Eating Out Alone When Traveling Or How I Conquered Solomangarephobia
A smiling face is half the meal. —- Latvian proverb
I am the wrong person to be writing this blog. I knew one day I would have to write it and I’ve been dreading it. Eating alone in a restaurant in public terrifies me. Is it a vestige of high school cafeteria days? Is it that strangers will think I have no friends and that no one loves me? Is it the pitying looks from waiters, hostesses and bartenders? There is actually a name for the fear of eating alone in public. It is Solomangarephobia and I have it.
I enjoy being by myself sometimes and I, like many people, learned that while traveling. I get to do what I want when I want to do it. I like museums, galleries, lying on the beach, flying somewhere, touring, shopping, working out, getting a coffee and walking my dog by myself. I can go to the movies and theatre alone with no problem.
It is only my own destructive thoughts that ruin the dining experience. I assume that I know what everyone else is thinking. Why do I have to think that I am pathetic and everyone is staring at me? Why do I jump into the self-conscious state of mind?
What if I was eating alone because I wanted to? Maybe I just wanted to relax or read. Perhaps my friends and family wanted to eat later and I was hungry now. Maybe I was craving sushi and no one else wanted it.
Eating with other people isn’t always so much fun. I have dined with people and not had a good time. We are having an argument or I’m feeling depressed or bored by the conversation. Perhaps I talked too much or said the wrong thing. Did I just say something stupid? Did they say something really hurtful or embarrassing about me or caused a scene at the table because they were brought the wrong thing? There are many times when I am out with people and after ten minutes, I wish I was home reading a good book. Once in a while even eating alone would have been preferable.
I avoid eating out alone as much as possible. I book hotels that have spas and gyms and make appointments at night. I stay out all day and have an early dinner in a café. I have a big lunch and just grab fruit, bread and cheese for dinner. I go to night markets and malls and grab something there while shopping. Of course there is always room service.
But I am a foodie so I love to try food in foreign countries. I have had to go into a restaurant alone. Sushi bars, counters, bars or communal tables are good for people alone. I bring something to read. It feels better for me to look busy. I can’t check my phone because I turn off my emails when traveling to save some money. Reading has saved a lot of people from loneliness and sometimes you get caught up in a good book and you forget where you are. I have my notebook with me so I usually start writing a blog when I am there.
The first time I dined in a nice restaurant alone for dinner, I was at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I had walked up and down the main street of Port Douglas for a very long time looking for a place where I would feel the least uncomfortable. I was beyond starving and finally decided to go for the one that looked like it had the best food and ambience. I immediately told the waitress it was my first time eating dinner alone in a restaurant. She had just moved from London and had eaten out alone a lot. I mentioned that I wrote a travel blog. She brought the owner over and he started chatting and bringing me all kinds of food to try. The people at the next table got involved in my food tasting. Australians are overly friendly which is so great most of the time. The next night we all went out for pizza at the owner’s recommendation (including the waitress). We are all fb friends now. It doesn’t always happen like that but it was good start.
I’m not naturally outgoing but I do meet people when I’m traveling. When I don’t, what I tell myself now is -“face it, you are in a fabulous foreign country and you are eating amazing food alone. Don’t attach a story to it. The truth is everyone is much too caught up in themselves to really pay attention to you. It isn’t fun or easy eating alone but do it or stay home” Sometimes you have to be tough on yourself.