Many people have asked me how I could just leave my job and seemingly travel perpetually. How can I afford it? How do you find places to stay for free all the time? How do you find places to volunteer? All questions I’ve received by email, and now I’m sharing the secrets in a series of posts about how The Happy Nomad Tour Rolls and what things are like behind the scenes.
I write this on day 749 of The Happy Nomad Tour. I realized that it’s not normal to eat out alone for many people. It’s a daily occurrence for me though. I can easily say I’ve done it well over 1000 times thus far on my journey.
I still remember the first time though, ten years ago.
I was 21 and went to Houston, Texas for a second interview with the oil company I would go on to work for. I arrived in the afternoon and had to get some dinner. There were no fast food options near the hotel and I had no car. Until this point, I would always opt for fast food over sitting alone in a restaurant. But I had no choice this time.
The company would pay for my dinner so I ordered two dinners. I didn’t know why I did this. I was hungry, but I ended up completely stuffing myself. Maybe I got one dinner for me and the other for my sadness.
What was everyone there thinking of me? Did they pity me for being there alone? Did they think I got stood up by a date? So many questions. It was a bad experience and fueled my greatest fear at the time – ending up alone in life.
I also left a big tip, perhaps in a last ditch effort to “buy a friend” before leaving.
I guess the next time I’d eat alone like that would happen only a few months later in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during my first training for the same oil company. I guess given the different context I was ok with being alone. Maybe I didn’t care what Malaysians thought of me since I’d never see them again, not that I would ever see any of those people in Houston again either.
Fast forward and as I said, it’s now a daily occurrence. I don’t even think about it anymore. I like dining with others, but I’m also perfectly comfortable dining on my own. I sometimes read, write articles for this site, listen to podcasts, plan future travel plans, Skype with my family, or sit at ease with my own thoughts.
I think it’s that last one, being comfortable in my own skin, that has made all the difference. I wasn’t comfortable being me before. I didn’t like who I was and maybe I feared being judged. Now I don’t pay attention to how others perceive or judge me. I’m happy being me and it makes a world of difference, even when it comes to something as simple as eating alone.
And if you’re wondering, yes, I do sometimes talk to others when eating alone. It all depends on the situation, but I do sometimes invite myself to a table and see what happens. 🙂