Eating alone was one of my concerns when I embarked on a five-month round-the-world solo trip last year. I never liked eating alone and the thought of sitting at a restaurant on my own, twiddling my thumbs while my meal was being prepared, was not exactly enticing. A month into my trip and I was glad if I had the chance to finally have a quiet meal on my own! That’s the greatest thing about solo travel: it makes you a lot more approachable and before you know it, the invitations for meals, trips or a simple coffee will be pouring in and you’ll have made many new friends.
What I discovered during my solo travels is that people tend to be very interested in you when you’re on your own…. or maybe they feel sorry for you (I prefer the former!). When I was on my own at a restaurant, sometimes the restaurant staff would stop by for a chat or I would be invited to join a nearby table. My advice, when you’re dining on your own, is to look around you, make subtle eye contact and have a smile ready. Eavesdrop on the conversation at the nearby tables (without being too obvious) and if it’s a (non-personal) subject that catches your interest, you can subtly make your interest known by looking at them (they will look back), apologise for eavesdropping (don’t forget the smile) and join in the discussion.
If there’s no one (interesting) around, then sit back, enjoy your surroundings and your meal. When I choose to dine alone, I often treat myself to a meal at a good restaurant as I know the food is going to get my fullest attention! 🙂
I applied the eavesdropping technique various times during my travels and it worked very well. When I was in Salta, a town in northern Argentina, not so long ago, I was just aching to find someone I could speak English with. One evening, I struck up a conversation with a German/Asian couple who were sitting at the table next to me. They were travelling around South America like I was so that was an easy subject to begin with. We ended up talking for hours. Countless subjects later, the conversation turned to our countries of origin and our families. I found it quite extraordinary that the Asian girl had the same surname as my grandmother on my Mum’s side. When I was back home a month later, I received an e-mail from her. She had spoken to her mother and mentioned meeting me. Her mother was stunned. You see, neither of us knew at the time but we’re actually cousins! Her mother easily confirmed this. Small world, eh?
So, go out and travel on your own. You never know who you’ll meet!