Once a dear friend of mine, while we were eating a poutine at a club in downtown Toronto, confessed one of her wishes to me. She had never gone out to eat alone and she would have liked to do so.
It immediately came to me to laugh, for me it’s such a normal thing, I’ve never had a problem, I often travel alone and I’ve never felt at fault in doing so, nor have I ever been ashamed to sit alone at a table and order something good.
Since he told me, however, I started to think about it and actually could be one of the biggest concerns when traveling alone, the time for meals at the end always comes and not everyone likes to be alone. Sitting alone at a restaurant table is something you don’t do very often and it’s uncomfortable for most people. You have the feeling that everyone is looking at you, judging you and being sorry for you.Getting out of your comfort zone
Eating alone the first time can be a shameful experience for someone who is a little shy and during a trip is certainly easier to take a sandwich or take-away food and eat it in the hostel with many other travelers. Yet there is something really liberating about eating alone, and now I will try to explain it to you.
Getting out of your comfort zone, being completely free to choose in which restaurant you want to eat… I think everyone should go out and eat by themselves, sit at a nice table, with a nice tablecloth and show themselves what you can do. As everyone should travel alone, at least once, and feel free to really do what you want minute by minute without giving up your own needs to indulge those of others.
I’ve eaten alone in restaurants all over the world, from Vancouver to Sydney, from Copenhagen to Bangkok. I also went out to eat alone in my city and I never felt weird or embarrassed, on the contrary, I always enjoyed and relaxed. I was able to enjoy my lunch or dinner in my own time, without haste, choosing calmly the dish that inspired me most. I don’t think that being alone prevents us from eating well.
Face your anxieties
First of all, let’s try to understand what it is that we are so worried about when we eat alone. Are we afraid that others will judge us? Do we think we look stupid? Are we uncomfortable because we are alone? Do we think that eating alone can be boring?
Often we imagine fears and anxieties as a big black cloud full of terror and the problem is that most of the time this cloud appeared alone, we created it unconsciously and without a real reason. Understanding why you are afraid to eat alone is the first step to get out of your comfort zone and realize that there is nothing to be afraid of.
When you see people sitting at the table in front of you, what are you thinking about alone? Do you feel sorry for them? But I’m almost 100% sure that if you’re not seeing them crying while they’re eating their portion of lasagna they’re actually happy to be able to do it on their own. If you don’t feel sorry for those people, why should they do it with you?
But if they do, even if they think it’s so sad to eat alone, why should you care? You don’t know them and they don’t know you and to judge someone you don’t even know seems to me to be living in a very superficial way. So maybe they don’t have to be sorry for you, but you have to be sorry for them.
Are you afraid of being annoyed by people who see you eat alone and come to disturb you? In truth, yes, it can happen, I usually do not mind, I sat many times at the table with someone I did not know, other times I refused the company instead simply explaining that I preferred to eat alone. In reality, however, no one has ever really bothered me.
Eat alone even when you are in your city
Eating alone in a new country where you don’t speak our language and you may have trouble making yourself understood is a nice double challenge if you’ve never gone out to eat alone even in your own city, region or country.
I’m sure that for everyone there is a place, a restaurant more familiar than another where you go often and maybe you could start right there, sitting at that table where you usually sit in two and order a great first course.
Or it’s a good opportunity to go and try that restaurant of foreign cuisine where no one ever wants to accompany us. Why not go alone? Wouldn’t it be a great satisfaction to realize that we don’t need an escort to go and do something we do every day? Eat!
Go out for lunch
If it’s your first time, lunch is more informal, it’s easy to find someone else at the table by yourself. Maybe it’s there for a work break so you won’t feel that all eyes are on you. Dinner is more challenging, you can find yourself in a room full of couples and maybe for the first time it can be a bit difficult as situation. You’ll see that with time you won’t even notice. All you will be interested in is the delicious taste of what you put in your mouth.
Take something with you to distract yourself
If being alone may seem a bit boring to you and you’re not used to focusing all your attention on yourself, bring a book to read, so while you eat, you can continue to read that thriller that holds your breath on your neck, or flick through the pages of a beautiful magazine or local newspaper. Pull your phone out of your bag, answer emails, read an online article. In time, you’ll also learn to watch movies from your tablet screen while you’re sitting at the table alone, and I assure you that it’s a real blast. The ordered dishes arrive one after the other while you’re asleep from your favorite TV show. Who doesn’t like this idea?
Focus on the noise and people around you
Sometimes we don’t need any physical object to help us pass the time while we eat. I often focus on the people around me. Children playing at the table, some talking about work, others gossiping. Honestly, sometimes I really enjoy listening to other people’s speeches. You say you don’t do it? Well, I can assure you that in some cases it’s really fun.
Give yourself a gift
Order something you wouldn’t normally eat, a particular dessert, a different drink. You are taking care of yourself, your mind and your stomach. You can choose and eat what you want and you don’t have to share it with anyone. Isn’t that great?
If you look in the mirror and say you’re never gonna make it, you’re definitely not gonna make it. Instead, walk with your head held high, open the door of the restaurant as if you were opening the door of the house, smile, but not shyly, pull out one of your most beautiful smiles and sit at the table as if it were the most natural thing in the world for you. You have to believe it, you don’t have to pretend. Inside you can be full of anxiety and fear, but if you believe in yourself and you repeat that you can do everything, not just sit at a table and enjoy your first great lunch alone.
You’ll see that eating alone on the road or at home will be a great experience! Do you have any other doubts about this? Is there anything else that scares you? Do you want to tell us about your experience and how you found yourself eating alone? Write me down in the comments below!