Three tips on traveling alone with more confidence
Sometimes you get hungry in a new city and you don't have a buddy. That seems silly, but it's the real reason behind this blog. I don't like eating alone. Eating is a very social activity for me, and when I'm left alone for more than one day, the frozen burrito is the only reason I'm still alive.
Don't get me wrong, I love food in all of its forms, but it's just more fun to enjoy with people.
Whether it's a work trip or a missed flight that leaves you stranded in an unfamiliar place; chances are sooner or later you are left wondering—how will I survive this ALONE?
Trust me. You can do this. How do I know? I've done it before, many times. I've also watched Bear Grylls enough to know that survival in the wild is all about having a positive attitude. If you're negative, your worst fears will probably come true, and you might die.
But I get that sitting alone in a crowded restaurant can feel uncomfortable. Good thing there are some tricks to the trade that can help!
1. Tip #1: When you get hungry, go to a crowded restaurant.
Yes. I know, your gut instinct is to run away from places like this. But a crowded restaurant is exactly the place to be. More people = less awkward. How do I know this? Because in a crowded room, there's a sense of togetherness. You're rubbing shoulders with people, getting in people's way. It's an excuse to talk. It's easier to strike up a random chat or just to sit and listen in on the conversation happening next door. Either way, it's good vibes, and you should get in on that.
Also crowded restaurant = good food. Generally speaking.
My go-to when I'm alone is a ramen bar. These are places where they cram a ton of people into a tiny space. Often, all that's left is the window bar seating which is PERFECT considering you only need one spot anyway, and it always leads to great people watching. And noodles. Noodles always win. You can be in and out of there within 30 minutes tops. Ramen doesn't take long to make (as your college-self knows).
2. Tip #2: Put your phone down. I repeat: put your phone down.
I know it feels hopeless when it seems like everyone around you is staring at a screen, so why not, right? Wrong. But why? Because you might miss your opportunity to make a new friend! A friend can be made in under 5 minutes. I'll show you how.
I was on a road trip to Washington D.C. with two of my friends. (This story temporarily breaks the "traveling alone" narrative, but stick with me). We pulled off the freeway to check out a coffee shop we'd heard about in Richmond, Virginia. It was just a quick pit stop to grab some coffee and jump back in the car for rest of the 5-hour drive.
But we made a new friend in (who was traveling alone) In under five minutes. How? It's nothing groundbreaking. He asked us what we thought of the menu. Dead simple, but so effective!
Then our new friend sat down at the table with us to chat. And before you know it, we're Facebook friends. We're still friends, in fact, I just talked to him a few weeks ago. I called and talked to a person I met while standing in line for 5 minutes at a coffee shop in Virginia. Let that restore your faith in humanity, if you're like me, and believe that this kind of thing doesn't happen anymore.
If we had all been glued to our phones, waiting in comfortable silence together, I would never have known this friend. But I do know him! Isn't that crazy? It makes me wonder how many other people I've missed connecting with because I've been using my phone as an insecurity magnet or shield from seeing what or who is in front of me. That hurts to admit, but it's so true.
3. Tip #3: Smile.
Ok, this one is just weird. But have you ever seen a happy stranger and unconsciously mirrored their smile back to them? There's something about smiling that's just contagious! Smiling at complete strangers makes you so much more approachable. Not the long lingering "Nacho Libre" kind of smile // not this // but showing people something other than a look of intense concentration may increase your odds of finding a friend! People who look happy have a dynamic kind of gravity. There's magic in your smile. It will make people want to engage, but it's an easy thing to forget. Smile when you venture out, and the friends will appear! Maybe not like a magic trick, but it's the closest thing I've got to one.
I've done a fair bit of traveling in my life, and I know it can be hard when you're going it alone. But I promise, these things just take practice! Pretty soon, you'll be dining alone like a pro, without having to FaceTime your mom or make conversation with your napkin. Don't let fear dictate which adventures you have. Get out there and find some noodles!