If you’ve traveled solo, you know that there are some things that may have best been shared with another. The biggest thing for me was dining alone. Until I worked as an au Pair in Paris in 2015, I had never done this. There were so many amazing restaurants that I wanted to try, but my friends and I were not always on the same schedule, and being as impatient as I am, I decided I might as well just go alone.
Since then, I’ve sat alone in restaurants all over Europe and the Middle East, from futuristic, shining Dubai and to the narrow winding alleys of Zweisel, Germany. At first, it was a bit awkward. I didn’t know what to look at or what to do with my hands. Waiting for my food felt like an eternity and if I was sat next to a pair of lovebirds, I might feel lonely too. But over the years, I’ve mastered the art of dining alone. Now, I actually enjoy it.
Depending on my mood, there are different things that I’d do to keep me busy and entertained. If I was feeling melancholic, I’d sit on the terrace of a restaurant and people watch. Sometimes I would try to guess what everyone did for a living or where they were headed or what their names were.
Other times, I’d bring a book and leisurely flip through the pages, soaking in every word I can and leave behind my surroundings entirely. One time, I was so engrossed in my book (which was Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan) that I didn’t even notice the waiter trying to get my attention.
As a poet, I always carry a little notebook with me, in case inspiration struck me and I might churn out the most bewitching haiku that the world would ever know. One time in Rome, a heartsick Elena sat at a red checkered table with a glass of wine and a low-burning wax candle and wrote a depressing poem about the sacrifice of love. That was one of many times I was glad to have my handy dandy notebook in my bag.
But more than anything, I would just sit and enjoy the moment. I’d think about how lucky I was to be in [inset city here] studying [insert language here] and how I wished that time would stop right in its tracks. I thought of my mother and my best friend, of my dog and grandmother; people that I missed and love. And that is what kept me company at the lone table in the corner of a restaurant. The memories.