I clearly remember a time when even the thought of ordering a coffee alone embarrassed me. I’d wait outside the coffee shop for my friends to arrive, because, heaven forbid people thought I was drinking coffee alone.

A time when I was more than paranoid about looking like I had no friends, or people looking at me because I’m by myself.

Needless to say, these feelings are long gone.

Today I count eating seafood on tropical islands, feasting on momos in Kathmandu and enjoying apple strudels in romantic Vienna on my vast (and I mean, so vast I’ve lost count) list of solo dining experiences.

It doesn’t come easy. Of course I’ve had my fair share of intimidating experiences.

‘dining alone..again?’

‘is it only you?’

just a table for one?’

‘you’ve not been stood up have you?

…and it’s not just the waiting staff. But the sympathetic looks from other diners and friends that say, ‘oh god, you’re so brave, I’d never eat alone’.

Do you feel sorry for me because I’m eating alone?

Please don’t. In fact I’m happy. I’m in my element. I love eating. And I’m fortunate I can do it all over the world in the comfort of my own company.

Solo dining comes hand in hand with solo travel. I mean, you’re bound to meet loads of people to share meal times with, but there will always, always be occasions you need to (or want to) dine alone.

Your first time trying anything is daunting. But, trust me, dining alone can be quite the liberating experience.

Here’s some tips to get you started.

 

Pick your restaurant

There’s nothing I love more than experiencing different cuisines from all over the world. Look up restaurants on TripAdvisor, or better still, get some recommendations from follow travelers. When I’m out exploring during the day I always have an eye out for great places to eat and check out menus. This also allows you to get an idea of a restaurant’s general atmosphere. It’s pretty easy to take one look at a place and know if you’ll feel comfortable eating there or not.

Choosing a restaurant with a bar area (so I can talk with the bartender if I like) or a smaller secluded table (so I can hide if I like) is great for me. It’s sitting on a massive table in the middle of a restaurant that makes me feel anxious and stared at.

 

Plan your time

I always choose to eat early. I never have dinner late. Especially when dining alone. You’ll find that restaurants become increasingly busy after 7pm. As a result of this I always choose to eat out around 5pm or 6pm when there’s a lull between lunch and dinner.

Avoiding peak times will help you ease into dining alone.

Alternatively, dining alone at breakfast or lunch feels way more casual.

 

Practice self- care

A book is perfect, but to be honest, it doesn’t even need to be a book. Write in a journal, catch up on the newspaper. The art of distraction can be quite comforting when you’re dining alone.

It’s easy to pick your phone and scroll mindlessly through social media. It’s a much better idea to treat meal times alone as a time to practice self- love. Switch off from daily life and take time to relax and be present in the moment.

Revel in how good it feels to make your own choices. Where to sit, what to wear, what to read, whether to try something new.

 

People watch

There’s no better time to people watch.

Honestly, breakfast times have turned into my favorite time to dine alone. As early as dawn I have sat on the streets of Kathmandu, sipping on chai and watching people going about their daily lives. Taking morning offerings to the temples and whispering early morning ‘namastes’.

The best people watching I ever do is when I’m eating alone. It’s simply magical and you’ll learn so much.

 

Stop worrying

Seriously, nobody is looking at you. Quite frankly, people have better things to do. And also, its 2019. The air is thick with girl power, and I guarantee, you’re not the first woman to ever walk into that restaurant alone.

And, if they are looking at you…they’re probably envying the freedom of the independent woman sat at the table across from them.

 

…and if you’re not quite ready to be totally alone

It’s a big step. Going from eating with friends to eating solo. Sometimes the transition takes time. In the meantime, there’s plenty of other ways of dining to consider.

Revolving sushi is the best place to eat with fellow solo eaters.

Ever considered a cooking class? Cooking classes turn solo eating into a social event. Cook up a storm, make new friends and learn something new.

Street food, food markets and food trucks are also great solo eating experiences and if you stay at a homestay, you’ll never dine alone! Local homestays tend to pride themselves on homecooked, local food. A great opportunity to dine with a whole family and have a great cultural experience.

 

It gets easier

Know that you’re not alone.

Know that it gets easier.

One of the greatest fears amongst solo female travelers is not actually traveling alone.

Over time you’ll care less about what people think of you. You’ll learn to be comfortable with your own thoughts and enjoy your own company.

The best thing you can do is embrace new situations, revel in the discomfort and sit confidently and proudly.

 

Go on a date with the country you’re in. That’s the only date you need!