Tips And Tricks For Eating Alone
For me, one of the most daunting things about travelling alone was that I would inevitably have to eat alone. I'm very big on trying out cool restaurants, checking out the Instagram tags before I leave. I'm very big on taking pictures of my meal and posting it to my Instagram story.
So what I'm trying to get it as that the easy solution, to simplest way out -- that is, eating fast food -- was not an option here.
Especially when one of the things I really wanted to do was to attend High Tea, a more formal affair, where I couldn't just sit in the corner and whip out a laptop.
So, from a girl who used to be terrified about eating alone, even at a place like Panera or Starbucks, here's a few tips on how to brave the big scary world and eat on your own.
Read A Book
Bring a novel and read it! It's that easy. Honestly, I think part of the anxiety associated with eating alone is worrying about other people looking at you, which you'll only become more hyper-aware of if you don't have a proper distraction. I prefer a physical book or an e-reader, just because I'm weird about using my phone at the table, even if by myself, just from my upbringing, so I personally still feel uncomfortable using iBooks on my phone while having a meal. Having a physical book or something that signifies "I'm reading a book!" makes me feel better.
Additionally, if your read of the day is good enough, you'll be so immersed in the story that you won't even notice the people around you. I mean, please still make sure you keep aware of your surroundings, but distancing out a little bit can take away the nerves of eating alone.
Bring A Notebook
I brought my planner, which also serves as a notebook, and would take it out almost immediately after getting seated. It's also a signal of "hey look I'm busy doing things" and a good distraction.
I'd work on my planner, makes lists of things to do, work on things I'm writing, work on blog ideas. Doodle, even. There's a lot you can do with just a notebook. If I didn't have anything I wanted to work on, as a writer, I found it's good enough practice to just people watch and then write a little drabble on your setting, your surroundings. And who knows, it might come in handy later when you're writing up a blog post and trying to describe the cute little cafe where you had your breakfast (spoiler alert: this is a hint, speaking from experience).
Pretend To Be A Food Blogger Or Critic
Building off the idea of a notebook, if you find yourself without specific tasks to keep busy, pretend you're a food blogger, a critic, and/or a secret shopper! After all, these guys must go out and eat alone all the time, might as well play the part!
When I had High Tea in Edinburgh, I didn't really want to work on anything because I really just wanted to enjoy my tea time and not have to think about any stressors or work or anything of that sort. I just wanted to focus on enjoying the food.
I also wanted to take lots of pictures and videos, which is weird enough when you're with people, even weirder when you're on your own.
So, I opened a blank page in my notebook, tasted the food, and jotted down some notes about it every now and then. I took pictures and video and looked thoughtfully at what I'd written.
It's likely that no one will even notice, but it'll make you feel important and make you feel like people know that you're on your own for a good reason.
Plus, it's fun! We've all wanted to be a food critic at some point, we've all had things to say about food. Now's your chance to actually do it.
Complete Puzzle Books
Not my personal favorite, because I think it sends the signal that you're not busy, but you can bring puzzles or puzzle books, such as crosswords and sodoku, to work on during your seating.
It's definitely a pre-built task, so for those of you who don't seem to like the possibility of lacking objective in bringing and empty notebook, this option presents you with a finite task.
It'll pass time and keep you busy, you won't even notice the wait.
Make A Reservation For One
One of the worst parts of eating alone for me is going up to the host and telling them that it's a table for one and hearing them say "just for yourself?" because yes, I know it's weird, and yes, you heard me correctly.
By making a reservation, you can usually avoid that initial awkward encounter because the restaurant will be prepared for it. If they assumed it was a mistake, they'll at least be aware that it could be legit, and won't do the whole "are you sure" dance and will probably do their best to poker face.
Plus, if you're concerned about eating alone for the first time, having a reservation somewhere will motivate you to actually go instead of chickening out.
Sit At The Counter Or Single Seating
Perhaps you can count this as a cop-out, but one of the easiest options is to sit in seating designated for single diners. But the best thing about this is that you're expected to be alone. In fact, it'd be weird if you sat there with a group, because that would be the peculiar, unexpected thing to do here.
It's a signal that yes you are alone and that's perfectly fine. You'll also be with other people who are there on their own, so you'll just be one in the crowd. You can still mix in the other suggestions, but it won't be so much as for the distraction than it is for simply something to do.
Dress And Act Like The Tourist You Are
Obviously this only applies if you're a tourist; or if you'd like to pretend to be a tourist. In my experience eating alone, people are a little more sympathetic when they realize that I'm one of those young American youths, backpacking across Europe on my own.
I feel like it's a fairly general concept, the lone backpacker, and if you're in a very touristy place like Edinburgh or London, you most certainly won't be the first lone backpacker they've ever had.
It also shows other diners that you're travelling and out doing something fun. Again, somehow eating alone is not a common concept, but travelling alone is. People will see you, hear you, and know what you're doing; then hopefully move on with their meal and not spare you another glance.
Again, be smart and aware of your surroundings, you don't want to be the loud, clumsy American tourist, thus making yourself a target for pick-pocketing and the like, but it's okay to wear your hometown sports team's hat, and make your accent apparent. Be a smart tourist.
Eating alone can be hard but it's so much more worth it than sticking to fast food and hiding in your hotel room to eat. You get to check out the local food scene, the local places. You get to experience so much more.
There's less room for regret and so much more room for adventure.
In fact, the very first time I ate alone was a trendy breakfast restaurant in Edinburgh. They seated me at a table next to another lone diner. A fellow lone American tourist, she struck up conversation with me, which was really the boost I needed on my first lone-adventure. We ended up chatting for a while and she gave me a lot of cool tips on what to do and see while I was in Scotland. Definitely grateful because I was able to take her advice and get the most out of my weekend!
So all in all, don't be afraid to venture out there and eat alone, you won't regret it, I promise!