When you’re out and about traveling, whether it be in another state or another country, one of the most exciting parts of your trip is the food. You may have the opportunity to try foods not available at home or eat at restaurants that you’ve seen on TV or read about in a magazine or guidebook. Sometimes it is a daunting task when you are deciding which of the restaurants you want to eat in or if there’s enough time to fit in all the places you want to go. What you should NOT be worried about is that you may have no one to eat with. Maybe you’re traveling solo or you find yourself alone during your trip when it’s time to eat. Eating by yourself should not make you feel like a social pariah. In fact many people enjoy eating by themselves or showing up to a restaurant solo in hopes of making new friends over a meal. Here are some tips for meals depending on if you want a friend or not.
It’s Just Me
- Sit at the bar – Sitting at the bar of a restaurant can be a lot of fun and really add to your experience. There are friendly bartenders, sometimes televisions, and other like-minded people looking for a drink and a bite to eat. It is usually pretty easy to strike up a conversation with others at the bar or the bartender and since the bartender is also most likely your server, the service is usually quick!
- Sit at a table – Bring something with you like a magazine or guidebook as you wait for your meal. This is a great chance to plan your next move and ask your waiter their recommendation for some local sights to see that may not be in your guidebook. If the restaurant has outdoor seating this is a fun place to sit and people watch and you don’t need anyone to talk to for that. Many places that offer outdoor seating either have a decent view or a fun atmosphere so take advantage of that!
- Grab food at a food truck/vendor – One of my favorite meals on a recent trip to Paris was when I bought a ham and cheese crepe and ate it on a bench by myself admiring Notre Dame Cathedral and all the activity in the area.
I’m Looking to Make Friends
- Hostels – If you are staying at a hostel many of them have kitchens everyone is free to use and this often leads to cooking and sharing meals together. You can eat with fellow travelers and exchange stories and maybe find some companions if you are all interested in doing the same activity. I have a friend who was traveling in Costa Rica recently and ended up going white water rafting with people he met over at breakfast in his hostel one morning.
- EatWith– Invite yourself to a dinner party! EatWith is a website that connects people looking for a home cooked meal with chefs/hosts who are eager to invite you to their table for great food and conversation. This company interviews applicants before they are able to join and since only 4% of all applicants are accepted you know that you’ll be getting great food as well as great company. The skill level of your hosts range from comfortable, mom’s home cooking to professionally-trained, Michelin-starred chefs so you should feel comfortable with them setting the menu for you. Your dinner party could include both tourists as well as locals and this can create a ton of different topics to discuss while enjoying a great meal. Tourists love being able to talk to locals about the city/country they are in while locals are also interested in hearing where you’re from or where you have traveled to.
- Meal Sharing & Share a Bite – Similar to EatWith, Meal Sharing is another company that aims to “make it possible for people, who otherwise would probably never meet, to get together and have a good time over food.” Share a Bite is a free membership site that allows members to connect with other members in their area or while they are away from home and get together to enjoy a meal together. The membership aspect of this site has built a foodie community so you know if you’re reaching out to another member that they would probably be interested in meeting up during your travels.
- Sign up for a food tour – Many cities offer walking food tours and this a great way to get to know a city, try many different types of foods and meet people. I have personally been on food tours of New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston and found that all of them were a great way to try samples of many types of foods and as well as get to listen to a knowledgeable guide give you some history of the city. Meeting people in this setting is also extremely easy as everyone is on the same page and you’ll be part of the same group for a few hours of the day.
“How was the food?” is a common question you’ll get from friends and family when you get back from a trip so don’t let traveling by yourself be the cause for a disappointing answer. Food is a great ice breaker so use it to as a way to meet people along the way. Whether you’re looking for good food and good company or good food and some alone time don’t be afraid to go out and treat yourself to something delicious!