How do you deal with the awkwardness during a solo trip to a place you never visited (e.g. eating alone at the restaurant, going to a bar by yourself, having to take selfies etc...)? I really don't want be staring at my phone most of the time.. :p
When you find yourself in alone in a restaurant or at a bar and you start feeling awkward, just remember that you will more than likely never, ever, ever see any of the people in that room again so there's really no reason to worry about it. And if you do happen to make friends with someone, great! I promise years from now they will never call you up and say "Remember that time I found you awkwardly sitting by yourself in that restaurant?" :)
I traveled alone for the first time in 2012. I went to Europe for a month by myself and it was amazing. I thought it would be awkward sitting alone in restaurants but it wasn't at all. But I gave myself permission to people watch while I ate and ask strangers to take my picture instead of taking selfies and it let to many great experiences and even new friends.
I also looked up meet up websites for activities in the city I was visiting and joined those. I used couchsurfing which people think its only for finding places to stay but its actually a great place to find things to do with fellow travelers and make new friends without having to spend a lot of money.
In my experience, solo travelers are embraced on the road. DO talk to strangers, belly up at a local place to eat, and if you are feeling lonely find an Irish pub (I found one in Florence and one in Seville) where people are always friendly. Also do a free walking tour (runner bean) where you will meet other travelers. You can also find meet up groups where people share your interests and hobbies throughout the world. Just put yourself out there with an open and positive demeanor and a smile on your face. The world is your oyster.
Remember, it's not about you being alone! No selfies, after all, you DO know what you look like! I was alone most of my travelling years all over Europe. I managed to take pictures that would unlock memories for years. I walked through a lot of Denmark. I do not speak Danish and the Danes considered it "insulting" to speak German. Just be yourself! 1971 I found myself in a disco in Vordingborg. I was in the US Army and had short hair. I was quietly sipping a Tuborg from a horn when a Dane said something to me in Danish. I shook my head and replied in English that I didn't speak Danish. He was a Danish soldier and there were a lot of them there. Many spoke English. We all got along, especially the Danish women! They took pity on an American soldier who had to put up with "those arrogant Germans."
Things will happen so don't feel bad! You will have to use your instincts, but you still can have a good time.
Normally there's other solo travelers around in the same predicament, just be friendly/approachable & banish that private voice in your head telling you how embarrassed/stupid/shy you feel.
My most awkward experience traveling solo like this was being in a very cheap (like a soup kitchen cheap) Chinese eating place & already feeling awkward & alone an old Chinese man came & sat at the table with me, I quickly realized he wasn't the slightest bit interested in communicating in any way. It wasn't until much later I learned it is Chinese custom/superstition that briefly brought us together to share a table. The number one is very bad luck for many Chinese including it would seem being the only one at a table. This old man simply sat with me for his own benefit as well as mine. He did seem rather p***ed off when I tried to communicate, even a little, with him, stupid foreigner/backpacker(me) :)
First of all, you don't need to be with your phone at all... when you travel alone you need other people and therefore you get to meet more and more interesting people... when you are alone with your phone you miss out a lot... first and only advice... lose your phone!!
Enjoy your time alone. It is rarer than you think. Be direct with people about how you feel. People from all cultures tend to respond well to transparency and being upfront. You will have a blast!!
I've travelled solo so much by now that I rarely feel awkward anymore. But if you're looking for ways of meeting more people when travelling on your own, I recently wrote this tongue-in-cheek blog post entitled: "10 ways to stay alone on a solo trip", which is of course about doing the opposite. :)
Sit at the bar.
I travel solo occasionally in my work as a travel writer. The best way to not feel alone is to belly up to the restaurant bar. Most bartenders are chatty (and know a lot about the town). Plus, this is where other solo travelers will end up, so I often strike up a conversation with some sitting next to me.
I have learnt to be at ease with myself and when traveling solo, you have less responsibilities - you are taking care of yourself alone, not worry about the preferences of partners. Just doing my thing, my way.
Anyway, when I research a place I usually befriend locals on couchsurfing. I ask them dozens of logistical questions about their city...and stay with them or meet them in town. With other people, you are bound by plans and cant really reach out to locals this way. Unless they are keen on meeting your new friends.
I dont feel awkward usually. Yet recently my trips had been to meet up with friends and traveling with them.
Yes, yes, and yes. Do all of the things by yourself. As someone who's traveled a lot for business, traveling solo is just a normal part of life. Doing it makes one realize how absurd it is to spend emotional bandwidth caring about what strangers think of you. Understand and embrace the notion that in all honesty you're not in the 7th grade cafeteria - no one is watching you, no one is judging you, no one cares that you are not with another person, and even if they did, you will NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN. So enjoy yourself! Carpe diem. Make the most of your trip. You have a choice, make the most of the wonderful opportunities you have, or risk regretting it later when you realize it was silly to avoid certain things just because you don't have a companion and were worried about how other people would view you (it even looks silly as I'm writing it). So go out to eat at great places and sit at the bar instead of a table if they have one. Go to museums, go shopping, take pictures and if you want interaction text your friends while you're doing it, update Facebook, Tweet, whatever. But even better, feel free to chat with anyone, be yourself, or be another version of yourself if you want - because if it doesn't go well, you'll never see them again, and if it does, you might make a new friend. And as a crutch, get a bunch of podcasts and audiobooks and enjoy those while your'e moving about in between destinations.
I travel more than 300 days a year and I am mostly by myself.
No problem at all for me though.
I actually prefer to eat alone and I am sitting in a little cafe in Lisbon now all by myself writing this post and I am perfectly happy being by myself.
I like solitude and find being alone stress free and uncomplicated.
I have been on the road for +20 years like this and i plan to do it for many more years.
Knowing that there are some people in the world at least me who hardly worry about doing something alone.
