Eating Alone While Traveling: How to Overcome Your Fear

Afraid to Travel Alone? Here are 5 Tips!

Afraid to Travel Alone? Breakthrough With These 5 Powerful Tips

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Breakthrough your fear(s) with these 6 powerful tips.

Travel can be overwhelming! Solo travel sometimes be incredibly overwhelming & scary. If you’re planning or about to take your first solo trip, your emotions are likely in full on panic mode! After 2+ years of solo travel, I have these 6 proven tips & trips you’re going to use & love.

Afraid to Travel Alone? Breakthrough With These 5 Powerful Tips

Eating alone while traveling is one of the biggest solo travel anxieties…

Does thinking about eating alone while traveling make you feel anxious? If, so you’re in the right place.

👋I’m Shelley, and I’ve been traveling solo for the last two-plus years… so I’ve done the eating out alone thing once or twice. Or 66 times!

When I first began my travels, solo dining didn’t feel completely natural. However, now at two years in, I’m ready to share the proven mindset hacks & even a mental practice run to build your confidence for the real thing. 

Right off the bat here, I’m also going to let you in on a little secret:

Even for veteran solo travelers, eating alone isn’t always comfortable.

I know exactly what you’re thinking right now:

Then how do they do it?!

Here’s the answer…

And it’s something both those of us who have dined solo & those who haven’t (yet!) can agree on:

Practice makes perfect.

When practice doesn’t make all the way perfect, it definitely always makes things perfect-er, easier & more comfortable!

✈️Read my story of how I got started with solo travel.

So now that we know the truth  that, Yes, even solo travelers have moments of anxiety and are sometimes uncomfortable when eating alone — Your next thought is probably this…

How can I practice to work up to eating alone while traveling?

Well, I myself have used the 5 Tips/Steps in this blog throughout the last few years as a solo traveler. They saved me on days when my solo travel dining confidence was lacking (or worse, nonexistent).

These actionable techniques & mental hacks are going to be the game changers you need to breakthrough your anxiety! 

Let’s dive in!

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Solomangarephobia: Fear of dining alone

Solomangarephobia

To be clear:

Dining alone in public is a very real fear. It induces very real anxieties. If you’re someone who identifies as a solomangarephobic, know that this is quite common & you are def not alone.

solomangarephobia: /so·​lo·​man·​gār·​pho·​bia/ (noun) the fear of eating alone in public

However, you should also know this:

Like all fears, you can work through it!

What is solomangarephobia, really?

The core of the fear isn’t actually being afraid of physically eating or consuming food in public by yourself. Rather, this fear is all about an unshakable feeling that you’re being judged by others for eating alone in public.

This makes total sense because of a common misconception that being alone is a punishment, rather than a choice. As an example, think back on childhood punishment with me for a second…

When you misbehaved, you were sent to your room, alone. The messaging is that no one willfully chooses to be alone & that it’s what happens when you’re “bad.”

So right off the bat: Let’s flip that script!

Woman sitting at a restaurant with pretty pink decor sipping a cocktail and eating alone

Eating Alone While Traveling is Empowering

Some common assumptions about solo diners include these misconceptions:

  1. This person is in a bad place.
  2. They must not have friends.
  3. This is a sad person.
  4. They were stood up by a date/friend.

As someone for whom eating alone while traveling is quite common, after over two years of solo travel, I can assure you of this:

I am none of those things 🤣And being stood up mostly happens in movies.

💡Afraid to Travel Alone? These 5 Powerful Tips Will Help

Something you’ll see laid out in Tip #1 in detail is “sad” people rarely go out to eat alone. You know who does though?

Empowered, self-assured & self-confidant people who aren’t too concerned with what others are thinking…

By the way, strangers likely aren’t thinking anything about you! Now, this is something you knew, but we all need that reminder on occasion!

Are you ready to fall love with the empowering feeling you get from eating alone while traveling? Check out these 5 powerful, tips & techniques you can use to get there.

Tip #1. Overcoming You Fear Starts With You

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Eating Alone While Traveling:

Overcoming Your Fear Starts With You

Have you ever seen a woman eating alone & thought something along the lines of “Aww, how sad. She’s in a bad place if not even one person will eat with her.” Of course you have!

In fact, that is where your own fear of eating alone while traveling comes from!

