It was a long first day in Europe as I had begun touring Paris, and I was faint from not eating at all. I was uncomfortable communicating in French given the stereotypical Parisian coldness to Americans. Additionally, with no European data plan, I was unsure as to what I was supposed to do at a table by myself if I couldn’t play on my phone.
It was 5pm, way too early for dinner in Paris, but I finally summoned up the courage to enter a Parisian restaurant. My famished stomach churned and I didn’t care what the menu prices were, I walked in and commanded, “One table, si vous plait.” In an attempt to be as polite and inconspicuous as possible, I used as many French words I knew.
There were no other customers and the waiters hung around waiting for the local Parisians and their late evening meals. I ordered a Croque Monsieur (one of the only French dishes I knew) and some red house wine. To this day, I am still unsure as to whether that is an appropriate combination or whether I disgusted the waiter with my “Americanness”.
Once I placed my order, out of habit, I checked my phone (with no wifi) for notifications and went through my photos that I had taken that day. Five minutes passed and I put down my phone. Then I began to observe my surroundings. I watched the waiters chit chat in the corner. I observed the charming interior and the empty tables. I began to think deeply about what I wanted to do in Paris for the next 10 days…
The wine arrived and as I sipped, I watched as others walked into the restaurant. I wondered if they were also foreign and did not know that it was too early to be eating dinner. I attempted to eavesdrop to see if I could figure out whether I was accompanied by fellow travelers.
I sat and I stared and I began to relax (it wasn’t just the wine). I began to feel like I was taking myself out on a date. A silent conversation was occurring between me and my consciousness.
Over the years I’ve continued to dine alone while traveling and have shaken that awkward feeling of not having anyone to talk to or the fear of appearing strange because I’m alone. I no longer just dine alone when traveling, but additionally at local restaurants to enjoy some “me” time. Do not get me wrong, I love people and am extroverted, but sometimes it feels great to be one of the crowd. Here are the top four reasons I love dining alone:
1. TREAT YOURSELF
You’re sitting at a large table with your friends… you check what everyone is getting. Are we drinking? Are we eating appetizers? Are we having dessert? It’s always a group decision because no one wants to take time away from the other. While group dinners are so much fun, it is a group activity. When you’re alone, the only person you have to please is YOU. Order what sounds good, eat what you can, and take home what you don’t. Try exotic foods and explore new flavors! I’ve recently been complemented on multiple occasions that I’m a “good eater” by waitresses and waiters. This has only happened when I’m dining alone. At first the self-conscious skinny girl in me was embarrassed, but then I realized…. I love food and that is an excellent compliment. It’s great to be recognized for something that I am passionate about. It’s not about it quantity it’s about quality and variety.
Some people are lonely, others just need alone time. There is a big difference. A small dose of solitude is healthy and great for recharging the mind and soul. Get in touch with your inner thoughts and take a moment to listen to yourself without the background noise of others opinions. I love people but I love myself more and it’s important to take the time to recenter yourself when daily routines require you to give so much of yourself to others. How does this relate to dining alone? Although there are people surrounding you, very rarely does anyone interrupt someone’s meal. It’s not proper etiquette. So relax, order than carafe of Cabernet, and hang out with yourself.
3. NEW PERSPECTIVE
When you’ve grown tired of your inner monologue, remember that there are people around you to subtlety observe. It’s a feeding jungle! Watching people interact at meals is fascinating. You’ll see many couples, some talking to each other, others awkwardly looking at their plates. You will see many people of all ages sitting at a table all looking at their phones. You’ll observe large groups celebrating something… your job is to try to find out what it is. You will watch waiters and waitresses interacting with each other. Try to imagine stories about the people around you. People are fascinating but even more so when you get make up who they are!
4. LEARN TO BE ALONE
It is universally known that most people fear loneliness. Loneliness explains a lot of human actions such as giving into peer pressure, staying in unfulfilling romantic relationships, staying at a high paying but evil company, obsessing over social media, the list goes on… emotional connection and presence is important for most people. That being said, there is a lesson to be learned in the ability to be alone, and liking it. When you are alone at dinner, or any meal really, you have to design a way to entertain yourself or keep yourself engaged. This is uncomfortable for a lot of people, but consider periodically dining alone good practice for learning how to be alone. If you can be content with yourself, by yourself, then a lot of the above situations can be avoided. You won’t settle and you’ll strive for relationships and achievements that fulfill you, not swayed by other’s influence.
Set a date, make a reservation, and treat yourself to a one-on-one date with you. Put down your phone, disconnect with the world outside of your present surroundings, indulge in the sweet taste of your favorite dessert and take a sip of your favorite wine, with no one present to judge you. Be free and dine!