Sunday, 4 August 2013

Eating Alone - TRGTALP's Guide to Chowing Down Solo

Pad Thai in Chiang Mai (source - author)

When I tell people that I often travel solo, the first reaction I often get is, "Oh!  Not for me!  I couldn't eat out alone!"  The tone with which this statement is said would suggest that dining alone is too horrific to even contemplate or can be a major stumbling block to enjoying your travels.  I can assure you there is nothing to worry about and the thought of eating solo should certainly not stop you from getting out there and exploring.  I guess most people fear that their fellow diners may be mocking or pitying them and their lonely existence.  I imagine eating in a restaurant surrounded by loved-up couples might make the solo diner feel somewhat uncomfortable or out of place.  Much of this is due, I believe, to projection and what we think people are thinking about us.  In the majority of cases, your fellow diners; but for a passing glance or comment about someone eating alone, do not give two hoots about you.  They are probably too consumed with the menu, the prospect of their own delicious meal arriving in front of them and their fellow diner's spinach-filled teeth to care about you.

Of course, it is great to eat with company, but eating alone allows you to take in more of your surroundings and gives you the opportunity to be alone with your thoughts.  I prefer not to, but I know people who get round this by reading a book.  I sometimes write in my travel notebook/Moleskine (something I referred to in my previous 'Your First Time') all the things I have been doing or plan to do on my trip or plan to do when I get home.  Remember, your meals are a small part of your day and need not consume you with angst.  So, here are my top tips to make dining alone that little bit easier:

1. Choose your eatery carefully...
- Though you should not give a stuff, you probably don't want to be eating surrounded by several doe-eyed couples sharing their spaghetti (a la Disney's 'Lady and the Tramp').  A friendly local venue is likely to be filled with a mixture of couples, families and, probably, the odd singleton just like you!
2. Eat at lunch...
- Eating your larger meal at a quieter time of the service will take the pressure off feeling that you need to be dining with another person for the day's main meal in the evening.  You can then free yourself up to take in some street food or local fast food options in the evening as you wander round and explore your destination.  The Khao San Road in Bangkok is a great example of where you can munch on satay, spring rolls, pad Thai and finish with some pineapple all for a few pounds as well as soak up an atmosphere you certainly would not find in the confines of a restaurant in the city.
3. Play on the WiFi...
- Only last night, in Split, the waiter took pity on me and came up to me with a till receipt with the restaurant WiFi password written on it.  His kindness was unwarranted, but not unwelcome and I was happy to spend 10 minutes or so, until the food came, sending a message here and there and catching up on the news back home. 
4. Buddy up...
- On a number of occasions I have dined with fellow travellers I have met in hostels, bars on tours that same day.  It is a great way to meet someone and can offer you the chance to get to know people really well as you 'break bread'.

Overall, though...I would suggest that you be bold in these situations.  You have every right to sit at a restaurant by yourself.  You are a paying customer.  Who cares what anyone else thinks!  Go ahead and chow down!


  1. I enjoy people watching when I'm eating solo. Especially if there are couples in the vicinity. Sometimes they're not gazing at each other, all doe-eyed. They can also be having a barney in the middle of their main course. That always makes for good meal-time entertainment :-D

  2. Love this post - all really great advice and hopefully will encourage more people to embrace the solo dining experience, which can be so liberating and enjoyable while travelling!

  3. I couldn't agree more, Catherine! It's great to observe couples and how they interact with each other. Only the other week, I witnessed a couple in their early twenties, sit playing on their mobile phones until the meal arrived. When the food came, they wolfed it down and then immediately picked their phones back up after their plates were cleared from the table. Absolutely fascinating! I had more fun eating alone then they did together!

  4. Thank you so much for your comment, anonymous! I agree...a solo dining experience can be surprisingly enjoyable - especially, when you travel.

  5. I remember the first time I ate alone when travelling - convinced everyone was taking pity on the loner!! Great post micheal, only just found your blog - good read so far!

  6. Thank you for your comment, George S! So pleased to hear you are enjoying the blog! I hope you will come back to read and comment some more as well as share it with your family and friends!

  7. Thanks partly to this inspiring post, (and also to my inner foodie,) I swallowed (no pun intended) my usual angst at eating alone in more formal settings and booked myself a spot for a three course lunch offer at a restaurant I really wanted to try in Harlem, NYC. It was the last day of my holiday so I added some wine and sat down to relax and enjoy my view of the open kitchen. I did read my kindle a bit between courses but none of the other diners or the waiting staff made me feel self conscious and you notice so much more around you on your own, which is great for soaking up the atmosphere. I encourage all other nervous solo diners to take the leap too!