You’re judging others that way, so you assume others must be judging you that way. More than likely, though, they are not… And in order for you to stop thinking they are, you must first start by not thinking that way at all!

These reason why your default thought falls along the lines of  “Aww, how sad.” is because that’s the messaging you receive from mainstream society.

We are basically inundated with messages that no woman chooses to do anything solo. We’re taught that if we’re solo, it means no one wants to be around us. We are taught a solo women diner is an undesirable thing to be.

Yawn.

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Here’s the truth:

If this hypothetical solo woman eating alone we’ve been discussing was so sad about her own lack of dinner companion… she’d probably have just ordered take out & went home to wallow in her sadness. Realize this: Eating alone while traveling, or in everyday life, is a willful choice!

Going forward, try revising your initial “Aww, how sad” thought, to one praising the real truth about these solo dining goddesses!

Try This Exercise

Initial Thought:

Aww, how sad. She’s in a bad place if not even one person will eat with her.

Revised Thought:

Look at this Table-For-One queen. She eats when she wants, where she wants, and with who she wants. She doesn’t even have to share her delicious food with anyone 😎She is confidant and self-assured! (Quite honestly, that’s probably closer to the truth anyway.)

Tip #2. Stop Assuming the Worst Outcome

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Afraid to Travel Alone? These 5 Powerful Tips Will Help

Eating Alone While Traveling:

Stop Assuming the Worst Outcome

When we don’t think we know how something will turn out, we assume the worst outcome. This is human nature. This is a defense mechanism that has led to the survival of our species.

There is actually a good reason for this:

The brain is a very old organ. It developed in the caveman times when the threat of physical dangers like saber-toothed tigers eating us, was actually real.

Our caveman selves has to assume the worst because, if in fact, there was a saber-toothed tiger in that bush, we would die (the worst outcome). Nowadays, this defense mechanism still functions in much the same way — to keep you alive & safe, inside of your comfort zone & away from danger.

This leads me to the point:

You’ve never eaten solo before, so you’re likely assuming the worst outcome.

Do know, however, those thoughts are normal! But, to overcome the fear you have, you have to consciously transcend those subconscious thoughts.

💡Your First Trip Alone: How Social Distancing Prepared You

You need to essentially remember there are no saber-toothed tigers hiding in the restaurant you’re going to dine in. You must disregard any thoughts you have about how your first solo dining experience will go.

If you do nothing else recommended here: You must especially give yourself permission for this brand new solo dining experience to go any way it will go!

Allow yourself the gift of disregarding the worst-case scenario assumptions & fear-casting expectations! Better yet, revise your expectations entirely using the exercise below.

Try This Exercise

Initial Thought:

This is going to be weird. I mean, how do I act? Should I look at people? What if someone laughs at me? The server is going to feel awkward, then I’m going to act awkward, and this whole thing is going be a horrible.

Revised Thought:

OMG, new experience! How exciting. It’s not everyday I get to do something for the first time… and there’s even delicious food at the end of this solo dining rainbow! If this goes well, that’s amazing. If not, I will have learned so much. I’m so proud of myself right now. 

Young brunette woman in a tan sweater eating her dessert alone art a cafe

Tip #3. Visualize Yourself Eating Alone

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Eating Alone While Traveling:

Visualize yourself eating alone

Now, before we even get you going out to eat solo, let’s finagle as much comfort into this situation as we can.

How? You ask.

With a cute outfit, of course. Pick out something nice to wear & plan to put some effort into your appearance. When we look good, we feel good!

Also, by deciding what you’re going to wear, you’re already starting to see yourself as a solo female diner who’s also all about eating alone while traveling!

💡How to Get Awesome Solo Travel Photos (+5 FREE Photo Editing Presets)

In Tip #4, you’re going to decide on a place to eat at… but before committing to that, let’s do a little self-assessment. Since everyone’s fear of eating alone is exacerbated by different conditions, identifying your deal breakers will help determine the best place for your first eating alone experience!

Some deal breakers to consider when selecting where to dine.

Some people don’t like crowded places, or loud places, or dark restaurants, or restaurants with too much light.

For some, a restaurant or cafe that only has parallel parking on the street is a hell no. For others, anywhere with tables too near to one another would be annoying… Remember, this is all valid!

Think: Location, ambiance, food type, indoor/outdoor seating, even down to the music they play.

