Dining Alone – One Of The Best Parts Of Female Solo Travel. A Collection Of Women’s Solo Dining Stories
Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist
Eating out alone is one of the most wonderful parts of traveling solo. But, many people seem to struggle with it so much they refrain from traveling at all. May this post change your perspective and let you see some of the fun parts of solo dining…
I frequently meet people who, when they learn what I do, are impressed, then envious. Many of them say they’d love to travel full time, but the idea of eating alone, they feel, would ruin the fun of traveling for them. I have so many wonderful experiences eating alone, most recently on my first evening in Christchurch, New Zealand. As I often do, I ate alone at a local pub. I quickly found myself in conversation with the people at the table next to me and ended up with a new friend who invited me to stay with her!
Overall, I bring my smile out with me and if a neighboring table is having one of those conversations that just begs me to know more (like dating, a funny thing that happened, a cultural mishap….) I simpy cut in, apologize, and tell them I have to be part of their conversation! Nobody has thrown their drink at me, but they have bought me drinks and offered me a seat at their table, so I keep on meeting wonderful people while eating out by myself and consider this a highlight of my travels.
Whether you’re travelling alone for the first time, or a seasoned traveler, I hoped to encourage you to dine alone, if it’s something you aren’t comfortable with. So I wanted to see if others had similar experiences. I asked my community for inspiring stories of what happened when they ate out alone. I don’t mean in a hostel, I mean they walked out in a city they didn’t know, tried a new place, possibly with a language barrier, and dared to dine by themselves. For inspiration, here are those stories.
“The Ice Breaker”
Submitted by Heather Raulerson of Raulerson Girls Travel
On my first trip solo, I chose to travel to Cozumel, Mexico and stay in an All-Inclusive Resort. I thought that this would be an easy way to immerse myself in the solo female travel world. There was one evening where I wanted to go to a nice restaurant in town for dinner. I hopped into a taxi that dropped me off in front of an Italian restaurant. As this was my first time eating alone in a restaurant and in a foreign country no less, I was very apprehensive walking up the steps to the entrance. I pulled open the door, walked in and was immediately greeted by the host. He asked how many and I quietly said: “one”. With that single word, his entire demeanor changed.
Tons of questions followed, “Do you have a boyfriend? Husband? How is that possible for such a pretty lady?” He sat me down at a table by the kitchen and told me that he would look out for me while I was there. The waiter came by and asked if I was by myself and the host overheard him, and came by and told him loudly that I was his girlfriend, so make sure you are really nice to her. It was a bit dramatic, but it broke the ice and we all were laughing by the end of the evening. I had a delicious Italian meal and met some lovely people that night. Instead of being nervous with the attention, I embraced it and had a really fun evening out. And this gave me the courage to continue dining solo at restaurants all around the world.
“Waiters Are Great For Fun Conversations.”
Submitted by Sue Cockell of Sue Where Why What
“Women enjoying a meal alone can sometimes get attention when they take out their dead cat…”
Submitted by Madhurima Chakraborty of Orange Wayfarer
I have had nothing less than an amusing experience while eating out in India, all by myself! India is the land of great food! Keeping in sync with her incredible diversity, gourmet culture changes every 500 KM. While it is by large acceptable to eat out alone at the fine fine restaurants as a solo female diner, “real fun” begins when you try to enter the century-old local food joints, who survived the gnaw of time with nothing but the superior quality of food!
To be honest, it is a bit of a daunting task to let go all inhibitions and sit and dine with locals, oftentimes only stag groups, without being overwhelmingly self-conscious. But I am too “shameless” to let go of these amazing dining opportunities and the hilarious times that come along!
I was eating at this truly amazing Biryani joint in Lucknow, the land of Nawabs. Legacy of Nawabi kitchen has drilled down to the most humble eating joint in Lucknow. As a result, you are presented with a painfully beautiful plate of Biryani, rice flavoured with flavorful meat broth, spices and other exquisite condiments. In fact, I travelled to Lucknow, only to eat this iconic Biryani that proceeded to give birth to regional varieties, say the Kolkata Biryani or the Aminabadi one!
Since I am a content creator, I was also shooting the whole thing, with a camera set on a tripod and a microphone cover that looks like a dead cat on top! On this particular occasion, after setting up my equipment, I suddenly sensed an awkward silence! From the boy grilling succulent Kebab morsels on skewers to the aged diner sitting on the next bench, everyone was looking at me, with a still spoon on hand and curious glances thrown towards me! “What is she doing?” I could not help but laugh out loud! I clicked a picture and sent it immediately to my girlfriends’ group! I finished my plate nonetheless! In Lucknow, I saw another solo female diner at the original outlet of Tunday Kebabi. She ate the Galouti Kebab with all her heart and soul, her face not shying away from expressing utter amusement! Our eyes met, and we reassured each other without saying anything much!
For me, it felt a lot like breaking the age-old patriarchal customs, with women coming out all by their self and enjoying simple joys of life. We are all little rebels, collectively stepping feet towards freedom!
Photo credit: Madhurima Chakraborty
“Finding Culture and Togetherness”
Submitted by Lisa Franceschini, Travel.Connect.Experience.
Dining alone can be the most enjoyable or the most uncomfortable experience while traveling. In my solo traveling history, I’ve been dining alone in 8 foreign countries, and once I had started, I kept doing that also in my home country, where it has become a way to spend quality time with myself. Solo traveling time is my preferred time of the year, but I also have bad days. When I’m in a positive state of mind, I confidently enter any eateries and feel at home. If I’m feeling down though, and especially in big towns, it takes me a while to choose the place, and I am overly attentive to my surroundings. Would that family or group of friends sitting there make me feel uneasy? Will the waiter treat me as a weirdo? Sometimes it takes a deep breath and the realization that the people around you are living in their own movie, they won’t really see you for who you are, and that doesn’t have to become an issue. Considering the totality of my dining alone experiences, 95% of them were positive surprises, especially when I traveled on small islands or mountain villages.
