It was my first night in Barcelona, the second stop on my round-the-world trip. I had settled into my hostel near the Sagrada Familia basilica and it was time for dinner. I walked to a nearby street packed with restaurants… and I couldn’t bring myself to go inside a single one. I spent three hours walking up and down that one street, paralyzed by anxiety over dining alone.
I made a lot of excuses for myself, but really like so many new solo female travelers, I just wasn’t comfortable requesting a table for one. In the U.S., going out to eat by yourself isn’t common and sometimes even feels frowned upon. We often equate being alone with being lonely or worse, being unwanted.
But within a couple weeks of that three-hour dinner-less walk, I got over that anxiety and learned to love dining alone. You can too with just three tips:
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Dining Alone Doesn’t Have to Be Scary
Pick a place in advance
The number of choices you have for eating out can be overwhelming, especially in larger cities. Do your research by reading articles and blogs about top restaurants in your destination. Ask for recommendations in Facebook groups specifically for solo female travelers. Being prepared can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable.
There’s a huge difference between a casual beachfront cafe and a restaurant where the only thing more heavily starched than the tablecloth is the waiter’s shirt. On another night out in Barcelona, I opted for the former. Being able to simply swing in and take a seat in a place where servers are friendly and easygoing goes a long way to easing a solo diner’s anxieties, but outdoor seating is also a big help. Find a restaurant with a balcony, a patio, or even just an open table by a large window. A nice view and plenty of people watching will get you out of your head.
If even that feels daunting, that’s okay. Dip your toes in the water by going to a market, ordering from a street food stall, joining a food tour, or taking a cooking class.
Nobody does the art of dining better than the French and going out in Paris gave me a major breakthrough. The culture in Paris is all about enjoying food and wine for your own simple pleasure. Dining alone isn’t a bad thing there — it’s an enjoyable way to treat yourself.
As a solo female traveler, I’ve come to feel like dining alone is kind of like dating yourself. You have all this time alone with your thoughts. When you travel alone and eat alone, you’re getting to know yourself better. You’re treating yourself to a good meal and nice glass of wine. You’re growing to genuinely like the person you are.
Throughout the rest of my RTW trip, choosing roughly one night a week to go out and treat myself to a nice solo dinner out was a highlight of arriving in a new place.
So go forth and eat by yourself. You’re not alone.