While you’re working up to Solo Dining Champion of the World, let’s rule out what you know will get on your nerves. This way, you’re as comfy as possible by Tip #4, your mental practice run.

Woman eating pizza alone while traveling

Tip #4. Practice Makes Perfect-er

Eating Alone While Traveling:

Practice makes perfect-er

Exposure therapy is considered among the most successful known treatments for phobias.

Meaning, going out to eat solo is likely the fastest & most effective way to be able to comfortably go out to eat solo… so let’s pick a place already!

💡Afraid to Travel Alone? These 5 Powerful Tips Will Help

Lunch cafes tend to be far less intimidating for a first time solo dining experience than a restaurant, so let’s use this as our example. However, if you have your eye set on a specific dinner restaurant, just swap in those visuals for mine!

Mentally follow along with this scenario:

Select a casual’ish cafe you’ve never been to, but have been dying to try. This will help because now you have some preexisting anticipation to leverage!

Put on the cute outfit you picked out in Tip #3. If that outfit isn’t the one you want to wear to this cafe, swap it out for another… but then see yourself in that outfit instead. Imagine everything: from your headband or hat, to your jewelry, your purse and your shoes.

Before you mentally leave to the restaurant, look in the mirror & remind yourself how proud you are of yourself for doing this. If you want, recite a mantra in your head; I’ll recommend:We can do hard things;” but feel free to use your own.

Now get in your car, or start your walk! Pay extra attention to a few things you love along the way: A certain song you’re listening to, someone’s cute corgi walking by, some pretty blue flowers in a yard, a cool cloud formation, etc.

OK, Let’s (mentally) eat!

When you get to the cafe, pick out the exact table you want… if you’re more comfortable by the window, get that table; if you want to be in the back, ask for that table. For some, outdoor dining allows for the welcomed distraction of people watching.

Now, if the exact table you want isn’t available, then wait. As they say in real estate, “Location, Location, Location.”

As soon as you’re seated at your dream table, sit, and breathe.

Tip #5. Get Out of Your Own Head

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Eating Alone While Traveling:

Get out of your own head

When you mentally sit down, take a second to breathe & then remind yourself (again) of how proud you are of yourself for doing this. Repeat your mantra a few times. Get comfortable. Then, get excited!

Take a look around at the other diners. Make eye contact. Smile (if you want! I hate telling a woman to smile, but it will instantly boost your confidence if you do.)

Feel comfortable enough to ask your server for food/drink recommendations. Ask your neighbor(s) if they have ever been to this cafe before. Compliment someone’s haircut, their shoes, or book bag.

Basically, do all the things people who have no fear of solo dining do! Act like you are one of those people, because, well, you actually are as of this minute!

Amazing! Congrats. Mentally high five yourself; or even physically high five yourself if you want to! Solo diners generally give no fu+cks like that.

If at any time you start losing this high, or getting nervous, anxious, etc., recite your mantra (“We can do hard things.”) as needed.

In the event even the mantra’s not working: Picture everyone naked 😳😳😳

  Picture everyone naked

This mental technique has been employed for years to overcome the # 1 fear there is — fear of public speaking! Seriously, more people fear this than their own death.

The effectiveness of this technique is hotly debated, but for those who swear by it, the reason it works is this:

It takes you out of your head, which is where fear lives. 

If you’d rather everyone keep their clothes on, you can get out of your head in other ways!

One fun way is by making up fake lives, sordid love stories, professional scandals, etc., for the other diners. Example: That guy over there, blue shirt, he’s just took a job in France & is planning to move with his wife. Only he’s in love with her sister. But she’s in love with his brother… 

If none of the above is working, there’s always reading a book or playing on your phone. Should you at any time feel overwhelmed, there’s no shame in just playing on your phone for a while until the moment of overwhelm passes.

In the event you played on your phone at any time: Congratulate yourself after you’re done eating. If you went through the whole meal without playing on your phone: Congratulate yourself after you’re done eating.

Really, it doesn’t matter how you got through your first solo dining experience — only that you did!  

“You can do. hard things.

Got any awesome eating alone while traveling tips?

Let me know in the comments down below what tips you’d add to this list. Also, which tip from this list resonated with you most?!

¡Hola Chicas!

👋I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor, who ditched the office for the world! I have been a solo female traveler in Mexico for 2 years now, and want to pass my experience + expertise on to you.

Let’s Turn Your Dream Into Your Destination ✈️🌎

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