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In the photo above I’m clearly not eating alone. Most of the time I don’t eat alone on the road- usually I meet people in the hostel or I make friends who invite me out to dinner. This picture was taken with a bunch of friends I’d made over my two months in ios, Greece.
But one thing you do have to get used to traveling solo is occasionally eating alone.
I’m not sure why it is, but eating seems to be one of those things that is just considered to be a social activity. Which is weird because past the baby stage we really don’t need someone to spoon-feed us. Yes eating goes hand in hand with good conversation, friends and a good glass of vino.
For a lot of people it can be incredibly daunting to go into a restaurant alone and order food because they think they will look pathetic and stupid. As you tell the waiter “Just a table for one please” you could swear they’re giving you that ‘poor you!’ look of sympathy. But the way I see it is a) the people in the restaurant are all strangers you will never see again b) no-one cares and c) there’s nothing wrong with eating alone. No-one will think you are a billy no-mates.
I’m pretty used to it now, but there are still occasions where I feel a little bit uncomfortable. I recently sat outside a restaurant in Mykonos and every table was filled with couples and families having romantic dinners. I was sat on a table outside in full view and my food took a good hour to arrive. That wasn’t very fun and obviously I would have preferred some company.
I sometimes take my laptop or my phone and choose somewhere that has Wi-Fi so I can get on with work or talk to my friends online. If you’re focused on something, you block out the outside world so you’re completely unaware of anyone looking at you. There’s the standard ‘check-your- mobile-phone-every-two-seconds-and-pretend-you’re-texting-someone-interesting’ trick, but I feel like that’s a bit transparent. And lame.
The fact of the matter is, if I want to eat in a fancy restaurant and enjoy some good food by myself, I will. I’ve been to many nice restaurants and challenged myself to simply sit there and dine without any distractions- no mobile phone, no book, no newspaper…
Of course if you really don’t like the idea of sitting in a restaurant on your own then there are ways to get around it…you can cook up a tasty meal in your hostel and save money at the same time. You could grab some take-away food from the nearest restaurant, or eat somewhere a bit more informal and casual. Some restaurants have booths or tables that are a little more tucked away. Anywhere where you can eat a bar is always a lot easier, because no-one is meant to be sitting opposite you and you can always chat to the bartenders.
I have many fabulous memories of delicious dinners and great conversations with amazing people. I’ve made many friends along the way in the last 3 years and I rarely ever feel alone.
But after all these years of travelling, I have become increasingly comfortable in my own company. Some people tell me I must be really brave and ballsy to eat alone, but I don’t see it that way. The more I travel, the less I worry about what other people think and what society deems to be acceptable. Yes I’ll eat alone if I want to.