a bunch of empty chairs gives you a visual reminder that you’re dining and traveling alone. So consider ditching the traditional restaurant scene.
Instead, dine at local cafes, and pull up a chair at the counter. Or pull up a bar stool and dine next to other solo patrons. As a bonus, you’ll be able to listen in on conversations and hear what the local buzz is all about. Or, pack a picnic, take it to the beach and watch the waves while you eat. You could even hit up a food struck or street stall and grab a piece of curb. And after a day of travel, there’s nothing quite like the comfort and solitude of a meal in your own room and a favorite show to put the cherry on the top of the travel experience.
2. Eat mindfully.
Feeling alone or sad while eating is a clear indicator that you are not living in the moment, which is exactly what you should be doing to get the most of the travel experience. And putting your nose in a book or your phone is sure to make the experience less memorable and enjoyable than if you are truly present to it.
So instead of feeling sorry for yourself, really focus on the tastes, smells and textures of the unique and new foods you are enjoying. When your mind wanders back to how alone you are, gently nudge it back to the present moment.
3. Think of your dining experience like a foodie or influencer.
If you don’t buy into the whole mindfulness thing, go the other route. Create an ongoing conversation with your social connections. Ask them about places they recommend you eat. Find out their favorite dishes in the country you are traveling, and seek them out.
Then, snap photos of your food, taking care to capture the finest of details. You may even want to capture video. Post the photos and videos to social and engage with your followers. For good or bad, you’re never truly alone when you’re connected and engaged via social media.
4. Really spoil yourself.
Pick a place your significant other, kids or fellow travelers might never be open to visiting. If you go to a great restaurant, and you truly love food, you can relax into simply enjoying the experience.
Then, go all in. Order a great glass of wine or two. Get the appetizer. Splurge on the most expensive entree. And yes, get desert. Remember throughout the experience that you are spoiling yourself, that this is a treat just for you.
5. Instead of going out to eat, take a food tour or cooking class.
Food tours and cooking classes are are widely available and can be a really fun way to both experience a city through its food and meet other travelers.
I’ve taken food tours in several countries–it’s a unique way to test several dishes over the course of several hours, and transportation is typically included.
I’ve also taken cooking classes in Belize, Vietnam, Thailand and in the U.S., and I can tell you from first hand experience, you never leave a cooking class hungry. Best of all, when you get home, you have a souvenir of your travels that’s actually a skill: you can prepare foods from the places you visit, for your friends you missed while you were away.
Use these tips to enjoy eating alone in your solo travels
Eating alone doesn’t have to be depressing or lonely. It can be whatever type of experience you want. It can be a high-end treat, a scavenger hunt for the best food in a city, a beachside picnic or a quick bite at the counter of a local cafe. Because you’re eating alone, it’s a choose your own adventure book. So, pull up a chair (or a curb!) and get ready to dig in. Because dining alone can become a memorable and fun part of the solo travel experience.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning features, food and travel writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess, she applies her worldview to her business, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications, providing powerful storytelling to her clients.
Posts on the Rollerbag Goddess travel blog are never sponsored and have no affiliate links, so you know you will get an honest review, every time.