This post was originally published on Medium and was featured in the publication The Hustle is Female.
When I traveled to Spain last year, I went alone. And because I’m also an introvert, I didn’t make much of an effort to meet people while I was there. This meant that I dd just about everything — you guessed it — alone.
For the most part, I didn’t mind doing things alone. I mean, I didn’t go to Spain by myself because I wanted constant companionship.
There was one thing, though, that I didn’t really like doing by myself:
When I’m in my hometown, I never go out to eat alone. Something about it has always seemed awkward and anxiety-inducing to me, even though I know plenty of people do it. But I knew that, if I wanted to experience all of the amazing food that Spain had to offer, I was going to have to do more than just eat cold cuts of ham and cheap bread in my hostel room.
Turns out, eating alone isn’t so bad. It only takes a very simple, fifteen-step process to figure out.
Step one: Realize you are getting hungry.
Pretty simple. So far, so good.
Step two: Think about if you are hungry enough for food.
Do you really need to go eat now? Because you’ve got about three more sites that you wanted to get in before lunch and also no desire to find a place to eat.
Step Three: Realize that you really do need to go eat now.
Okay. You can do this. Time to find somewhere to eat before your blood sugar drops and you become insanely hangry and end up on some TV show called “The Worst American Tourists Ever.”
Step Four: Start looking for a place to eat.
There are so many restaurants around, there will for sure be something that looks good.
Step five: Walk past at least seven perfectly good restaurants because there are too many people there.
Crowds are scary! And loud! And what if someone tries to talk to you?
Step Six: Walk by four more restaurants because there aren’t enough people there.
The food is probably no good.
Step seven: Realize you’ve been walking up and down the same streets for an hour and haven’t eaten anything yet.
There are too many choices, and also not enough.
Step Eight: Look at the menus posted outside of several different restaurants, but don’t go in because you don’t understand what they are serving.
Turns out, two years of high school Spanish did not prepare you for this.
Step nine: Pick the next place you see because you are about to collapse from hunger and exhaustion.
It’s one of the places you skipped in step six. You pick it because it’s almost empty which means it’s less intimidating.
Step nine: Get seated in the most awkward spot possible.
Why yes, I DID want to sit facing the bar, away from the rest of the restaurant and with my back to the window.
Step Eleven: Order the one thing on the menu that you understand.
Looks like we’re having ham again.
Step Twelve: Feel anxious the whole time that the server is judging you for being alone.
Also, for being an American, for not fixing your hair that morning, and for sweating profusely from your extended hunt for food.
Step Thirteen: Eat your food while being hyper-aware of how ridiculous you look when you eat.
Are those women at the next table over giving you A Look? They totally are.
Step Fourteen: Pay the check and over-tip.
You can never remember what the appropriate amount to tip is and anyways you have to make up for how offensive you probably were.
Step Fifteen: Leave the restaurant in relief. Repeat steps 1–14 as necessary.
Next time, you’ll definitely get better at this!
Have you ever felt awkward eating alone in a foreign country? Or anywhere in general? Or is it just me?