I do most of my trips alone and carry following things :
Cell phone :) to play games
LUDO or something so that i can ask for company from co traveller
I love traveling solo. I use it to try foods and places that my other half would have no interest in. I always bring a book and notepad and pen. Notepad and pen are for people watching. I write notes the place and about interesting people so that when I AM getting a case of the lonelies I can flip back and make up what I think their "story" was. :-) It's one of my favorite things to do in airports- assign stories to the drama that's playing out around me-lol.
Stay at hostels if you can. I traveled all around Europe alone, and it was the greatest experience of my life! Initially it might be difficult to break the ice, then you get used to it and it becomes awesome. The freedom that you enjoy while travelling alone is a pretty nice experience.
Don't focus on being alone! You're in the most compatible company you'll ever keep! Focus on what are you going to do with this opportunity to do what ever you can do here, right now, that will be gone when you have to move on. Keep this attitude and before long you will have the opposite problem!
You have to learn to embrace being out of your comfort zone. Learn to not appear to much like a touist for security reasons. Some pictures are good. Learn to try new thing. Remember you are in a place where no one knows who you are. So you can try things you would not normally do at home.
make eye contact... if you get a friendly smile ask if they would mind answer a few questions about the local area....if that goes well you may get an invite to join them. If the place is packed and a pub environment, ask if they mind sharing the table and go from there.
Why feel awkward? Take charge and choose the best two top in the house or eat at the bar (even in very high end restaurants) where many people in the same situation are!
1. Sit at the bar - instead of a table at resto's and bar's. The stereotype about bartenders is true! They're generally up for a chat if they're standing around polishing glassware without much to do. They also hold the key to the secret society of hospitality workers - who are often quite a social and inviting bunch :) get in with them for a night out!
2. Bring a book where ever you go. Or a notebook - you'll give the appearance of being a mysterious writer or journalist and you'll end up taking interesting notes about where you are.
3. Remember that you're never alone on the road - connect with people on backpackr, or couch-surfing or other travel apps out there to hang with - or just shake off your insecurities and strike up conversation with people around you - that is one of the more gratifying and amazing things about solo travel and travel in general, you have to open yourself up to these experiences to fully understand how people enjoy traveling solo.
4. People watch and embrace it. Like another member has said - you'll never see these people again - that is a very liberating thing to own and comprehend, whoooooo cares! I guarantee you 99% of people wouldn't think twice about someone sitting solo at a bar etc - afterall how important do you think you are to these people? lol
At the end of the day you have to push yourself. You may be lonely, or tired of chatting to people, or embarrassed to ask someone to take a pic of you - push yourself. Get up and do it! You'll be so pleased with the results :D
Embrace it. Think about how cool it is that no one else is impacting how you decide to seize the day. You are truly in charge and there is no one to influence you where to eat, walk, or who to talk to! Traveling solo is one of the most amazing things I've ever done as a female for this reason. It also forces you to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. You can start practicing this now even in your hometown..set a goal for yourself to do 1 new thing a week/day, etc. that puts you outside your comfort zone. Take a new exercise class, go to the movies alone, go to a bar alone, etc. I met one of my best friends by doing this.. you never know who will come your way!
As far as eating alone, definitely sit and the bar and make friends with the bartender while you eat...it's an opportunity to talk with a local! You will probably get some amazing advice around new things to explore and places to see. As for going to a bar alone, my rule is to stay at least 1 hour before you leave. You may have to put yourself out there...but it will be worth it. :)
The first place I ate in a restaurant by myself was at an airport, the nice thing was that at least half the people there were also eating by themselves. It was a good ice breaker to the experience. Now I don't mind doing it at all.
I always have my phone or a book with me, I find, meals in particular, it's a great time to catch up on social media from the day. Try sitting at a bar for meals too, you're more likely to have a conversation with a stranger that way. I've actually met some really fascinating people during meals that I only met because I was by myself.
As for selfies, don't be afraid to ask someone to take a picture of you, and in turn do it back for others. Solo travelers are also a good bet and you can often pay back the favor by doing it for them. I'll sometimes look for the person trying to take a selfie and offer to take their picture for them first.
I'm a teetotaler, so I can't advise about solo use of bars and cocktail lounges, but I have had many solo dining experiences. Most awkwardness I've experienced has come from my own lack of confidence. The best thing you can do is ditch the "leave me alone" body language awkwardness brings, and feel free to smile and nod or greet others. And learn the dress codes for the establishment, so you don't end up under--or over--dressed for the location.
If sitting alone in a restaurant embarrasses you, practice beforehand. Waffle House and Denny's don't care if you sit alone and read a book, or do like I do, subtly eavesdrop on nearby conversations, or people watch. It lets you to build your confidence in a familiar environment, so there is less to worry about in an unfamiliar one. One of my most fun solo dining experiences was in a supposedly "fancy" seafood restaurant on California's north coast, as I listened to a pair of grizzled, local fishermen gossip about the love lives of people they knew, as I sat eating my "catch of the day" meal!
Couchsurf, then you're never really alone.
If you feel awkward, then take someone with you and pay their tab. No one can make you feel awkward. If it is at night always ask to be escorted to your car by someone in the biz. Take a selfie with the scene in the background or the neon lights behind you. I have been everywhere by myself. I never felt awkward.
In case you can't handle the awkwardness, you can bring a book as an emergency exit. But believe me, after a while, it won't be awkward anymore. An easy way to meet people is staying in hostels, usually there are a lot of people travelling solo.
By enjoying myself.
I'm probably not a good reference since I love traveling solo. I do it at my own pace, my decisions only affect me.
Mostly: I love walking. Walking the cities I visit all by myself while listening some music is plainly awesome. Go into the restaurant, order what you want, have a chit chat with the waiter and go with the flow ;)