When I talked with some of my friends about digital nomad lifestyle and solo traveling some of them asked “what about eating? Isn’t it sad to eat alone?”. I heard comments like “it’s weird”, “what other people will think about me”, “it’s so sad”, “what waiter will think”. For me, this question and comments seemed quite strange. I never had issues with eating alone, but when several people who don’t know each other asked me the same question I realized that it’s an important issue. Especially for people who just had a break-up, moved to a new city or who are used to be with their friends all the time.
My worst experience
To be honest I felt bad eating alone only once in the Philippines. I went to a restaurant to have dinner and I’ve been to this place before because I just love their food. The restaurant owner welcomed me and asked: “Are you alone?”. I said no because I met one Irish guy on my day trip, but he was late. She just answered, “you are alone, you’re always alone”, I didn’t respond.
I ordered food and two women entered a restaurant, but the restaurant was full. They asked if they could join me. I agreed and we ended up spending an amazing 3 hours talking. During that time the Irish guy texted me. I told him that I’m having a great time with those two women and he decided to stay at home and relax. When it was time to pay again a restaurant owner brought two separate bills (even though we didn’t ask her) and on my bill was written: “alone”. I made a joke out of it, but inside I felt awkward and I didn’t want to come back to this restaurant again. I understand that she didn’t mean to make me feel bad and it was probably just a language barrier, but I was sad.
This was only one time when I felt like this and hundreds of times I felt just fine spending time with myself. So I understand your fear and awkwardness. That’s why I am sharing some tips which could help you to overcome feeling sad or strange eating alone at the restaurant.
If you really feel bad about eating alone at the restaurant then just start small. Don’t rush yourself, you don’t need to feel uncomfortable. Go to a cafe and have a coffee and a croissant. It will take 10 minutes to eat and you will not have time to stress what others are thinking.
Have something to do
Take a book or magazine to the restaurant so while you wait for your meal you wouldn’t feel strange. A phone is also fine, but when you have a book you always look more interesting. Also, you can take a notebook and just journal something, make to-do lists or if you like to draw you can do some drawing.
Go to a place where people are working
You can also choose a restaurant where digital nomads and freelancers go to work. There you will realize how people are just focusing on their thing and they don’t really care what is around them. Also, a tip, if you want to talk with somebody the easiest way to start a conversation is with the question “What is the Wi-fi password?”.
You don’t need to eat alone while traveling
If you decided to travel solo then it doesn’t mean that you have to eat alone and spend time alone. If you do any tour you will meet people there, if you go on a free walking tour then it’s easy to meet people there as well. Also, you can try Couchsurfing, it has a feature called “hang out” if you choose that you are active on “hangouts” other people can write to you and offer to meet. Additionally, there are events feature where you can find the event which you like and join. People from Couchsurfing are always nice and they would be happy to meet you.