A couple weeks ago, I attended the OLC Accelerate Conference in Orlando. The conference was packed with interesting sessions, fun meet-ups, and the ever-present parties hosted by ed tech companies hoping to woo current and potential clients.

If you’ve been reading my essays for a while, it probably doesn’t surprise you that crowds and parties aren’t really my scene, so I found myself, on a couple of occasions, dining alone.

And it was wonderful.

Aside from the welcome break that dining alone can offer for introverts like myself amidst heavy networking schedules, there are several other added benefits:

  • Increased possibilities for people watching. When you eat alone, you can spend the time on your mobile device, or you can look around at the other restaurant patrons and see what everyone else is up to (hint: many are on their mobile devices).
  • Increased possibilities for eavesdropping. Like the people watching described above, when you aren’t talking with your own dinner companion, you have more of an opportunity to listen to the conversations around you.
  • Eating on your own schedule. When I travel, I eat like a grandmother, often around 5:30pm, so that I can be assured of an early night. Eating alone means that you can arrive when you want, linger for as long (or short) as you want, and pay your check whenever you’re ready.
  • Eating what you want. I talked on a recent podcast episode about how I handle dietary restrictions while traveling and I forgot to mention eating alone as a strategy. Often resort and conference hotels have limited offerings for what I can eat, so I will eat at the same place multiple times during my stay (in Orlando, I survived on avocado rolls at the sushi restaurant in the hotel). I know people love to eat a variety when they travel, so eating alone means I don’t end up at a restaurant where the only thing I can eat is a side salad.
  • Focusing on the food. Sometimes, when I eat with other people, the food is an afterthought, especially when I’m having a good conversation. When eating alone, I get to focus on what’s in front of me and really enjoy the meal.
  • Eating with ceremony. Sometimes, when eating alone, I treat myself. Maybe I order an appetizer that looks good, or I order dessert and tea to sit for a little while. It can be fun to order multiple courses and really take time to savor what I’ve ordered.

So if you ever happen to see me at a conference dining alone, don’t worry. I’m probably really enjoying myself.

To think on:

  • When was the last time you dined alone?