When I spent one month on Weh Island in Indonesia, I had the chance to explore many of the cafes and the little local restaurants. The dearest experience is the communal dinner at Norma’s Ong. Every evening at 7, the visitors would sit at the only long table of the restaurant and eat the buffet dinner together, in a friendly community atmosphere. Such a great idea to support cultural exchange and enhance togetherness! At the communal table, I could naturally get to know other guests’ stories and share mine, and even the simple action of passing around the trays with the food and the jugs made me feel included in the group. Everyone went there on their own, and ended up having new friends! One time I met two guys that were traveling the world by sailing boat and they invited me for a day-trip on their boat!
Photo credit: Lisa Franceschini
“A Little Bit Of Courage Can Turn A Table For One Into A Table For Three.”
Submitted by Erin Foster of Due Midwest
Hi, I’m Erin and I’m a textbook introvert. Needless to say, I’m not great at speaking to strangers. So, on my first solo trip to Ireland, most meals went by without talking to anyone but my server. Cut to sitting in a pub somewhere in the countryside of Ireland, enjoying my cheese toasty. I heard a couple next to me talking about their trip and I could tell from their accents they were American. I gathered up my courage and asked what part of the US they were from. After a bit of back and forth, they asked me to join them at their table while I ate my dessert. They apologized for not asking me over sooner because they assumed, I was a local. I guess the red hair made me blend in more than I thought! We had a great conversation and it made me realize that people who are traveling are more open to meeting new people. After this experience, I’m not going around befriending everyone, but it gets easier each time. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a meal by yourself but don’t discount the kindness of those around if you want company!
“Dining Alone Can Make You See Things You Might Otherwise Miss.”
Submitted by Richa Jain of Trail My Travel Tales
“People love connecting with, and sometimes rescuing, solo travelers.”
Submitted by Rapti Bhaumick of From The Corner Table
It’s already been a few years of solo travelling & eating but I still have days when the thought of dining alone gives me sweaty palms and anxiety gets a new definition! A few tried-and-tested methods, along with memories of brilliant experiences help me through. As a solo diner, there have been times when the restaurant staff has tried to seat me at a corner table or one of those no-one-wants-it tables. The newbie me would meekly sit at these tables until Portree, Scotland. In the waiting queue outside a restaurant in the Scottish village, an older couple engaged me in a conversation about travel and India. The conversation was broken up when our tables were ready. I was led to a tiny table tucked away in a dark corner, right next to the bathroom door. Taken aback but unable to say no for fear of drawing attention to myself, I was about to sit at that table when the couple jumped to my rescue. The Scottish gent gave the restaurant management a stern lecture, taking them to task for pushing a solo traveller into a dark space at an otherwise cosy restaurant. As for me? The gentleman looked me in the eye and said “Travelling alone is a mark of bravery. So, don’t lose that courage. You deserve better, so ask for it. Be it during travels or in life.”
“It’s a great way to make unexpected new friends.”
Submitted by Julie Ens of Jewels Wandering
I never intended to be a solo traveler, but my desire to go and experience something new was greater than just waiting around until someone could go with me. One such time was almost 3 years ago when I went to Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia for a diving trip. Raja Ampat is known to be a diver’s paradise. I booked myself into an all-inclusive resort and the first night I was there, I was having dinner by myself, minding my own business. This American family that had been on the same boat as me to the resort approached me and asked if I wanted to dine with them. I said, why not? They then invited me to have dinner with them every night we were there, and it made the trip that much more special as it allowed me to share my day’s diving with them over dinner as you would with friends. And they were, they were new friends. To this day, we interact every once in a while, through Instagram, and I will never forget the laughs we shared over dinner in a remote location in West Papua, Indonesia that can only be reached by a few hours boat journey from Sorong.
“Dining Alone Can Lead To Red Carpet Treatment”
Submitted by Emilie Soon of Not A Moment Too Soon
While travelling through Queensland, Australia, people were constantly confused that I was travelling solo. People would ask where my husband was and when I would say “I’m travelling on my own”, they would hesitantly say “Oh! Good for you dear”.
On my first night at dinner at the Daintree Eco Lodge, I sat down at a table for two. When my server asked if I would like to wait for my partner, I explained I was on my own. Instead of a confused look, she said, “Oh cool, what did you get up to today?” We had a lovely chat and not only did I order a 3 course meal, but had wine pairings to match! At breakfast, the interaction was similar, explaining I was on my own, and the staff jumping in to offer suggestions for my day. By dinner that night, I was greeted to a table set up for one, and staff asking about my day, offering suggestions on things to do, and of course, which wines went best with each course! This continued for the duration of my stay for breakfast and dinner each day, and made for not only a memorable stay, but also one of my top customer service experiences while dining alone.
By now, you can hopefully see, at the very least, that you’re likely to get a fun story to tell about your foray into dining alone. I’m just back from another dinner out in New Zealand where I met a lovely couple from Perth, Australia who offered to have me stay with them if I travel that way. I keep forgetting that outside the US, my accent makes a lot of people want to talk to me! Think about how many lovely accents have inspired you to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Well, the same is true of yours when your outside your home country. I hope all these adventurous women have at least inspired you to go out and enjoy a meal on your own tonight. And, if you can do it once, you can do it again on that dream trip of yours. And, you no longer need to wait for a dinner companion to book it and go!