Are you married to your favourite dessert?
Does travelling for food turn you on?
Are you a globetrotting glutton or inspiring to be?
This blog is for you, my crumpet!
Disclaimer time : There is absolutely no dearth of articles logically laying out reasons for women/men/teenagers/20 something/30 something pretending to be 20/grandparents/pet parents to travel solo.
So you’re probably already very convinced you need to travel alone. That’s one less task for me.
But there is somehow no one who’s writing about travelling solo for food. Or maybe there is no one travelling solo for food. God that’s depressing.
Ergo, am going to try to fill that gap (Economics self five!)
So you’re first question is probably ‘why should I travel alone to eat? Isn’t eating after all a social experience? Jesus, you even wrote about social dining Ishita!
Hold your high horses. Now, let me paint you a mental picture.
Imagine you’re walking down a street in a gorgeous town, say in France. You spot a quaint little boulangerie that has the entire locality smelling of freshly baked & heavenly bread. Your mouth is watering. But there’s a long queue of locals waiting outside (clearly, it’s a town favourite) Now imagine not having to deal with friend(s) or family about standing in line for a piece of likely heaven. Imagine not having the whole ‘we have limited time and so much to see’ argument. Imagine not having to see an art gallery instead. After all, your art is right inside the boulangerie.
As a single woman travelling the globe one plate at a time, I can seriously vouch for discovering and experiencing food based travel by oneself. It’s not a feminist thing or an under 30 thing or literally any other SEO tag thing you can think of.
Its seriously a practical thing. And I am going use my experience to tell you why
Indulge your inner Foodess, shamelessly
She has forged that special connection between your stomach, heart and brain. She works tirelessly to take everything you eat and divide it into nutrition, bliss and emotional satisfaction. It’s time to reward your gorgeous lady.
There is no one to judge, to consult or give a damn. I am proud to say that I travel to eat. My Sistine Chapel is inside a gelato store in Modena. And travelling solo allows me to satisfy my inner foodess anonymously and without inhibitions.
Want to have a meal every hour? No one to stop you.
Blow your day’s money on wine & cheese? No one to point that out.
Want to skip the museum and hit happy hours instead? No one throws a fuss.
You too can eat like a shameless glutton.
So step out of the sheep skin you call socially acceptable meal spacing behaviour, and run wild with your inner wolf that really doesn’t give a howl.
Discover flavours that were otherwise lost to conversation
I think the biggest crime against cuisine is not losing yourself completely to the experience of eating. And by eating I mean taking the time, effort and conscious cognizance to what you’re putting in your mouth. Its not just savouring food, but also recognizing how the flavours play out on your tongue.
In my book, eating has only two enemies – conversation and excessive picture taking.
When you travel by yourself, you’ll notice the universe of flavours bursting forth like Rambo through the flames. And this will be your personal experience without colour or perception (usually brought to the table by an eating partner).
As a food crazy person, you owe yourself this experience. By yourself.
In the wise words of food writer Mark Bittman, “I hadn’t realized the depth of flavors I could experience [with] nothing to occupy my mind beyond the plate in front of me and my thoughts.”
Use Food to meet people
Sure, solo travel pushes you out of your comfort zone to make new friends.
But here’s a corollary to that adage: Food is the easiest and simplest way to talk to strangers/make friends.
Chuck the ‘how long have you been travelling’ or the more blasé ‘how do like this country’. Instead make food talk your best friend, and apply your personality to it.
Like wearing Dr Scholls with bows. Or socks
My favourite moment was sitting outside a gelateria in Rome, on a bench devouring my two scoop personal piece of nirvana.Now the gelateria literally had a million flavours to choose from. How do I know which to take next?
Simple. I pulled up my socks (and metaphorical bows) and walked up to the couple next to me. I asked what flavours they were having. Then I asked what they recommend for me. And I asked exactly the same to all the others eating gelato outside the store. It got everyone talking, debating and vouching. People called me to try their ice creams and then a quick poll later, I settled on a lime + basil & ginger + chestnut combination. Best decision ever.
Plus I got to try a bunch of different flavours without really buying a cone. Score!
Design your adventure
Travelling for food by yourself means your stomach will never have to compromise for another’s palate. You’re the Oprah of your own meal timings, choice of cuisine, restaurant, location and budget.
No compromise, no tantrums and no need to find innovative ways to ditch the vegetarians.
My most memorable solo food adventure was in Rome (again) when I met a lovely girl and we bar crawled our way across the very happening neighbourhood of Trastevere. What happens when two girls drink by themselves? No prizes for guessing. We were joined by so many people and so many bottles of Prosecco, we lost count. At our last bar stop, I took over the bar and played Punjabi music off my phone (don’t judge me, we all have our drunk music) and surprisingly the whole bar danced!
If I can, so can you. Be the party you’ve always wanted to be!
Ditch the sights and eat instead
Don’t care much about art, history, religion or running around in the heat to visit places of art, history or religion?
You don’t have to! Stock up on the hustle-bustle of a morning food market, take a walk to a nearby distillery or vineyard, make friends with your local bread guy and have a meal with his grandmother or take a cooking class.
Want to make it look like you did some sightseeing? Plan out your day in a way that you’re visiting 2 key attractions.That way you can claim having done some culture, without compromising on all the food opportunities that are waiting to happen!
Try all the weird food you’ve read in the guidebooks, drink local favourites till your toes turn blue and never ever have to settle for an ‘Indian’ restaurant abroad.
And remember, you CAN spend your entire day eating. Its legitimate.
Are you ready to travel to feed your soul? Here are some tips to help you plan your dream food vacation:
– Food is clearly important to you – Pick a holiday destination with a cuisine that inspires and excites you. You’ll have a lot more to explore and there will never be a boring day in your trip.
– Make a laundry list of food experiences – Restaurants, cafes & bars that are a must visit for you. There are plenty of resources online to help you plan this.
– Vary your food experiences – Plan a fun mix of localised eating, ingredient hunting and/or cooking apart from sampling different cuisines at restaurants. Try some popular places and some that you wouldn’t find on Tripadvisor.
– Solo dining is expensive – Ration your money by doing one blowout meal everyday and a few simpler meals around it. Hit the economical eating spots for heavier meals. Look out for deals and promotions like happy hours to know the best local time to eat.
– Don’t be shy to ask locals – they will tell you where the best food is available. Take a step further to ask them for recommendations. You will not regret it.
– For the love of god, avoid eating around major tourist attractions – The food will be typical, touristy, expensive and sad. It will be tweaked for a tourist’s taste buds (in India, this means bland) So when planning the day, avoid big meals around such spots.
Its time to feed your soul with the sweet and savoury experience of food travelling. Pack your forks and knives (and mug, if you’re Indian) ditch the plus ones and twos and follow your food dream.
You have a lifetime waiting to be measured in belt notches. And it all begins with the first bite.
All images by Ishita Thakur